I’ve explored a few Middle East Countries over the years and I have to say that travelling the Middle East has proven to be a lot easier than I expected. I absolutely loved Israel and Turkey! Be aware of the culture and be respectful of the Islamic religion of many Middle East Counties.
Some Mosques will welcome non-Muslims and others may not, so always ask before entering and if photography is allowed. From a budget perspective, some countries (such as Israel) can be pricey so you will need to save accordingly. The Middle East offers good transport options, nice hotels and great friendly and welcoming people. Enjoy your trip and consider adding these 7 amazing countries to your bucket list….
Middle East Countries you should Explore!
Jordan’s most famous attraction is of course the city of Petra. The wonderfully preserved ancient city is one of the new seven wonders of the modern world. The City of Stone which is home to caves, temples and tombs shows us a lost ancient civilisation. The ruins of the city are set on a stone backdrop that changes colour each hour.
The dead sea also lies on the border between Jordan and Israel. It provides travellers pure white crystal formations, sulphuric mud and water that is so salty you can float in.
The most popular way of travelling around the country and especially to Petra is by bus which you can get from Amman. Hitchhiking in the desert is relatively common, but you should be weary of getting into a car with a stranger – the safest option is to book a dedicated private driver through an official company. If you are a confident driver, you might also want to consider car hire. Here’s a good Jordan itinerary for 7 days.
The U.A.E has accelerated in its reputation as an ideal holiday destination for many tourists across the globe in the last 20 years, making it one of the most popular places to visit in the Middle East. The country’s appeal has been enhanced by year-round festivals, events and shopping experiences.
The city of Dubai has become renowned for its modern architecture including the largest dancing fountain and the Burj Khalifa which is the biggest building in the world with 163 floors. There are daily flights which can connect you between the major cities in the U.A.E. Etihad provides an express bus route between the cities of Al Ain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You can hire a car with the roads being well-maintained and well-lit, however driving can become quite treacherous and there is often heavy traffic.
Despite the size of the country, Israel is one of the most diverse and exciting Middle East countries that you can visit. It is home to some of the world’s most famous religious historical sites. Situated in Jerusalem is the Via Dolorosa and the Western Wall and located in Bethlehem is the Church of Nativity which contains the grotto of Jesus’ birthplace.
Israel possesses natural beauty as well as religious ones. It’s home to the dead sea and Timna park. Tel-Aviv has a vibrant cultural scene and is growing in popularity due to growing nightlife. Intercity buses are common especially between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Rental cars are cheap in Israel however parking can be extremely difficult.
Turkey has a rich history of culture but also provides diversity in providing sun and sea. The country has also become a popular place for spa and health care purposes for visitors. It also has a blend of influences from the Islamic Middle East and the European West. Turkey’s largest metropolis Istanbul, is also home to Byzantine and Ottoman attractions such as the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar and Basilica Cistern.
Further cultural attractions outside of Istanbul include the sites of Troy, the House of the Virgin Mary and Ephesus. If you’re on a budget, then most tourists tend to travel around the country on a coach or bus. Main coach companies include Pamukkale, Metro, Varan and Kamil Koc. Due to the size of the country, many do opt to travel by air. There is also a high-speed train line project in progress at the moment with the lines hoping to be completed by 2023.
Tourism in Oman has been steadily increasing since the turn of the century. In 2012, Lonely Planet named the capital Muscat the best city in the world to visit. This is thanks to attractions such as the Grand Mosque, the Royal Opera house and the market of Mutrah Souq. Muscat and Oman also have beaches, making it a popular destination for activities such as kitesurfing, snorkelling and swimming. Based in Oman are also world heritage sites such as Bahla Fort and the sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn.
There isn’t a great deal of public transport in Oman so many find the easiest way to get around is to drive yourself or hire a driver. There are also buses that can connect you between the major cities and tours that you can book online. Here are my top Oman travel tips to help you on your journey in Oman.
Bahrain is made up of 33 islands and offers a wide range of activities for travellers including beautiful landscapes, archaeological findings and formula one. There are some amazing things to do in Bahrain including stunning architecture including the Qal’at al-Bahrain and the Al Fateh Mosque. You can also experience Arabian wildlife in places such as in Al Areen Wildlife Park. Bahrain is home to holy nature such as the Tree of Life which is believed to be from the Garden of Eden. If you enjoy clubbing, there is some great Bahrain nightlife.
There is a well-developed road network in Bahrain and so a viable option is to rent a car but there are also public buses available. Taxis can be very expensive in Bahrain and therefore should be avoided unless it is necessary.
Lebanon’s lure as being a tourist destination has gradually been increasing since the country’s 15-year civil war which inevitably conjures up an undesirable image of visiting the country for many. But Lebanon is increasing in popularity and drew up two million visitors last year. The capital Beirut is often known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’.
Lebanon has 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites and hosts 15 international entertainment and music festivals. The country also possesses a long Mediterranean coastline and some great beaches. It is also a fine destination for hiking trails too. You can travel from Beirut to Lebanon’s major towns on buses. The roads can be very treacherous for first-time drivers in Lebanon and so renting a car is not recommended. There are also no train services in Lebanon.
What to pack for the Middle East
Consider packing conservative clothing and a shawl or headscarf for women if you would like to visit religious places. Some comfortable sandals work well in the Middle East as it can be hot so they will let your feet breathe. It can get extremely hot in some parts of the Middle East and so sun cream is essential.
It’s a good idea to pack conservative clothing for the Middle East. Avoid short skirts and low cut tops or spaghetti straps. Comfortable trousers and linen tops are great. Long skirts and Maxi dresses also work really well and are comfortable with the hear. Don’t forget your sunglasses, and pack your prescription sunnies if you have those!
Further Reading on Middle East Countries
If you are travelling in the Middle East, you might also like to read about….
- Bahrain Nightlife
- Visiting Saudi Arabia
- Istanbul to Cappadocia
- How to Budget for Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
- Highlights of the Holy Land Israel
- Wadi Shab – My Favourite Hike in Oman