5 Amazing Middle Eastern Cities You Should Visit
As recent reports summarise, the region of Middle East is getting more and more attention and love in recent years with a significant tourism growth and a lot of positive feedback. It seems that people from all around the world simply cannot get enough of all the magical beauty and the uniqueness of the countries from the region and it is easy to see why. However, some of the best thing in a more global tourism sense is that the Middle East region is no more associated with being a complicated and sometimes risky and scary place to visit with non-friendly and non-hospitable locals. It must have been a misconception that lived for way too long and we are happy to see this myth finally busted.
Well, we are not the ones to underestimate and be ignorant about the not very safe and comfortable everyday life many people in this region of the world are forced to live. Of course, we are not wearing our pink glasses at all times and we do understand that life is not all flowers and balloons. However, we are not happy to see that the whole region of the Middle East is usually falling under the category of a dangerous and unsafe place. Since this is not the truth today we are dedicated to presenting you five amazing and, unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately, under-the-radar Middle Eastern cities you should start planning to visit. Until you do so we hope that the day that all the region is a peaceful and happy place will soon come and we are all going to be able to enjoy its beauty and the hospitality of all locals.
With flights served and popular and new hotel groups expanding rapidly across the region, a visit to one of the below-mentioned amazing Middle Eastern cities that are some real hidden gems could turn out to be one of your most relaxing, exciting, and a favourite holiday experience. Exploring the lesser-known corners of the Middle East is an adventure that totally worth it so here are some ideas and inspiration for you!
The recent opening of the Jordan Trail, a breath-taking and spectacular 650km-long hiking trail in the country that offers the opportunity to explore the country from one end to the other, Jordan is getting more and more attention and visits. In fact, the country has never been more popular among tourists and travellers than to this date. In fact, the ancient city of Petra and the unique Dead Sea have been a popular landmark among tourists for many years already, however, the capital of the country Amman definitely does not get all the attention it deserves. Known as the “White City” Amman is one of those places of exciting contrasts and mystery that deserve your attention with plenty to see, do, and experience. Just within a walking distance from the centre of the city are two of the most popular sites of Amman – the Amman Citadel and the Roman Theatre dating back to the 2nd century. The Jordan Museum is yet another stop of your journey and once you find yourself dizzy from all the walking around and exploring it is time to get some fuel in the form of delicious food. You are lucky to find yourself in a country with amazing cuisine so do not miss to try the famous falafels of the joint Hashem or dine in one of the many amazing restaurants on the trendy Rainbow Street.
Nested between the spectacular blue Gulf of Oman and the rugged peaks of the Al Hajar Mountains, Muscat is just an hour-long flight from Dubai and it definitely deserves your attention. In fact, Muscat seems to be the perfect break from the flashy and sometimes a bit too over the top Dubai so it is a good idea to visit the city. The informal coastal capital of Oman is where you will find mindful development and religious tolerance you wouldn’t expect otherwise. The laid-back city is certainly a home to the local traditions but without getting too over the top with the main concept. While all buildings reflect the traditional style of Oman and the perks of the local culture, you can easily stumble upon cutting-edge modern architecture just around the corner, while exploring the newish Royal Opera House and the National Museum.
However, if you are up to diving into the traditional culture of Oman just a bit deeper, make sure to visit the main place of worship in Muscat – the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque that is designed to be accessible to non-Muslim visitors too. Muscat is certainly a city of contrasts and wonders, from the cutting-edge modern Islamic architecture it is known for to the well preserved ancient landmarks such as Al Mirani and Al Jalali forts. For a taste of a real summer holiday, Muscat is offering amazing beaches, stunning wadis, excellent hiking opportunities. Visiting the city is now easier than ever since the opening of the brand new international airport terminal in March 2018.
There is some strange irony in the fact that Azerbaijan is literary the crossroad point of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East (as a location but also in a cultural sense), yet the country is still not that accessible with some borders being closed (the one with Armenia) and limited flights to Azerbaijan. It seems that Azerbaijan is one of the most remote and isolated countries in the world but it is still one of the most interesting and exciting ones so even if you have to go that extra mile to visit it, it all worth it! When it comes to the capital city Baku and its quirkiness and charm you will soon understand why insulation could be sometimes a good thing. Taking the best from all cities and being inspired by its surroundings, Baku is a home to both a jaw-dropping, cutting-edge modern cityscape that could, without any doubt, perfectly fit the glitz and luxury of Dubai, for example, but also the city somehow successfully preserves the natural, individual uniqueness of its storied history.
Are you up to a quick imaginary journey to the Soviet era? Then just hop on the retro Baku Metro or visit the medieval ramparts of the Old City in order to travel even far back in time. The wallflower of the Middle East, Baku is nothing like the rest of the classic Middle Eastern cities, inspired by way more cultures, histories, and influences that you can imagine. Simply keep in mind that the locals are definitely not the friendliest nation and Baku is certainly not the cheapest city in the world but once you get used to these truths you will find the city extra pleasant, extra well organised, and extra safe. One thing you should definitely do in Baku is eating, eating all the time! The local cuisine is simply outstanding, strongly dominated by Turkish and Iranian flavours but with its own and unique twist.
Bahrain certainly deserves its popularity of the smallest and the most liberal independent Persian Gulf state which means that visiting the country as a tourist is definitely off any limits. A recent global survey named Bahrain’s capital Manama the best city in the world to emigrate to in 2017 and there is no wonder why so many people seem to be in love with the city. The juxtaposition of the modern progress of Manama that can easily conquer a way more popular destinations such as Dubai and the well-preserved city’s past are simply mesmerizing. To start exploring the city and learn more about the millennia-old history of Bahrain, a visit to the UNESCO-listed Pearling Path in Muharraq is just the starting point. Continue your journey with the National Museum and the avant-garde National Theatre to dip into the progressive and unexpectedly dynamic art scene of Manama. Unfortunately, due to land reclamation has its major impact on the access to the Manama’s beaches but the Al Dar Islands continue to be a favourite place for all people dreaming of a classic summer holiday on the beach. Just a 10-minute long boat ride from the port in Sitra, the islands are all you need to make your visit even more laid-back and enjoyable.
Despite the fact that Lebanon is not the safest place in the world right now if you are up to some amazing adventure you should head east of Lebanon’s capital Tripoli where just 55km later you will be able to discover and enjoy the Beqaa Governorate capital of Zahle. The laid-back city of Zahle is certainly the ultimate escape from the madness and stress of the big, dynamic, and hectic capital and has its own, very bohemian vibe, designing itself as the “City of Wine and Poetry” and shaped and inspired by many poets calling Zahle their home. The iconic red-roofed houses and Cafes du Bardouni, the infamous string of open-air restaurants along the Bardouni River, the city is comfortably nestled between mountain peaks and hills and definitely a confident contender in the world’s food capital race. The region is known for the production of wine so it’s open for wine tours and tastings complemented by extra delicious mezze and dishes.