Middle East

The Best Oktoberfest Celebrations
(Outside of Europe)

Have you ever been to a really amazing wedding reception that turned into an epic party? Exactly 201 years ago this October, the German Prince Ludwig the First married Princess Therese and afterwards hosted exactly such a celebration. It was so memorable that the attendees wanted to relive it every year. That desire spawned the annual alcohol-filled party known today as Oktoberfest.

Happily for lovers of celebrations and beer, Oktoberfest has very much spread beyond Germany in the last two centuries. Here’s Spot Cool Stuff’s roundup of a few great places to enjoy the occasion outside of Europe. Our selection of Oktoberfests span the globe and are attended by people across the spectrum of race, religion and political affiliation. We see it as proof that one of man’s most universal and fundamental desires is to have fun — while guzzling beer and wearing lederhosen.

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Infographic: 10 Places To See Before They’re Gone

Spot Cool Stuff has a love of vintage travel guidebooks, the older the better. In one our finds, a guidebook to Afghanistan written in the late 1800s, the authors described the Buddha statues around of the town of Bamiyan as an over-crowded tourist trap. Contrast that with the whole of the last three decades, during which absolutely nowhere in Afghanistan could remotely qualify as an “over-crowded tourist trap.” That, sadly, includes the Bamiyan Buddha statues—they were mostly destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

The point being: Things change. A place that’s uninviting now might become completely pleasant in the future. A great travel destination now could not be so much later.

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Jordan’s New, Ancient Eco-Resort
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With enough money, modern technology and piped-in water anyone can build a luxury resort in the middle of a desert. (Exhibit #1: Las Vegas.) But building a luxury resort in the middle of the desert in a completely environmentally sustainable way—that’s a challenge. Yet Oppenheim, an architecture firm based in (of all places) the desert-deprived state of Florida, managed exactly that with their design for an eco-resort in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert.

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Go Skiing (But Not On Snow)

While skiing the dunes, sand will get inside your clothes. And it will go to places you very much would rather it wouldn’t

Ski bums, do not despair when the weather warms at your travel destination. Though the snow may vanish, your opportunity to partake in downhill skiing and boarding needn’t.

Here’s a Spot Cool Stuff look at three non-snow ski surfaces and where to enjoy them:

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Beirut’s Best Boutique Hotels

Even before Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943, those in-the-know referred to Beirut as “the Paris of the Middle East.” Wealthy travelers flocked there for the high culture, the exquisite shopping and the trendy restaurants. Then a brutal civil war ignited in 1975. That lingered until 1990. In the intervening 15 years much of the country’s cultural and historical sites were destroyed.

Happily, since the end of the war Lebanon has been (mostly) at peace and Beirut has undertaken a massive and aggressive rebuilding project to restore the city to its once-prominent position. Travel to Beirut today and you’ll once again see the companions with Paris.

That resurgence of Beirut has brought with it a resurgence of Beirut hotels, from modest budget accommodations to waterfront resorts. Here’s a review of the three best boutique lodging options:

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The World’s Best Candy Stores

This store is as close as you can get to a real-life Willy Wonka experience without wrangling some umpa lumpas and opening a shop yourself

Travelers with a sweet tooth weakness, do not proceed any further in this post. What follows is Spot Cool Stuff’s selection of the 6 most interesting-looking, diabetes-inducing candy stores. A trip to any one for these shops (well, except for the last one) is likely to result in a sugar overdose. Ye be warned.

Note: These are all primarily candy stores. We’ve reviewed our favorite chocolate stores in a separate post.

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The Driest Place on the Planet
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Tomorrow’s weather forecast for Aswan, Egypt: hot, no rain.

Technically Aswan is not the driest place on the planet. That distinction goes to The Dry Valleys in Antarctica, which last saw precipitation two million years ago, give or take a few days. Aswan, though, is the world’s driest permanently inhabited town. The last time it rained here was in 2006. Before that it was 1994. Do the math and the average annual rainfall works out to 0.5 millimeters, or about the thickness of a stack of five sheets of typical photocopy paper.

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One Fish, Two Fish,
Places That Look Dr. Seuss-ish

Anyone who grew up on The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs and Ham remembers the illustrations of one Mr. Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. Trees with elongated trucks or with improbable collections of limbs. Stark and scraggly landscapes with oddly balanced rocks and unlikely geometric shapes. Architecture with unusual protrusions and awkward angles where no two windows exactly the same. These were some of the hallmarks of the world Dr. Seuss illustrated in his 60 children’s books.

Here’s a look at some places on Planet Earth—places you can visit on your next vacation—that resemble scenes from a Dr. Seuss illustration. So, in the words of the doctor himself . . .


…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!


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