Plan to Visit these Top Spots in the Middle East This Year
Travel planning can be daunting! Especially if you have a giant bucket like most of us travellers do…So to help you choose where to go, I called on some of my travel blogging friends for suggestions. They endorsed Middle East travel and sent through some very intriguing recommendations. Check them out and consider adding these top spots in the Middle East to your travel plans this year.
I am proud to be able to nominate Jerusalem, Israel as one of the top spots in the Middle East! Jerusalem is a completely unique city. Most people first think of it as a religious hotbed. This is true. Where else can you have the most sacred sites of Judaism and Christianity, and the holiest of Islam outside of Mecca and Medina, and all within a short walk of each other? Pray at the Western Wall of King Solomon’s Temple (dating to well before Christ) with Jews from all over the world, then visit the Dome of the Rock – the site from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven. Walk the Stations of the Cross and see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to relive the final days of Jesus.
Leaving the Old City and its markets and alleys behind you, modern Jerusalem also has incredible things for visitors. From Hebrew University on the top of Mt. Scopus, see the entire area laid out before you. Wander Ben Yehuda Street for the best falafel in existence and a chance to haggle in the shops (it is expected so don’t feel bad). Visit Yad VaShem, Israel’s museum to the Holocaust, and the trees planted nearby in honor of non-Jews who risked their lives to save innocents, and explore the renowned Israel Museum for the complete history of both ancient and modern Israel.
A note on safety: it is safe to visit Jerusalem, but be conscious of your surroundings. Police presence is very visible, and both on- and off-duty soldiers can be seen in most places. If the political considerations make you nervous, book group tours through the Old City, which will have security escorts.
Nominated by Emily of Wander-Lush, Instagram
The name alone is enough to conjure visions of dhow boats and humming souqs. The Sultanate of Oman is a modern country by any measure, but great efforts have been made to preserve its Arabian heritage. History and culture that has been paved over in the other Gulf capitals is alive and well here—making Oman one of my favourite destinations and top spots in the Middle East.
You know you’re in Muscat when you smell frankincense burning in every shop, hotel and restaurant. Trays of fresh dates and Omani coffee are constantly thrust upon visitors by wide-smiling locals dressed in white robes and embroidered skullcaps, Oman’s national garb.
Mutrah Corniche is Muscat’s most charismatic neighbourhood. The Mutrah Souq is everything you imagine an Arabic marketplace to be—overflowing stores trade in henna, carpets, and antiques. The nearby National Museum of Oman is a great place to learn about the Omani Empire, which once extended all the way to Tanzania. An East African influence can still be felt in the country’s food scene. Muscat’s most impressive house of worship, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, is another must-visit. Once the heat of the day has died down, head to one of the beaches to join in a local game of sand football and watch the sun set over the Gulf.
Just off the coast, you can find excellent snorkeling and diving in the Ad Dimaniyat Islands. Ancient forts, lush wadis, mountain villages and the vast Wahiba Sands desert—still home to nomadic Bedouin tribes—are all within driving distance of Muscat.
Istanbul, straddling both Asia and Europe has so much to do, you could visit every year and never be bored. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia need no introduction a must a visit with their architecture and history, making them recognizable worldwide and Istanbul one of the Top Spots in the Middle East.
The food scene is impressive in Turkey, with ice cream vendors teasing customers young and old with their tricks. You’ll find restaurants open 24 hours a day, serving all sorts of cuisine and if you want a laugh, head to Ali Usta for a durum. Best time ever.
There are markets tucked away in all corners of the city, of course, you need to visit both the Spice and Grand Bazaars. The colors, people, smells, and variety of goods will keep you and your senses entertained for a long time.
Football has brought the city together at various times since the three largest Istanbul clubs, Galatasaray, Besiktas, and Fenerbahce were formed in the early 20th century. If you can go along to the game, you’ll get to experience the Turkish showing off their passion with the Besiktas crowd one of the loudest in the world.
In terms of getting around Istanbul, considering the city is divided by the Bosphorus River they’ve made it easy to traverse with regular ferries running from various points on each side (great views included). And with buses, trams, and a subway system you can get around the city with relative ease.
And the cats deserve a mention. The city embraces the cats that rule Istanbul like no other city. Some say the cats own the city.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Nominated by Elena of Passion for Dubai, Instagram
Thulusdhoo and Fulidhoo Islands, The Maldives
Nominated by Chris of Backpacker Banter, Instagram
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Fill My Passport collaborated with other travel writers on this post. All opinions are our own and none was influenced by Fill My Passport.