Our guest writer Jenny Furton who has lived in both Jordan and Egypt gives her advice on travelling to one of the most intriguing and rewarding travel destinations in the world, the Middle East...
The Middle East is an incredibly diverse region, rich in history, culture and breathtaking natural scenery. This unique part of the world remains a bit of an enigma to many in the West, and one of the only ways to truly understand its rare position it has in the past, present and future of our global society is to encounter it first-hand.
If you’re planning a tour of the Middle East, here are a few tips and highlights worth considering before you go:
- Keep your money secure: When travelling anywhere in the world, it’s always wise to keep your money in a place where only you can access it. Before travelling to the Middle East, consider buying a money belt that fits tightly across your waist and can even be worn under your shirt for more protection. Keep only the cash you need on you at all times. For an even safer money option, credit cards in Dubai, Tehran, Doha and other modern, Middle Eastern cities are accepted in many shops, restaurants and attractions.
- Respect local customs: When travelling through the Middle East – a predominantly Muslim region – it’s more important than ever to respect local customs. This can be a matter of ensuring you don’t cause the locals any offence, but it can also be a matter of abiding to local laws. Visitors to the Middle East – women in particular – are advised to research the local customs and laws relating to proper attire, alcohol and curfews before entering the region.
- Keep an eye on travel warnings: Many countries within the Middle East are safe for tourists, but this region is also known for ongoing political instability. Before you leave, check the travel alerts issued by several countries (not just your own) to see if the areas you wish to travel are safe. For example, check the travel advisory warnings issued by the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the USA’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, and Canada’s Country Travel Advisory page.
- Dubai, UAE – Whilst Dubai draws on many parts of Western culture (its relaxed social customs, free market economy and relatively liberal government), it is still very much a product of the Middle East, influenced by the history, geography and culture of the Gulf region. After visiting its elaborate malls, dining in its chic rooftop eateries and watching the sunset from the observation decks of its towering skyscrapers, it’s also worth exploring the surrounding desert lands (once home to Bedouin communities) by dune buggy or hot air balloon.
- Tehran, Iran – Sprawling, yet cramped, modern, yet traditional, Tehran’s many contrasts are what makes it such a fascinating destination. If a sunny, carefree holiday is what you’re after, it’s one to miss. However, if you’re interested in experiencing the essence of contemporary Iran – one of the most influential countries in the region – a visit to its bustling capital will showcase the country’s multifaceted personality. When in Tehran, be sure to visit the Treasury of National Jewels, the Tehran Bazaar and the Golestan Palace.
- Petra, Jordan – One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, there’s a reason why Jordan’s ancient city of Petra is its most popular tourist attraction. The sandstone structures that make up this magical city are truly a site to behold.
- Doha, Qatar – Over the past few years, Qatar’s futuristic capital has matured and grown into its over-sized skyline. The city’s not only visually impressive, but it has an infectious energy that you can’t help but get swept up in. During your visit to Doha, be sure to check out the Museum of Islamic Art, the State Grand Mosque and the sprawling green space, Aspire Park.
Visiting the Middle East is a wonderfully enriching experience. Preparing for your visit ahead of time will ensure you get the most out of this truly fascinating part of the world.
Written by Jenny Furton. Jenny is a travel writer who has lived in Jordan, Egypt and Bali and is currently in the process of setting up her own blog for digital nomads.