An incomplete list of the most beautiful places in the Middle East – from Bahrain to Yemen, the Dead Sea to the Empty Quarter, modern metropolises to mud villages, and everything in between.

Natural wonders, Holy sites, ancient beauty and modern Islamic architecture, bustling souks, Norwegian-style fjords, brilliant oases, endless deserts, and enough UNESCO World Heritage Sites to please even the most discerning history buff. Yes, the Middle East really does have it all.

Discover 25 of the most beautiful places to visit in the Middle East region (Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE and Yemen), as recommended by me and other travel writers.

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25 beautiful places in the Middle East

Bald Sayt | Oman

Bald Sayt, a secluded village in Oman's Al Hajar mountains.

Nested in the foothills of the Al Hajar mountains, Bald Sayt (Bilad Sayt) is a true Middle Eastern oasis and a must-visit destination in the beautiful country of Oman.

Remote and secluded, the tiny village is accessed on foot by walking through Wadi Al Sahtan and Wadi Bani Awf. As you emerge from the final canyon, the first thing that greets you are the terraced fields – tinted ruddy brown or brilliant green depending on the season – and thick groves of date palms heavy with fruit.

The knot of tan and ivory houses that is Bald Sayt is wrapped in mountains on all sides, adding to the feeling that it emerged out of the pebbly hills by magic. Follow the snaking hiking path for different perspectives of the village with the terraces and palm groves in focus.

Oman is made for road trips – and Bald Sayt is a case in point. It can only be reached with a combination of 4×4 and hiking. When planning your Oman driving itinerary, make sure you hire an off-road vehicle (provided you’re comfortable with driving narrow, precipitous paths) or alternatively, budget a few days to travel to the village with a driver and guide from Nizwa.

There are no guesthouses in Bald Sayt – the closest accommodations can be found in Al Hamra. Misfah Old House, a guesthouse set in a traditional mud brick house, is highly recommended.

Wadi Rum | Jordan

Sands and hills in Wadi Rum, Jordan, one of the prettiest places in the Middle East.

At the southern edge of Jordan lies one of the most magnificent deserts on earth, Wadi Rum. Here, rock-ribbed mountains grow from an ocean of unending red sand while the blistering sun vaporises every last drop of water.

It’s a surreal scene that resembles something from outer space. And, for this reason, Wadi Rum is nicknamed ‘The Valley of the Moon’.

But this is not the only attraction: Relics from the Nabataean peoples can be found throughout the desert. From petroglyphs and inscriptions to ancient ruins, there’s a wealth of history.

There are several ways to explore this natural wonder. From jeep tours and camel treks to hikes and overnight stays, there is something for everyone. With an area of 720 square-kilometres, you could easily spend a week here, but an overnight stay is the best compromise. There’s nothing like indulging in a delicious meal prepared by a local family and sipping fresh mint tea under the stars.

Be sure to bring a warm jacket and a scarf. Temperatures plummet in the evenings and the dry desert winds can be unforgiving. No matter which adventure you choose, it’s sure to be an experience of a lifetime!

By Jen from Dabbling in Jet Lag

Sharqiya Sands | Oman

Rippled dunes in Oman's Sharquiya Sands, a beautiful desert destination.

As you’re about to discover, there is so much more to the Middle East beyond desert landscapes. Yet the scale and solitude of the Empty Quarter somehow captures the endless beauty of the region so well.

The Rub Al Khali is shared between Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Oman’s portion, the Sharqiya Sands (formerly known as the Wahiba Sands), is one of the most accessible areas for travellers, with desert safaris departing from the capital, Muscat.

Dune bashing, camel rides and sand surfing are all on offer – but in truth, it’s just as fun to walk the rippled dunes and dip your fingers into the melting red sands.

Luxury hotels in the form of desert camps dot the landscape. The Desert Nights Camp is one of the finest and takes cues from the area’s Bedouin heritage. A night here – with sunset from the dunes and dinner under the stars – is hands-down one of the best experiences you can possibly have in the Middle East.

Valley of the Kings | Egypt

Dramatic cliffs form a backdrop to an archaeological site in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

Not only is Egypt’s legendary Valley of the Kings a beautiful place to visit, it’s also one of the Middle East’s most significant historical sites. This archaeologically rich area was the burial ground for royal Ancient Egyptians between the 11th and 16th centuries BC. New discoveries are still being made to this day. Located on the western river bank from the city of Luxor, it’s easy to get to with a Nile cruise, train or coach from Cairo.

It’s possible to visit many of the ancient tombs and see their beautiful paintings up close. Depending on the time of your visit, the authorities that look after the Valley of the Kings open certain tombs at different times.

At the time of writing there were 62 documented tombs, all discovered before 1922. The best ones are always visitable on a daily basis. Some special tombs include Ramesses IV KV2, Ramesses KV9 and Tutankhamun KV62. It’s highly recommended to buy a ticket for Seti 1 KV17 as well.

As a top practical tip, visit with a local, knowledgeable tour guide. This will be most beneficial for truly understanding the history and significance of each tomb. Else to watch a documentary or read a specific book beforehand to learn more.

By Zoe from Together in Transit

Petra | Jordan

The iconic Treasury Monument in Petra, a must visit place in the Middle East.

The beautiful city of Petra is located about 240 kilometres south of Jordan’s capital city, Amman, and is significant to archaeologists because of its rock-like structures. It dates back to the 4th century BC, is a Wonder of the World – and should be included on your bucket list.

Visitors enter the park at Wadi Musa and follow a trail into the Siq, a gorge formed by tectonic plates that broke the mountain into two pieces. Snaking down a path with rock walls that tower above your head is quite an entrance. You might know this path as it featured in the 1989 adventure film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with Harrison Ford.

As the mysterious path finally opens up, you will come to your first awe-inspiring view of the Treasury Monument, built as a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III. The Treasury is the highlight of Petra, but this is only really the start of your visit. There is so much more to see.

Once you pass the Treasury, you could easily spend a day exploring the rest of the ‘Red Rose City’, so-called because of the pink-hued stone it’s carved from. Other highlights of Petra include the tombs and houses on the Street of Facades, and hiking unmarked roads to find spectacular views. Eventually, you will make it to the Royal Tombs and the magnificent Monastery.

By Chris from Aquarius Traveller

Abyaneh | Iran

Pink houses in Iran's Abyaneh, a beautiful village in the Middle East.

One of the most uniquely beautiful villages in the Middle East is the red mountain village of Abyaneh. Sitting beautifully in the Karkas mountains, this is one of the oldest villages in Iran, dating back at least 2,500 years.

What makes Abyaneh so unique is that villagers still live according to pre-Islamic ancient customs. They still speak their original language and dress in traditional clothing. The costume of the women is especially distinct, with white flowery shawls.

Abyaneh’s crimson colour comes from the red clay used to cover the houses, which makes the village blend in with the surrounding nature. Aside from exploring the streets and admiring the architecture, there are old castle ruins and underground cave houses that visitors can walk to. This is where you will get the best view of the village, so it’s worth the short hike.

With no public transport available, the easiest way to visit Abyaneh is by car. You can hire a driver from either Kashan, Natanz, or Esfahan. To enter the village, visitors must pay a maintenance fee of 10,000 rials.

When visiting Abyaneh, it’s important to be respectful towards the locals. Keep this in mind when snapping your Instagram photos.

By Linn from Brainy Backpackers

Jerash Ruins | Jordan

A stone path leads through a row of tall columns at the Jerash Ruins in Jordan.

It’s likely that whenever someone mentions ruins in Jordan you’ll instantly think of Petra. However, there are many other archaeological sites worthy of adding to your Jordan itinerary, including the stunning Jerash Ruins.

The city of Jerash is located about 50 kilometres north of Jordan’s capital of Amman and can be accessed within about an hour by taxi or collective bus. It’s certainly worth taking the trip out of the city for.

Jerash has been dubbed ‘Pompeii of the East’, and if you’ve ever visited the original Pompeii ruins in Italy, you’ll be able to see parallels between the two sites. Although the Jerash Roman Ruins weren’t obliterated by a volcano, the layout and structures have a lot in common with Pompeii. This is also one of the biggest Roman ruin sites outside of Europe.

The site of Jerash is reasonably extensive, and like many ruins, has little in the way of shade and shelter from the sun. Remember to pack a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, especially if you’re visiting during the middle of the day. Ideally you should try to get there early to dodge both the heat and the tour groups.

Unmissable sites include the Oval Forum and the ancient Colonnaded Street along with the Temple of Artemis and the Arch of Hadrian.

By Becki from Meet Me in Departures

Qeshm Island | Iran

White rock formations on Qeshm Island in Iran.

The charming Iranian island of Qeshm is the largest island in the Persian Gulf. Its important geographical location in the Strait of Hormuz means it’s always been a vital trading and navigational centre, precipitating invasions by the Dutch, French and Portuguese in centuries past.

Qeshm is a free zone allowing nationals of most countries to acquire a visa on arrival. The ease of travel, rich artisan traditions and wealth of rare geological landscapes are all amazing reasons to explore Qeshm island.

Designated as Qeshm Island UNESCO Global Geopark in 2017, the island is home to a diverse range of natural phenomena. Take a trip around the Hara Mangrove Forest, a real treat for birdwatchers with 220 species nesting amongst the winding trees and calm waters. The dhow boats in the port are a testament to the traditional Bandari way of life on the island.

The Fallen Star Valley is best seen at sunset as the glow falls on the weather-eroded ravines and towers. Explore Chahkuh Valley in the northwestern part of Qeshm, where tectonic movement and washed away rock create a labyrinth of crazy cavities and shapes along the walls of the gorge.

Another highlight is discovering the salt cave at Namakdan, which is believed to be the largest in the world at 6,850 metres long. Qeshm is an incredible destination full of culture, tradition and mind-blowing terrain.

By Vanessa from Wanders Miles

Tower of David | Israel

The Tower of David, an important historical and religious monument in Jerusalem.

One of the most prominent silhouettes in Jerusalem’s skyline along with the Temple Mount, the Tower of David is a must-see historical site in the Middle East.

Even though it is named after the biblical king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah, David, the citadel actually dates back to medieval times. That said, the complex does include some remains of walls and towers from much earlier eras, including the First Temple (1006-586 BC), the Hasmonean Period (141-63 BC), and the Herodian Period (37 BC-70 AD).

The beautiful fortress sits at a strategic high point between eastern and western Jerusalem close to Jaffa Gate, which is one of the biggest reasons it has such great historical importance. As cliche as it may sound, visiting it can make you feel like you’ve been transported to the past, and that’s an experience you cannot skip out on.

Today, the citadel complex houses the Museum of the History of Jerusalem, where you can learn about more than 3,000 years of the city’s past. Throughout the year, it also hosts the most incredible night experiences that allow you to immerse yourself in the stories of Jerusalem and King David through sounds, videos, and images screened on the citadel walls.

By Or from My Path in the World

Masada National Park | Israel

Dusk over the hills in Israel's Masada National Park, one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the Middle East.

Located in the centre of Israel, Masada National Park is named after the legendary Masada Fortress that stands atop a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea and Judean desert. It was once home to an entire civilisation, which you can imagine whilst exploring the nooks and crannies of the walls that still stand there today.

On top of its historical beauty, one of the most popular things to do here is arrive very early in the morning and hike to the top of the plateau for sunrise. The trek takes around 60-90 minutes, stretches 2.7 kilometres and rises to an elevation of 350 metres. Despite starting the trail in the dark hours of the morning, it still feels very safe.

Although the climb can be done at your own pace, most people have the goal of reaching the top before the sun comes up. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and you will be rewarded with undeniably beautiful sunrise views of the desert and Dead Sea from the top of the mountain.

If it’s history and Israeli culture you’re after, it’s possible to visit the park during the day and take the cable car up and down the mountain instead. Most tours to this location from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv also include visiting Ein-Gedi Natural Reserve and taking a dip in the Dead Sea.

By Barbora from Often Out of Office

The Dead Sea | Israel & Jordan

The Dead Sea, an emerald green body of water with a scalloped shoreline of white sand.

When you float in the Dead Sea, it feels like you’re floating in outer space. The lowest body of water on Earth sits in a beautiful desert environment and has a salt content almost 10 times higher than regular seawater. This makes it so dense that our bodies become buoyant and easily float.

The Dead Sea is so salty that there is no life present outside of algae and microorganisms. However, that doesn’t mean the natural phenomenon doesn’t have any health benefits. Due to its elevation, the Dead Sea is about eight percent richer in oxygen than at sea level. The water and natural mud also reduces skin impurities and detoxifies the body due to its high mineral content.

It’s easy to add this otherworldly spa destination to your Israel or Jordan itinerary since it lies on the border between the two countries. When looking for a beach to visit, make sure it’s one with access to natural mud on the seafloor. At some beaches you won’t find any natural mud in the water and will have to purchase it by the pack from vendors instead.

Kalia Beach is one of the top beaches to visit and can be done as a day trip from Jerusalem. At this beach, you can easily scoop up black mud from the seafloor and make yourself a cleansing body mask. There is an entrance fee of 60 NIS per person, but it includes nice facilities and access to the ‘lowest bar in the world’.

By Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes

Hormuz Island | Iran

Colourful rock formations on Hormuz Island, Iran.

Hormuz Island in Iran, also known as the ‘Bloody Island’ and the ‘Rainbow Island of Iran’, is one of the most colourful, unique and beautiful islands not only in the Middle East, but in the world.

This epic gem is situated in the province of Hormozgan at the southernmost end of Iran. Travelling on this tiny little island feels like exploring another planet as a character of a magical sci-fi fantasy. Hormuz doesn’t even have cars – you can only move around the island on foot, by bike, motorcycle or tuk-tuk (rickshaw).

The island boasts brilliant and colourful beaches, mountains, valleys and caves. The two most stunning places are the Red Beach and the Rainbow Mountains.

The Red Beach, so-called because the sand on the beach is literally red, is the most iconic landmark of Hormuz Island. The sand colours the sea water a kind of pinkish-reddish. The second most famous sight on the island is the Rainbow Mountain. An endless flood of shades and hues of terrain makes this mountain exceptional.

If the landscape on Hormuz doesn’t blow your mind, the local gastronomy will. Fish stew – as red as the Red Beach itself because it’s flavoured with soil – is the most popular meal. Would you try it?

By Diana from The Globetrotting Detective

Siwa Oasis | Egypt

Rattan chairs sit on the edge of a blue pool at the gorgeous Siwa Oasis in Egypt.

Siwa Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert is one of the most unforgettable places to visit in the Middle East, especially if you’re looking for an authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience.

Located just 50 kilometres from the border with Libya, the only way to reach Siwa is to drive or to take a 10-hour coach trip from Cairo. It’s a long, hot slog along a bumpy desert road full of potholes, but it’s worth it to explore this stunning historic oasis town with its unique Amazigh culture.

Once known as ‘Palm Land’, Siwa has 10 times more palm trees than people (33,000 trees in total), warm oasis pools to bathe in, and a huge salt lake that’s simply the best place to watch the sunset.

There’s a surprising number of things to do in Siwa. You will probably be tempted to climb the Mountain of the Dead, which dates back to the time of the Romans who settled in Siwa after Cleopatra died, and you’ll want to see the Temple of Si-Amun while you’re there. A trip to the medieval Shali (or ‘City of Mud’) is unmissable.

One of the highlights of a visit to Siwa is a trip into the desert to try a sand bath or sandboarding and take a dip in a desert pool. Stay overnight on a desert safari and huddle around a campfire, swapping stories and watching the brightest stars you’ve ever seen.

Siwa is a treat and it’s sure to work its magic on you. Stay in an eco-lodge or tiny boutique hotel to make the most of your trip.

By Coralie from Grey Globetrotters

Byblos | Lebanon

Boats docked in the harbour at Byblos, Lebanon, one of the most beautiful historic towns in the Middle East.

Located only 30 kilometres from the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, Byblos is a true gem and one of the most interesting places in the region. According to historical sources, this is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with the first settlers arriving here between 8000 and 5000 BC. 

These days Byblos might seem like a small, sleepy town, but don’t let that fool you – there are plenty of attractions to see. The major landmark is the 12th century Crusaders Castle. Even if it’s mostly in ruins today, visiting feels a bit like travelling back in time. Ancient ruins such as the King’s Well, Royal Tombs and Roman Theatre help you imagine the grandness of the place at its peak of prosperity.

From the castle, you can also admire a beautiful vista of Byblos and the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon. The nearby souk area is a vibrant treat for the senses, with winding cobbled lanes, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants, and picturesque corners. From there, it’s a short walk to the harbour, the formerly busy ancient port that today hosts numerous fisherman’s boats mixed with fancy yachts. 

Visiting Byblos is very easy as frequent minibuses connect the town with Beirut. The journey takes around one hour.

By Kami from Kami and the Rest of the World

Sheik Zayed Mosque | UAE

The Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, one of the most beautiful mosques in the Middle East.

Located in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is the biggest and most-visited mosque in the entire country – and one of the largest mosques in the world.

The Grand Mosque was built between 1996 and 2007 and represents the fusion of different Muslim cultures inspired by Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Pakistan. It was designed by British, Italian and Emirati architects to reflect how Islam interacts with the rest of the world.

The result is mesmerising: The Sheik Zayed Mosque is probably the most impressive mosque built in the 20th century and also one of the most welcoming to outsiders.

At the centre of the mosque stands a courtyard with one of the world’s largest marble mosaic floors. Inside, the mosque features over one thousand columns, 82 marble domes, gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers, and hand-woven carpets.

It’s possible to visit the Grand Mosque on a day trip from Dubai. There are a lot of travel tour agents that will organise the logistics for you. Women are required to wear a full-body covering, including a headscarf. If you book through a tour company, they usually provide suitable dress.

By Mal from Raw Mal Roams

Doha | Qatar

Traditional architecture at the souk in Doha, Qatar.

Sitting somewhere between Muscat and Dubai on the Middle Eastern cities sliding scale, Qatar’s capital city, Doha, is a marriage of the traditional and the contemporary. If you only have a short airport layover, one day in Doha is still enough time to take in the contrasts and contradictions.

The Museum of Islamic Art, one of the most amazing pieces of architecture in the region, is a must-visit. Head out the back for a brilliant view of downtown Doha’s skyscrapers framed by stone arches. The museum is walking distance from the fragrant Souq Waqif, which charms with its piles of colourful rugs and miniature dunes made of spices. In the evening, don’t miss visiting the nearby Falcon Souq and Falcon Hospital, one of Qatar’s most unique attractions.

After a self-guided city tour, travel beyond Doha to Khor Al Adaid, the famous Inland Sea. One of the few places on earth where the sea meets the desert, it’s under consideration to become the country’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site. Day tours from Doha to Khor Al Adaid are a convenient option if you don’t have off-roading experience.

Dynamic, budget-friendly and one of the safest cities in the Middle East (and in the entire world for that matter), Doha is the perfect destination for solo female travellers or first-time visitors to the region. See these Qatar travel tips for more advice.

Dubai | UAE

The skyline of Dubai silhouetted against a dusty sky.

One of the most vibrant cities in the region, Dubai is an ultimate travel destination in the Middle East that has it all. It has come a long way from a tiny fishing village to a sprawling metropolitan city.

From glittering skyscrapers to sandy beaches and adventurous desert safaris, this is a city full of possibilities. One of the first things to see in Dubai is of course the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Marvel at unparalleled views of the city from the Sky Lounge and Observation Deck on the building’s 148th floor.

Fair to say that Dubai is a shopper’s paradise. Adjacent to the Burj Khalifa is the world’s largest mall, The Dubai Mall. Here you will find all kinds of retail outlets, cafes and restaurants along with an indoor ice rink, a huge aquarium, and the dazzling Dubai Fountain.

Don’t leave the city without making a visit to the Dubai Creek and the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood where you can see the cultural centres, the Dubai Museum, souks and traditional buildings. To end your trip, sail through the seas at the Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina on a yacht or a cruise to admire the incredible views of the skyline.

By Anjali from Cheerful Trails

Al Fateh Mosque | Bahrain

The dome and minaret of the Al Fateh Mosque, a beautiful place in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a surprisingly interesting place to visit in the Middle East for a short, 3-4 day trip. One of the must-see-places in Bahrain is the Al Fateh Mosque in the capital, Manama.

Built in the 1980s, it can accommodate up to 7,000 people for prayer, making it the biggest place of worship in Bahrain. The building is made from light coloured marble from Italy and the dome that covers the main prayer hall is the biggest fibreglass dome in the world.

Apart from the architectural beauty, the main reason why you should visit the Al Fateh Mosque is the tour they offer for visitors. Al Fateh claims to be the first mosque to offer visitor’s tours and it really is worth your time. As a woman, you will be given a cloak and scarf to cover up so you can walk around the courtyards and the main prayer hall.

Here you can see the Mihrab, the prayer niche, surrounded by calligraphy in a very old Bahraini style and the huge, Austrian-made chandelier. You will sit for a while and learn a lot about Islam and mosques.

The mosque is open from 9am-5pm every day except during prayer times. Tours are available in many languages.

By Eva from Not Scared of the Jetlag

Musandam Fjords | Oman

A dirt road winds through rock formations towards a blue bay in Oman's Musandam Peninsula.

Another unexpected landscape in the region, Oman’s Musandam Fjords have earned the nickname ‘the Norway of the Middle East’. The thousands of serrated khors (ravines) with spectacular drop-offs into the Strait of Hormuz does indeed resemble the majestic side arms of Scandinavia’s coast – yet the colours and ecology makes Musandam beyond comparison.

Coves and cliffs define the entire length of the shoreline that wraps around the northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The longest fjord, Khor Ash Sham, stretches for some 16 kilometres. The only way to immerse yourself in this larger-than-life landscape is by taking a wooden dhow boat cruise. You’ll likely see pods of frolicking dolphins along the way.

A popular tourist destination among travellers from the UAE (Musandam is an enclave easily reached by Dubai or Abu Dhabi), the beautiful beaches, warm waters and coral reefs attract snorkellers and scuba divers as well. Don’t miss a stop at Telegraph Island (Jazirat Maqlab), once a British communications outpost.

Rawanduz Valley | Iraqi Kurdistan

A deep canyon with lush foliage in Rawanduz, Iraqi Kurdistan.

The mountains of the Kurdistan region are one of the most epic parts of Iraq, with beautiful green forests, gushy waterfalls, steep cliffs and winding canyons including the Canyon of Rawanduz. Being the most impressive pearl of mountainous Kurdistan, the canyon and valley is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Iraq.

Situated in the rural part of Erbil Governorate, surrounded by the Zagros Mountain Range, Rawanduz features a snake-like river moving between dramatic rock formations. You can enjoy the canyon both from inside its valley and from above. The hiking path inside the Valley of Rawanduz is perfect for adventure lovers.

If you want to see the canyon from above, there are several viewpoints in the village of Rawanduz. The best way to track down the viewpoints and to witness the beauty of this place is through a drive along the canyon rim. Chances are that you’ve never seen anything like this before.

Close to Rawanduz Valley, there are other beautiful natural marvels you cannot miss, such as the mountains of Soran, the Bekhal Waterfall, and the Geli Ali Beg Waterfall.

By Diana from The Globetrotting Detective

Socotra | Yemen

Distinctive trees dot the landscape on Socotra Island, Yemen, one of the most unique landscapes in the Middle East.

Nowhere captures the unworldly natural beauty of the Middle East quite like Socotra. The largest of four islands in an archipelago of the same name, Socotra is lauded for its ‘alien-like beauty’ and biodiversity, which earned it UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008.

Socotra is associated with dragon trees (Dracaena cinnabari), an endemic species with curious branch formations. Beyond its famous flora, the island is incredibly diverse, with a rugged coastline and interior mountains.

Located in the Arabian Sea, the island was only accessible by cargo ship up until a few decades ago when an airport was built. There is limited tourist infrastructure and just a handful of guesthouses. Because of ongoing conflicts in the region, travelling to Socotra island is, unfortunately, not as easy as it once was. Be sure to do your research before you start planning a trip.

Shiraz | Iran

A beautiful garden in Shiraz, one of the most beautiful places in Iran.

A Silk Road city and one of the oldest settlements associated with ancient Persia, Shiraz is known as the city of poets, literature, fruit trees and manicured gardens. This should give you a clue as to why Shiraz is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Iran.

Shiraz’s heritage goes back to at least 2000 BC. For most of its history, it has been a hub for regional trade, and it remains a popular destination today as the largest city in south-west Fars Province.

The city wears its rich history proudly on its sleeve: Beautiful gardens including the Eram Garden and opulent ancient mosques, most notably the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque with its iconic tinted glass, make Shiraz a darling of Iran tourism.

Another layer to Shiraz’s character: This is a city of heritage crafts, where masters have perfected inlaid mosaics, silverware and pile carpets over the course of centuries. Save your shopping for Shiraz, because this is the best place in the country to find an authentic souvenir.

Baalbek | Lebanon

Roman columns at the ruins of Baalbek in Lebanon.

If you’re spending time in Lebanon, be sure to visit the Roman ruins of Baalbek, known as Heliopolis to the Romans. The legendary birthplace of Baal, the Canaanite god of the sun, Baalbek existed long before the Romans conquered the city in 47 BC.

Baalbek is a vast site known for its ancient temple complex. The Temple of Jupiter, now almost completely destroyed, was once the largest temple in ancient Rome. A smaller temple dedicated to Bacchus, however, is beautifully preserved and is still larger than the Parthenon in Athens. There are other remarkable ruins to wander through at Baalbek and as a plus, the site is usually quiet, with relatively few visitors.

Baalbek is under two hours’ drive from Beirut. You can do an organised day trip from the city or visit yourself by taking the public bus – just keep in mind that the trip takes approximately three hours each way and you’ll need to walk from the final stop to the ancient city.

You can buy tickets at the gate, which is open from 8.30am until sunset. If you’re travelling independently, it could be worth hiring a local guide. Keep in mind that the ruins can get very hot in summer, so you may prefer to visit during the cooler months.

By Roxanne from Faraway Worlds

Temple of Edfu | Egypt

The Temple of Edfu in Egypt, viewed at sunset from behind engraved rocks.

Starting from Luxor, a Nile River Cruise is a great way to explore the many heritage sites in Upper Egypt including the temples at Kom Ombo, the Temple of Esna, and the Aswan High Dam.

Edfu is located around 100 kilometres south of Luxor and is usually the first stop on the journey. The temple was constructed between 237 and 57 BC under the Ptolemaic Kingdom. It’s an important archaeological site of ancient Egypt because it’s one of the best-preserved, with an almost complete pylon and numerous wall engravings.

This temple is the largest in Egypt dedicated to Horus, God of kingship and the sky, and Hathor of Dendera. It is believed that Horus gave power and recognition to the ruling Pharaoh, Ptolemy VIII, who conquered upper Egypt. Ptolemy XII Auletes, the father of Cleopatra, can be seen engraved on the left of the temple’s Pylon, holding a stick to defeat his enemies with.

Because it’s situated on higher ground, the Temple of Edfu escaped the flood damage that ruined many other buildings in the area. In fact, the ruin was buried under sand for centuries until Napoleon’s French expedition unearthed it in 1798, revealing it to the world in 1860.

By Kenny from Knycx Journeying

Salmiya | Kuwait

Aerial view of Salmiya city in Kuwait.

Salmiya, Kuwait is an amazing city 15 kilometres from the capital, Kuwait City. It has many interesting attractions where you can see and learn more about Kuwait’s history and culture. Visit the Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy that has more than 30,000 items relating to Islamic manuscripts, calligraphy, carvings, jewellery and more.

The Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre has over 1,100 different exhibits and 22 galleries. With six different components, it’s the largest museum complex in the world.

Salmiya is also home to the Salem Al-Mubarak Street shopping district, one of the largest and oldest shopping districts in the country. While you’ll find that parts of the district are modernised, there are also traditional stalls in the side streets that take you back to old Kuwait.

Even though the country has a low crime rate, visitors should exercise the same precautions as they would when travelling in any other city. Visit Salmiya for its combination of Arab and Indo-Pakistani cultures while being surrounded by modern architecture.

By Rasika from Bae Area & Beyond

What did we miss? What is your favourite place in the Middle East?

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