Do you prefer a luxurious holiday in a 5-star hotel or would you like to be inspired by historical architecture and exceptional modern buildings? Perhaps you are looking for an adventurous travel through canyons or a camping trip in the tranquility of the desert. You might want to have a look behind the curtains or know more about the Arabic lifestyle, culture, and traditions. This page gives you general information of all that the Middle East has to offer.
The Middle East
The Middle East consists of several countries in Southeast Asia and parts of North Africa. The last years it is regularly in the news because of conflicts between alliances and ancient quarrels. The fact that the Middle East can be a wonderful holiday destination is therefore often forgotten.
And that’s a pity! The Middle East offers travelers an interesting mixture of culture, spectacular nature, and impressive architecture. And not only that. The various folks of the Middle East are generally warm and welcoming. If you are lucky you will be invited by a family for a coffee or even a traditional meal.
The landscape and natural habitats in the Middle East are very diverse. Nature lovers can look forward to the mysterious sandy desert and sabkha’s (salt plains), green oases where migratory birds rest from their long journey, or menacing mountains where wadis (dried up river beds) vein through.
The diversity of the landscape makes the Arabic Peninsula an interesting research area for geologists. Once the land was a seabed, where corals and fish flourished under the sea. Fossils of these previous inhabitants can still be found in the Rub al Khali desert. The formation and structures of the earth are especially visible in the mountains.
One of the most beautiful wadis is Wadi Rum in Jordan, which is on the UNESCO heritage list. The wadi consists of a large valley of red coloured sand, surrounded by cliffs of granite and sandstone. The site is well preserved and visitors can even find prehistoric art carved in rocks.
Or what to think of the unique wetlands of the United Arab Emirates? These internationally acknowledged habitats attract various endemic birds and a variety of migratory birds. Antelopes, foxes, rodents and, reptiles hide under mangrove trees or in high bushes of reed grass.
The Middle East is a mix of historic, religious and modern architecture. From primitive tombs and temples to the most modern skyscrapers. The most impressive ancient buildings can be found in Iran (Persepolis), Jordan (Petra), and in various places in the desert in Saudi Arabia. The big tombs in Halban in Oman date from the Bronze Ages (2700-2000AD), which makes them almost as old as the Egyptian pyramids.
Balad Sayt in Oman, and Ushaiger or “Little Blond” in Saudi Arabia, are picturesque villages of unknown beauty. Walking through these historical villages make you feel like you ended up in a fairy tale of ‘Thousand and One Nights’.
Would you like to know what life looked like before Islam religion spread over the Middle East? Then let yourself be inspired by the settlement Madain Saleh, the first UNESCO heritage of Saudi Arabia.
The modern cities around the Arabic Gulf have a dazzling skyline composed of architectural delights. True architectural masterpieces that are so impressive that they even attract people that don’t like cities at all. One famous landmark is the Kingdom Tower (officially Kingdom At night the opening at the top is beautifully lit with changing colours.
Or what about the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa, or the Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi? And even though the construction has not started yet, it is worth to keep an eye on the promising Lusail Marina Iconic Development in Doha.
Beautiful examples of modern Arabic architecture are the Pigeon Tower in Katara in Qatar and Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates. Masdar city consists of a variety of ultramodern environmentally friendly constructions. The whole city runs on solar energy. Based on Arabic traditions ingenious wind constructions in and around the buildings make the city a few degrees cooler than the surrounding environment.
The Islam is the biggest (and in some countries the only) religion in the Middle-East. It is therefore not surprising that most religious buildings are mosques.
One of the most impressive mosques in the Middle East is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The mosque built of white marble is named after late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates. The imposing mosque is beautifully decorated with marble flowers, gold, and precious stones. It has world’s biggest hand-loomed carpet. The widely beloved and esteemed Sheikh is buried in the mausoleum next to it.
In Oman, H.H. Sultan Qaboos built a Grand Mosque named after him as a gift to the nation to mark his 30th year of reign. It is built with Indian sandstone and breathtakingly decorated with mosaics.
Are you looking for something really impressive? Visit Shah Cheragh mausoleum in Shiraz (Iran), where the inside of the mosque is completely covered with mirrors that glisten in all directions.
Do you prefer an active holiday or something out of the ordinary? The Middle East will make it happen for you! For the thrill seekers, there are activities such as skydiving, mountaineering, canyoning or dune bashing (an adventurous ride through the sandpit). Or what about a night under the Milky Way in the desert?
Are you a fan of watersports? Have a refreshing dip in a cold mountain lake after a walk through a wadi. Or sail on a traditional dhow boat through the Fjords of Musandam, the Northern part of Oman.
Above all that the United Arab Emirates have a broad choice of attraction parks. From rafting in rough water and zip lining over the desert landscape to a ride in world’s fastest rollercoaster. But you can also wander through the flowerbeds of Miracle Gardens or visit Legoland in Dubai.
Tourists who like to be pampered will be able to relax in the various luxurious five-star hotels along the coast, in the mountains or in the desert. Restaurants offer exquisite dishes on their menus.
There are large shopping malls that sell the most exclusive brands of fashion items. In one of the most famous shopping malls of the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai mall, the Aquarium is a welcome variation of scenery. Walking through a tunnel underneath the fish tank gives you the idea of being in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks, rays, huge groupers and schools of multi-coloured fish.
After a long day of strolling through the mall, ladies can visit the nail bar or the hammam (bathhouse). Before having dinner in one of the fancy restaurants drink a cocktail at a terras with stunning views over the sea.
A look behind the curtains
Are you curious what is going on behind the touristy scenes of the Arab world? Would you like to experience the culture, learn about Arabic customs and maybe even get a chance to meet the inhabitants of the Middle East? That is also possible! You can read more about it under the tab culture in the menu.