In these days, when jet setting around the globe is becoming less popular due to environmental concerns, it’s worth remembering there are lots of fascinating destinations right here in the Middle East. Try a staycation!
Just a couple of hours on a plane can take you to cities full of breathtaking sights, fascinating historic buildings and museums full of treasures. These are some of the best. Most of these cities rely on tourism dollars. Supporting the local economy of these cities helps the locals build a more resilient and peaceful future for all.
Built on the site of ancient Thebes on the banks of the Nile, and incorporating the temples of Karnak, this magnificent city is a place where you come face-to-face with the ancient world. It’s just a stone’s throw from the West Bank Necropolis, which is home to the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. As well as Ancient Egyptian ruins you can see relics of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans. The weather is dry and can get very hot, so the best time to visit is winter.
A stunning modern city that has risen to become one of the world’s foremost business centers, Dubai is known for its amazing skyscrapers, including the sail-like Burj Khalifa. It may be expensive but if you appreciate luxury you’ll find it a fantastic place to shop. A city built on pearls and later on oil, it reflects its rich heritage not only in its modern architecture but also in its magnificent mosques. The climate is hot, humid and windy, so it’s best to visit in winter.
The Saudi Arabian capital is a fascinating combination of ancient and modern. It developed as an oasis settlement and you can still visit the Masmak fort that dates back to that era. The gates at Thumaira, Al-suwailen, Dukhna, Al-Madhbah and Shumaisi are well worth seeing, as are the city’s historic palaces. Towering over these are some of the Middle East’s most striking modern buildings, including the Kingdom Tower and the Al Faisallyah Centre. Riyadh has a great selection of vacation apartments and is another winter destination that is extremely hot in summer.
The center of Arab life in Israel, Nazareth is a city steeped in Roman, Byzantine and early Christian history, and it’s an intriguing place to explore. It also has some beautiful mosques, including the Masjid al-Abiad, the Masjid al-Salam and the Makam al-Nabi Sain Mosque. You can walk the Jesus Trail between Christian religious sites or visit the Islamic shrines of al-Sheikh Amer, Shihab e-Din and Nabi Sa’in. The climate is warm but comfortable between November and March.
No longer occupied but well worth visiting, the Rose City is truly without equal and has been described as a wonder of the world. Its magnificent public buildings overlook its royal tombs and a natural amphitheater where there are statues of ancient gods. It’s also not far from the Dead Sea, renowned for its therapeutic properties and remarkable to swim in. You’ll find plenty of accommodation in the nearby town of Wadi Musa. Visit in the middle on winter if you want to explore in comfort.
The other great city of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi has some truly spectacular modern architecture, a glittering royal palace and the sumptuous Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which is built of white marble and decorated with gold and precious stones. It has more moisture available than other nearby cities and as a result it’s able to maintain some beautiful public gardens; it also has wonderful beaches. It’s best to visit between November and February. Sometimes fog rolls in off the sea at this time of year and adds to the sense of being somewhere magical.
With cities like this so close at hand, there really is no need to leave the Middle East to experience an amazing break.