I talked to some other people and I think I'll look closer into Syria or the Sinai in Egypt. Haven't been there yet although I have been wanting to go for a long time. Flights will be around 200 EUR if I get lucky.
Oman sounds interesting, I think I'll save up for it after going to Syria. Unfortunately flights to Oman are relatively expensive for the distance (600-800 EUR), plus the country is (from what I know) not exactly cheap to travel in.
Have been to Italy with the bike already and IMO it is not a very bike-friendly country. Lots of hills and the roads that are flat have heavy traffic.
I live in a flat area and thus got very few chances to train for riding up mountains. Plus I am not interested in cycling as a sport. I am interested in cycling as a cheap and healthy way to get from A to B while seeing much more of the country as compared to taking the train or the bus.
Cycling machine at a gym? Worst possible nightmare there is. I went two or three times in the winter and absolutely hated it. The stench of old sweat, air con rattling feebly and loud plastic music blasting away - and for this I am supposed to pay entry?