You might not be able to strut around in a thong or sun tan topless in the Middle East (unless you are at the Naked Dead Sea), but there are many beautiful beaches in the region that just don’t get enough fanfare. That’s why we have rounded up ten of the most sublime sandy destinations.
Find beaches from Abu Dhabi and Oman to Libya and Turkey with a focus on less-trafficked beaches that will refresh your soul while you soak up vitamin D.
We have included destinations that are relatively quiet, and that are as clean as they get in the Middle East and North Africa. Each country has its own special ambience, culture and history, so you’ll want to decide what you want out of your vacation and do further research. But this list should give you some ideas about what is available. Without further adieu, we start with one of the most well known of the region’s beaches.
Aerial view of Oludeniz Lagoon via Shutterstock
1. Oludeniz (Blue) Lagoon – Fethiye, Turkey
Ranked as one of the top five beaches in the world, this beach is located on the Turquoise coast of southwest Turkey, where the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea meet. With blue water and a long, peninsular sandy beach surrounded by lots of green foliage, this is one of the most popular holiday destinations not only in Turkey but the entire Middle East region. Even so, you won’t have to fight the same kind of crowds you’d confront in popular Caribbean or European destinations.
2. Bandar Jissah – Outskirts of Muscat, Oman
Albeit well-known in the Middle East, this 220 hectare beach outside of Muscat is unspoiled. Translated as “haven,” the sands are abutted by the near-omniscient Hajjar Mountains and spill into the Sea of Oman. All kinds of activities are available, including cave exploration for the more intrepid among our readers, and the area is becoming increasingly tourism friendly.
3. Paradise Beach – Asilah, Morocco
For foreigners, Morocco is probably the easiest place to enjoy a beach holiday as the country is tolerant towards tourists. For that same reason, some of the most popular beaches can become unpleasantly crowded. However, this is less true at Paradise Beach south of Asilah – on the Atlantic Ocean. A quiet, windy destination that is reasonably clean and tranquil, the area is popular among water sports enthusiasts.
Lifeguard post at Iztuzu Beach via Shutterstock
4. Iztuzu Beach – Dalyan, Turkey
Best visited between April and October, this gorgeous 4.5km beach on Turkey’s southwest coast is rarely busy. It boasts clean blue water and golden sands and also happens to be an important nesting area for endangered loggerhead turtles. It has been a part of the Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area since 1988 following foiled attempts to create a large resort that would have put the turtles in jeopardy.
5. Al Gharbia – Mirfa, Abu Dhabi
Albeit a little bit difficult to reach, the beach at Mirfa is one of the most pleasant in all of the United Arab Emirates. Mirfa is one of seven main cities of the 60,000 square meter Al Gharbia region of Abu Dhabi, but you’ll want to head there quickly because by 2030 the place will be a sprawling resort area crawling with other tourists. And if you’re an active person planning for next year’s vacation, consider coming in April during the Al Gharbia Watersports Festival, when all kinds of adrenalin-pumping action is on offer.
Paradise Beach south of Asilah via Shutterstock
6. Saidia Blue Pearl Beach – Bekane, Morocco
This beach is located on the northeastern tip of Morocco along the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Algeria. At 14km, this is one of the largest of the country’s resorts, but it’s not impossible to find a quiet place to relax with a book and umbrella. Travel in August and you might catch the annual folk music festival that doubles the fun.
7. Farwah Island Beach – Zwara City, Libya
Libya has 2,000km of shoreline along the Mediterranean Sea, so – as you can imagine – there’s plenty of beach to enjoy. For travelers who have their own cars, it might be worth hitting up Farwah Island, which is located 40km west of Zwara City. You’ll have to take a boat to reach the 470 hectare peninsula, the country’s only one, but it’s worth it to see velvety white sand beaches that are completely unspoiled.
Beit Yannai Beach in Israel
8. Zuwarah Beach – Zuwarah, Libya
Easier to reach than Farwah, and slightly more populated, the beaches at this Berber town about 40 miles east of the border of Tunisia are still spectacular. And the Awassu festival in August offers swimming and sailing races and other activities. Be warned, however: the last time we tried to enter Libya, our visa request was denied due to the political instability right around the first post-revolution elections. The situation is considerably more tame now, but you’ll want to do your research before you get too excited about visiting this majestic country.
9. Marsa Alam – Marsa Alam, Egypt
Most foreigners head to Dahab or Hurghada on the Red Sea when they visit Egypt. As a result, both places can get crowded and dirty, though diving and snorkeling are spectacular and well-organized. But for something a little more tranquil, why not head further south to Marsa Alam. A quiet seaside town about 270km from Hurghada, it has more beach area and less of a meat market feel. It’s a great place to rejuvenate and you can get there by a bus en route to Aswan.
10. Beit Yannai Beach – Netanya, Israel
We would be remiss if we didn’t include at least one of Israel’s many fabulous beaches. Instead of the more popular Tel Aviv destinations, which are crowded with all kinds of beautiful people in the summer, we recommend Beit Yannai Beach in a rural setting north of Netanya (which is north of Tel Aviv.) Located in a nature reserve and an estuary of the Alexander River, this is a paid beach that is well worth the price. Remote and quiet, it is also very well maintained.
If we have forgotten your favorite beach in the Middle East and North Africa region, let us know in the comments.