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Top Middle East Experiences

Visiting the Pyramid of Giza

Walking through the ancient city of Petra

Scuba diving in Ras Mohammed National Park

Exploring the city of Shiraz

Taking a small cruise on the Nile River

Shopping along the souks in Marrakech

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Top Middle East Attractions

Pyramid of Giza

Sahara Desert

Shiraz

Jerusalem

Petra

Nile River


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Middle East Attractions And Landmarks Guide

While the Middle East has been plagued by turmoil in Syria and Iraq, there are still many countries welcoming to visitors. Turkey -- most of which is located in Asia -- is by far the most visited destination, though Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are increasingly popular. Egypt, situated mostly on the African continent, is often included in the Middle East as well, and is rebounding in tourism. Israel and Jordan share a peaceful border and offer unforgettable attractions. A good tour operator can take you safely to this fascinating region, so filled with history and architectural wonders. 

Though the news focuses on the conflicts surrounding the Middle East, many of these countries are safe and welcoming to visitors, though always make sure you have the right precautions in place. These countries are home to hidden treasures from ancient ruins to culinary gems, to enrapturing landscapes. While countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Israel have been top destinations for travelers for years, others have not gotten the attention they deserve. These less visited destinations, like Iran, for example, are great for getting off the beaten path exploring away from the tourist crowds.

History and Ancient Ruins

The Middle East is known to hold the Cradle of Civilization, the fertile strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates river in modern day Iraq in which some of the most ancient and powerful civilizations were born. Though these ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and Persia have collapsed, the entire region is dotted with their impressive legacies. Of course, you have the legendary Egyptian pyramids, still standing proudly over the desert where they have existed for thousands of years. In Iran, you can explore the elaborately carved tombs and palaces of the ancient city of Persepolis, whose earliest remains of date back to 515 BCE. Israel is also home to hundreds of ancient sites, many in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Arts and Culture

This region is also home to cities and caravansaries through which the Silk Road passed, circulating ideas and cultures from the Far East. Some cities are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. From the 8th to the 13th century, this area was a goldmine for Islamic arts and culture. While Europe was in its dark ages, the Middle East was experiencing a vibrant Golden Age, where academic pursuits, art, and music flourished. With cultures that created such lush fabrics, intricate embroidery, tempting spices, and strong fragrances, you can easily see how the European Orientalist movement of the 19th century was inspired by the region’s beauty and mystery.

This rich cultural heritage is still thriving in cosmopolitan cities like Tel Aviv, Tehran, and Istanbul, where history and modern culture merge. You can kick off your shoes and sit down on Turkish rug to smoke a nargile (water pipe) and listen to a musician perform long musical improvisations influenced by melodies from Greek, Persian, Arabic and Romany music.

Culinary Traditions

Wandering the souks of Marrakech or other cities, the fragrances slow roasting meats and spiced dishes will stop you in your tracks. Middle Eastern food often shares the same ingredients as Mediterranean food, one of the world’s most healthy diets, and not to mention, most delicious. Culinary traditions vary from country to country, but you can savor dishes made with pomegranates, dates, pistachios, olive oil, honey, mint, and a wide array of fresh vegetables and meats. Try the thick coffee and syrup-sweet baklava in Turkey, the halawa, a sesame paste sweet in Egypt, and an aromatic tagine in Tunisia.

Outdoors

Each country in the Middle East offers unique outdoor experiences. For many, the grandest experience of all is camping in the Sahara desert. In Jordan, take a tour with a Bedouin tribe, riding a camel through the desert that stretches for miles all around you. In the evening, share a meal and mint tea with your hosts under the stars in a traditional tent. You can also go on a trekking tour in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, stopping along the way to visit tiny local villages hidden within the slopes.

The Dead Sea in Israel is a great place to heal your tired feet. Because of the high level of salt, you float effortlessly, while your body is healed through sea salt and nourishing minerals. 

In Turkey, you will find the most bizarre natural landscapes of Cappadochia. Comprised of many valleys you can navigate, this region is dominated by “fairy chimneys”-soft stone tower formations that jut out from the ground. For hundreds of years, locals have been carving them out and using them for everything from a house to a hotel, a church, and even an entire monastery. Wander the valleys and explore ancient cave churches from the 9th century, with vivid frescoes of biblical scenes.

Related Guides

Countries:

Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia

Attractions:

Petra, Jordan; Dead Sea, Jordan; Istanbul, Tukey; Karnak, Egypt; Pyramids of Giza, Egypt; Burj Khalifa, U.A.E; and Many More

Top Activities:   

Exploring Ruins & Archaelogy, River Cruises and History Sightseeing

Middle East Tour Reviews - Summary

4.7 out of 5

100%

recommend

901 Reviews

Excellent 673 Great 211 Average 16 Disappointing 1 Terrible 0

Rating Details

Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7

Incredible Experience

Majestic Morocco

5.0 November 2016 SmarTours Recommend: Yes We just finished our tour an hour ago and I have to write and rave about this wonderful experience. Everything exceeded our expectaions. We have taken close to 20 SmarTours trips and this will be a favourite. Our guide, Larbi El Mahdar was superb. He was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, so helpful and patient, anticipated potential problems and solved them before they could happen. He was always happy and kind (even after answering the same question repeatedly). The tour was filled with diverse interesting sites and experiences. The evening camel ride and sunset in the Sahara was incredible. Hotels, meals, and the bus are pleasant, comfortable, and excellent. Read more

Morocco 10/4/16

Majestic Morocco

5.0 October 2016 SmarTours Recommend: Yes This was my 13th trip with smarTours and it was wonderful, thanks in no small part to our tour director Larbi. He made sure that we were well-informed and comfortable -- in the hotels, the souks, and on the road. What a fabulous visit to a wonderful country! Read more

Excellent Tour to Israel

Wonders of Israel

5.0 October 2016 SmarTours Recommend: Yes An absolutely wonderful trip to Israel. While I was somewhat anxious about security I felt very safe wherever we went. Our guide , Dan Ofri, was precise in getting us to locations; considerate about all personal needs and health issues; willing to go the extra mile with individuals when needs arose; and was extremely knowledable about the history of the land and was able to impart his wealth of knowledge with ease, confidence and passion....a master teacher! You could not ask for a better guide to take you through the ages of Israel. The Hotels and Kibuttz Hotel were all excellent and accommodating and the food very good. It was also nice to have some free time to explore on your own. Dan was helpful with suggestions as to where to venture (and where not to) and also for restaurants. Our bus driver, Vladimir, I might add was an absolutely amazing driver in how he so swiftly maneuvered the purple bus in and out of the narrow and winding streets...Bravo! If you are hesitant to go on this tour...just go and you will have no regrets. A wonderful tour! Read more

Jordan is a surprisingly big country, full of wonders to see. My cultural immersion is what really defined the trip.

Jordan - Where it all Began

4.0 October 2016 Bestway Tours & Safaris Recommend: Yes Over the course of 10 days, I traveled up and down the country of Jordan, taking in such sights as Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea, as well as lesser known ones like Dana and Jerash. My guide Abdel was a wonderful host, knowledgeable and well spoken. I would highly recommend traveling to Jordan – it's one of the safest countries I have traveled in, and Bestway Tours helped me see it. Read more

Turquoise coast

Turquoise Coast Adventure

4.0 August 2016 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes Fabulous trip, a good variety of activities and lovely families made it a relaxing break.
Swimming with turtles, just gorgeous

Informative, helpful and fun

Be prepared for the heat

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