In today’s political climate, the Middle East is not often categorized as a prime travel destination.
However, the media often fails to broadcast the beautiful wonders this region has to offer. When properly unveiled, the Middle East’s geographical gems reveal gorgeous architecture, exotic beaches, lively cities, rich cultural experiences and a plethora of ancient history.
“The Middle East is very unique in comparison to other parts of the world and therefore has a lot to offer for travelers,” Kuwaiti study abroad student Tareq Esmail said. “One can find history, wonders, amusement and many other things that are worthy of traveling for.”
With more than 20 countries to choose from, the Middle East offers a unique blend of the old and the new. Dive into the Red Sea and experience the stunning underwater seascapes of the southern Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, or submerge into early Arabic culture by visiting the holy sites of Jerusalem.
Ancient architecture and traditional customs blend with sky-high buildings and a colorful nightlife in many of the Middle East’s distinct, travel-worthy cities.
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is home to one of the most modern and ethnically diverse cities in the Middle East. Once a small town of bedouin traders, it has expanded into a city of remarkable attractions.
Dubai boasts more than 400 restaurants and some of the world’s largest and most unique tourist spots, such as the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa.
The Burj Khalifa is home to world-class shopping, dining and entertainment. Standing at 2,716.5 feet tall with 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds seven records, including most number of stories and highest outdoor observation deck in the world.
Another major attraction in Dubai is the artificial archipelago, Palm Islands. Located off of the Persian Gulf and the coast of Dubai, three artificial islands in the shape of palm trees are packed full of luxury hotels, beachside villas, water theme parks, restaurants, sports facilities, shopping malls and beauty spas.
“Dubai is very modern and the people of Dubai are working hard in transforming the city into a place where everyone would love to visit,” Esmail said.
North from Dubai is the country of Jordan. Last month, The New York Times named Jordan in its Top 45 places to go in 2012.
The Dead Sea borders Jordan and is an easy day trip from cities such as Amman and Aqaba. Known for its title as the second saltiest body of water on Earth, the Dead Sea is the lowest point in the world, sitting at 1,296 feet below sea level. Visitors can enjoy this natural oasis by relaxing at a public tourist beach and replenishing themselves in the water, which is known to have therapeutic effects.
While in Jordan, visitors will not want to miss the country’s top wonders: Petra and Wadi Rum. Petra is an ancient Nabatean city in the south of Jordan and was declared a World Heritage site by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1985. Today, Petra has turned into an archeological park that requires an entrance fee. However, viewing the sacred, carved monuments of its sandstone canyon is priceless.
Referred to as “The Valley of the Moon,” Wadi Rum is a barren, isolated desert cut into sandstone and granite in the southern region of Jordan. Visitors can adventure through the serene nature of Wadi Rum by camel or jeep expeditions.
Though these Middle Eastern travel destinations are renowned for their culture and beauty, it is important to remember safety when traveling within these regions. A travel advisory from the U.S. State Department informs travelers to remain alert and carry identification with them at all times.
However, Esmail assures his homeland is not always in a state of emergency.
“Middle Eastern people are very kind and generous,” Esmail said. “Their warm characters have been engrained into our cultures for generations. Most of them respect Americans and are willing to welcome any tourist.”