One of the most mysterious travel destinations in the world has always been and perhaps always will be the Middle East. The Middle East conjures up images of caravans travelling slowly through the desert and making stops at Berber camps nestled in the sand, high rose coloured dunes and vast blue skies, with the horizon dotted with scraggly, rocky mountains and hills. While this is true of some parts of the overall area, there are numerous beautiful cities, towns, villages and seaside treasures strewn throughout the region. The Middle East is comprised of a number of fantastic locations to explore – leaving you and your travelling companions coming back time and again.
Israel is often not considered to be high on many people’s travel destination bucket lists, perhaps due in part to the issues surrounding the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. While this is indeed a dampener on the travel industry it doesn’t need to dictate whether or not you travel to this particularly interesting and beautiful country. Regardless of whether you are religious or not, visitors to this area do find visiting sites such as the Church of the Nazarene, Bethlehem, The Wailing Wall and some of the other mosques and churches in the area to be awe-inspiring and overall a great experience. Cities that are a hit with tourists include Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. Of course any visit to Israel won’t be complete without a couple of days on the beaches of the Mediterranean coast, and so because of this, Tel Aviv is a perfect place to stop off either to begin or end your Israeli adventure. With a huge assortment of Tel Aviv flights, getting here has never been easier.
Near to Israel Jordan is another fantastic tourist destination, especially considering this country is home to some of the most visited sites in the world, such as Petra. With Berber culture alive and well in Jordan, it’s possible to travel out to the desert to spend a day or two with these nomadic people. Wide expanses of craggy, rocky mountains in the desert in areas such as Wadi Rum are known for great hot air ballooning to see the area from above – truly the best way to get an idea of just how vast the deserts here really are.
Dubai/UAE/Abu Dhabi/Saudi Arabia/Oman
Many people come to the Arabian peninsula mainly as stop overs on their way elsewhere (such as to Sub-Saharan Africa or to the Far East), but the Arabian peninsula does play host to some enticing tourist attractions. Whether you’re looking to spend some time in the waters of the Red Sea, do some shopping or some high end sightseeing and touring, you will find something to entertain yourself here. Oman is known for having beautiful, secluded and quiet beaches with bright blue seas and reddish sands and rock formations. Keep in mind that some of the Arabian countries have very strict laws and rules adhering to dress especially for women, so you should definitely do your homework prior to coming here.
One of the best known countries for tourists, Egypt is awash with amazing temples, towns and cities which hold some of the longest most colourful history in the world. The Pyramids of Giza, the temples of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, the temples at Abu Simbel not to mention the amazing snorkelling of the Sinai peninsula are just a few of the reasons to come to this exciting and diverse country. Monasteries of the Christian religion are dotted around the country – such as St Catherines on the Sinai, and are fantastic to visit. The security situation can change in more remote areas in Egypt without much warning, so be sure to check in advance before heading off the tourist trail.
Iraq, Iran and Syria
These days not many people are thinking of heading to Iraq, Syria and Iran due to the conflict currently ongoing, but once it dies down and the region has recovered, these can be very rewarding countries to visit. With the ancient cities of Babylon in Iraq and Persepolis in Iran and Nineveh in Syria, these countries are home to some of the most ancient blueprint cities of civilization in the world and are well worth a visit when the security situation has improved. These countries will require visas for visitors any time (and Iran has very strict regulations for North Americans and some Western European visitors), so be sure to check in advance.