Middle East

The Middle East, located in southwestern Asia, is a term created by British military strategists in the 19th century. There is no precise definition of its constituent countries, and it is as much a political and cultural term as a geographic region, separating Europe (“the West”) from the southern and eastern areas of Asia.

As one of the wellsprings of human civilization in the ancient and medieval worlds, and the birthplace of the three major monotheistic world religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), as well as many other faiths (Bahai, Mandaeism, Druze, Yezidi, etc).

The region is ethnically mixed, with Arabs, Persians, and Jews the largest groups, but also hosting substantial minorities (eg, Kurds) with their own languages and cultures.

The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate. Several major rivers providing irrigation to support agriculture, including the historically important Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia.

With a few exceptions (eg, Israel and Lebanon), tourism has been limited, a result of the socially conservative nature of the region as well as political turmoil. In recent years, countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Jordan have begun attracting travelers with improved facilities and the relaxing of restrictive entry policies.

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Countries in this region:

Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Bahrain

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 BahrainThe Kingdom of Bahrain is a Middle Eastern archipelago in the Persian Gulf. The country has few oil reserves, but it has established itself as a hub for refining as well as international banking. Its relatively relaxed culture has also made it a social and shopping center that has helped it develop a cosmopolitan middle class not found in neighboring countries. It is popular with non-Arab travelers for its authentic "Arabness" that exists without the strict application of Islamic law on its non-Muslim minority.
 
A Cultural Atmosphere includes both the historic (eg, landmark town centers) and the contemporary (music, nightlife, etc).

Cultural Interests tend to be:
(a) indoors-oriented, and therefore not as linked to weather conditions for enjoyment
(b) relatively physically accessible, while also not being physically demanding.

Iran

Atmosphere: Culture    
Best Weather: April, May, September, October, November

 IranIran is the second-largest nation in the Middle East, and home to one of the world's oldest civilizations. Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling Shah was forced into exile. Geographically, the northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern part consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes.
 
 
A Cultural Atmosphere includes both the historic (eg, landmark town centers) and the contemporary (music, nightlife, etc).

Cultural Interests tend to be:
(a) indoors-oriented, and therefore not as linked to weather conditions for enjoyment
(b) relatively physically accessible, while also not being physically demanding.

Israel

Atmosphere: Culture    
Best Weather: April, May, June, October, November

 IsraelIsrael is a small Middle Eastern country with a long coastline on the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is considered part of the Holy Land (together with areas of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories), as home to four major monotheistic religions -- Bahaism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Despite its small size, Israel has diverse geographic features, including the Negev desert in the south to the inland fertile Jezreel Valley, mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel and toward the Golan in the north.
 
A Cultural Atmosphere includes both the historic (eg, landmark town centers) and the contemporary (music, nightlife, etc).

Cultural Interests tend to be:
(a) indoors-oriented, and therefore not as linked to weather conditions for enjoyment
(b) relatively physically accessible, while also not being physically demanding.

Israel & Palestinian Territories

Atmosphere: Culture    
Best Weather: January

 Israel & Palestinian TerritoriesIsrael and the Palestinian territories are considered part of the Holy Land (together with areas of Jordan, and Egypt). The four major monotheistic religions -- Bahaism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- all have historical ties to the region. The Jordan River runs along the Jordan Rift Valley, from Mount Hermon through the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth.
 
 
A Natural Atmosphere includes a diverse range of destinations with outdoor-oriented features, including both water-based (beaches, rivers, lakes, etc) and land-based (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). It also includes specific outdoor activities, ranging from water adventuring (eg, kayaking, sailing) to land adventuring (eg, hiking, biking).

Natural Interests tend to be:
(a) outdoors-oriented, and therefore more dependent on weather conditions
(b) less easily accessible and more physically demanding than other destination categories.

In some cases (eg, rafting and climbing), this includes a significantly increased degree of adventure (or danger, depending on one's viewpoint).

Jordan

Atmosphere: Nature    
Best Weather: March, April, May, October, November

 JordanJordan is a part of an area in the Middle East sometimes called “the cradle of civilization" -- the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent. Today it is an Arab kingdom, with the monarchy exercising extensive (and moderating) influences on political and social life in the country. It is among the most traveler-friendly countries in the region. Geographically, Jordan is an arid region that also contains a diversity of arid region types, including an arid plateau in the east, irrigated by oasis and seasonal water streams, with highland area in the west of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry.
 
A Cultural Atmosphere includes both the historic (eg, landmark town centers) and the contemporary (music, nightlife, etc).

Cultural Interests tend to be:
(a) indoors-oriented, and therefore not as linked to weather conditions for enjoyment
(b) relatively physically accessible, while also not being physically demanding.

Lebanon

Atmosphere: Culture    
Best Weather: March, April, May, October, November

 LebanonLebanon is a small country with extensive coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Its location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has created a rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity, with Phoenician, Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Umayyad, Crusader, and Ottoman ruins scattered around the country. Other than Mediterranean Sea coastline, the other dominant feature is the Lebanon mountains, which rise steeply parallel to the Mediterranean coast and runs for most of the country's length.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Oman

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 OmanThe Sultanate of Oman is located on eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. From the late 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was a powerful empire, vying with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Historically, Muscat was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region. Muscat was also among the most important trading ports of the Indian Ocean. A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north and southeast coast, where the country's main cities are also located.
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Qatar

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 QatarQatar is a small country that occupies the Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Following Ottoman rule, Qatar became a British protectorate in the early 20th century until gaining independence in 1971. Qatar is the world's richest country per capita, with a high income, developed economy backed by the world's third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves. Geographically, most of the country consists of a low, barren plain, covered with sand. To the southeast lies the Khor al Adaid ("Inland Sea"), an area of rolling sand dunes surrounding an inlet of the Persian Gulf.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

Saudi Arabia

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

 Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia occupies most of the Arabian peninsula and is the largest Arab state in the Middle East by land area. Saudi Arabia contains the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina, to which all physically and financially able Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage at least once if possible (the Hajj) and where non-Muslims are forbidden from entering. Geographically, most of its inland terrain consists of arid inhospitable desert or barren landforms. But it also holds substantial coastal land, and is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast.
 
A Cultural Atmosphere includes both the historic (eg, landmark town centers) and the contemporary (music, nightlife, etc).

Cultural Interests tend to be:
(a) indoors-oriented, and therefore not as linked to weather conditions for enjoyment
(b) relatively physically accessible, while also not being physically demanding.

Yemen

Atmosphere: Culture    
Best Weather: January, February, October, November, December

 YemenYemen is an Arab country in Southwest Asia, occupying the southwestern and southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Geographically, the  Tihamah ("hot lands" or "hot earth") form a very arid and flat coastal plain along Yemen's entire Red Sea coastline. The central highlands are an extensive high plateau over 2,000 meters (6,562 ft) in elevation. The desert in the east is much lower, generally below 1,000 meters (3,281 ft), and receives almost no rain. It is populated only by Bedouin herders of camels.
 
 
Combination Atmosphere destinations combine elements of both cultural and natural destinations, where this combination is itself essential to the travel experience. Common examples are Archaeological Sites (where culture is usually experienced outdoors), Scenic Local Markets (where indigenous cultures interact outdoors), Hotsprings and Vineyard Areas (where nature provides the raw materials but humans create the surroundings), and Unique Cultural Landscapes (where humans and nature interact in innovative ways, as in the elaborate rice terracing systems of Asia).

Combination Interests typically fall somewhere in the middle of the three types of primary interests in terms of
(a) how climate-dependent they are
(b) how accessible and physically demanding they are.

UAE United Arab Emirates

Atmosphere: Combination    
Best Weather: January, February, March, November, December

UAE United Arab EmiratesThe United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) is a federation of seven emirates on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula. It is a country rich in history and culture and an easy starting point for travels in the Middle East. The UAE coast stretches for more than 650 km (404 mi) along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend far inland. The less well known side of the UAE includes remote, magnificent desert dunes on the edge of the Empty Quarter and craggy, awe-inspiring wadis in the north-east bordering Oman.