The Middle East is an incredibly diverse region that offers potential travelers an array of fascinating experiences that span from ancient history to modern luxury. With eight countries to explore, you will be spoilt for choice as to what kind of unforgettable journey you want to embark on. From the vast desert treks across certain parts of Saudi Arabia, to the cultural vibrancy and vibrant architecture of Egypt and Lebanon, or the stunning natural scenery of Qatar, Oman and the pleasures of the Persian Gulf. Breathe in the unique aromas of Terrain's rich cultural mix by tasting the myriad of cuisines on offer and mixing with the warm hospitality of the local people. You can also enjoy luxurious overseas beaches, superb modern amenities, dramatic mountain terrains and exquisite marine life, including vast coral reefs, as in Oman's Musandam Peninsula. Whether you're an active traveller looking to explore their surroundings, a history buff longing to share the wonder of the Middle East's ancient ruins, or someone who just wants to be mesmerised by landscape of the Skyline, there's something for everyone here.
The History of Middle East
The Middle East has been a historically significant region since the beginning of civilization and beyond. From ancient empires to the development of religious faith to the more recent struggles in the region, the area provides a unique window into some of the most important events and important individuals in the history of mankind. For those interested in traveling to the Middle East, the region provides a great opportunity for learning about the past, to appreciate the many cultures, and to explore the many monuments, archaeological sites, and historic buildings.
One of the most significant events in Middle Eastern history is the rise and fall of several ancient civilizations. From the invention of written language to the formation of great religious texts, the development of culturally and technologically advanced cities, and the rise of powerful empires, the Middle East was a leading force in the advancement of humanity. The Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians are only few of the powerful players in this region, but there is a wealth of information to be discovered about these and other less discussed civilizations.
The spread of major religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is also an important topic when looking into Middle Eastern history. Considered the birthplace of three of the worlds most widespread religions, the region has been an important site of pilgrimage over centuries. Throughout the Middle East, there are a countless number of sites that trace the ancient roots of spiritual and religious belief, from ancient synagogues to churches, from home temples to monasteries, and from mosque to shrines - all of which provide an unparalleled look into the development of these various faiths.
The Middle East has also been the center of many pivotal wars and conflicts, including both world wars and, more recently, the Arab-Israeli conflict. With all of this turbulence, the region continues to connect with the world through its food, art, and architecture, while its recent struggles have, in some respects, brought more attention to the region as a whole. A journey through the Middle East to explore its rich history will therefore grant travelers a unique opportunity to understand not just the geopolitical divisions and struggles of today, but also the development of civilization itself.
The Culture of Middle East
The culture and people of the Middle East are as varied and colorful as the region they inhabit. This part of the world has been a cradle of civilizations since the dawn of time, and is home to some of the oldest continually inhabited cities of the world. From the ancient ruins of Syria and Iraq to the modern cities of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East is a cultural cornucopia.
When it comes to culture, the Middle East has much to uncover. Here, you can explore ancient civilizations that trace their roots back thousands of years and experience the vibrant mix of cultures, beliefs and traditions that characterize the region. From the ancestral tribes of the Arabian Peninsula to the ageless merchants of the souks, there is an endless array of human endeavor to marvel at. And of course, the iconic cities of the Middle East are like open-air museums, with a whole host of sights and sounds to explore. Whether it be the Citadel of Aleppo, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, the Grand Mosque of Mecca or the Great Bazaar of Istanbul, the Middle East is brimming with historic monuments that shape its ancient essence.
The people of the Middle East are colorful and welcoming, and it is this hospitality that characterizes the region so wonderfully. Similarly, the Middle Eastern cuisine - a melting pot of flavors from Arabia, Persia and the Ottoman Empire - is a highlight that strikes the palate. Everywhere you go, you will be welcomed with delicious treats, from spiced kebabs, stuffed falafel and grand spread of meze to desserts such as baklava, Turkish delight and sahlab.
Finally, the Middle East is home to both the Hajj and Umrah, two sacred pilgrimages celebrated by millions of people each year. For the millions of devotee Muslims, these travels represent an opportunity to explore some of the holiest sites in the Islamic world and to strengthen the bonds of faith.
Given these endlessly riveting sights, sounds, smells and tastes, it is easy to understand why the Middle East is such an irresistible destination. So if you're looking for a magical journey into the past and for a vibrant cultural experience, there is no better place to travel to than the Middle East.
The Food of Middle East
Traveling to the Middle Eastern region for its culinary experience is like no other. Within the region there is a crossroads of flavor from the diverse cultures and cuisines, each offering its own take while embodying the essence of Middle Eastern cuisine.
For an adventurous traveler, those who crave to explore new cuisines and its complex flavors, Middle Eastern cuisine is definitely an experience you need to have. Throw on your apron and get yourself ready to tantalize your taste buds with a range of exotic dishes to savor.
The Middle Eastern cuisine is known for its fresh ingredients and spices, with vegetarians being spoiled with an array of options. Dishes are often served 'mezze style', which means you get a collection of smaller dishes that you can share among many. Commonly served dishes may include hummus and falafel, the classic combination of chickpeas, garlic and chili. Don't forget to try the many grilled meats such as shawarma, kofta and kebabs. The meats are typically seasoned and cooked on a charcoal grill, and served with either pickles or tahini sauce.
Lastly, don't leave the Middle Eastern region without tasting some pastries and desserts. Delight your sweet tooth with a selection of baklava, sticky honeyed pastries made with almonds, walnuts and pistachios, as well as a variety of cakes, cheesecakes and other Middle Eastern-styled desserts.
Experience and explore the greatest culinary adventure the Middle Eastern region has to offer. With a variety of vegetables, spices, meats and sweets, you'll leave the region feeling like a proud traveler and full of flavor!
What to See and Do in Middle East
- Explore Ancient Petra, Jordan: The ancient city of Petra, located in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an absolute must-see on a Middle Eastern tour. This ancient city carved out of stone is spellbinding, with monumental tombs and temples situated in a deep gorge. There are also numerous activities and local attractions to explore in Petra such as hiking the rugged trails, climbing to the top of the Monastery for spectacular views, and exploring the Siq, one of the world's most beautiful canyons.
- Cruise the Nile River in Egypt: Egypt is the land of Pharaohs, and the best way to explore this country is by cruising along the iconic Nile River. The river is lined with numerous historic sites and temples, and offers visitors the opportunity to explore the secrets of ancient Egypt in scenic surroundings. There are several cruises available, ranging from three-night weekend cruises to 10-night luxury cruiser Tours.
- Visit the Souks of Beirut, Lebanon: Beirut is an eclectic mix of East and West, and the city's souks offer a unique insight into Middle Eastern culture and tradition. From perfume calligraphers to traditional tailors, these vibrant markets are filled with stalls of handmade products, intriguing souvenirs and delectable local snacks. Be sure to visit the nearby Pigeon Rocks, where locals enjoy kite-flying and feasting on fresh seafood.
- Climb Mount Sinai, Egypt: Climb Mount Sinai and experience sunrise, the perfect vantage point to admire the rugged desert landscape of the Sinai Peninsula. Accessible via the town of Saint Catherine, the resting spot of Moses, it's a spiritual journey and awe-inspiring view that must be experienced first-hand.
- Soak up the sun in Muscat, Oman: Muscat is a tropical paradise, with miles of pristine coastline, unparalleled shopping and world-renowned seafood. Take a day to relax on the golden beaches, explore the souks of Muttrah, or hop on a boat and explore the dramatic coastline of the Sea of Oman.
- Go Skiing in Lebanon: Lebanon is home to some of the best ski resorts in the Middle East, and the lush mountains of Faraya, Ouyoune El Simane and Mzaar are perfect for skiing and snowboarding. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, there are numerous ski schools, Tours and activities available, with delicious après ski offerings at the nearby mountain restaurants.
- Explore the Islamic Architecture in Istanbul, Turkey: Experience the fascinating architecture of Istanbul, home to the grand mosques of Sultan Ahmed and Suleymaniye and their phenomenal frescoes. Take a stroll along the old city walls and enjoy the incredible view of the Bosphorus, or wander through the Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in the world.
- Enjoy the pristine beaches in Dubai, UAE: Dubai is home to some of the world's most sumptuous beaches and crystal-clear blue waters, perfect for swimming and enjoying the city's vibrant nightlife. Rent a yacht and explore the Persian Gulf, or take a tour of the white sand beaches, where you can relax and soak up the views.
- Go on a Safari in the Sahara Desert, Tunisia: Brave the depths of the Sahara Desert on a camelback safari, where you can explore hidden oases, sprawling sand dunes and witness the magical stars of the night sky. This once in a lifetime experience is one that can't be put into words, and must be experienced in person to fully appreciate its beauty.
- Visit the Walled City of Jerusalem, Israel: Jerusalem is one of the most visited cities in the Middle East and for a good reason. This 8,000-year-old city is a blend of different cultures, religions and histories. Explore the old city walls and its numerous historical sites, and experience the spiritual atmosphere of the city. Don't miss the Western Wall, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest sites in the world.