Is It Safe To Holiday In The Middle East?

The Middle East is an intriguing region. A land of history and yet full of questions about its safety. Although some consider additional countries, the Middle East is composed of Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and United Arab Emirates countries. It is possible to find other countries counted as in the Middle East region due to its localization or cultural similarities, but for the purpose of this article, we will consider the official ones noted above. Often the news channels will broadcast the Middle east as an unsafe and volatile region, and mostly omit to keep things in perspective. Although some countries are a real threat to safety, a lot of them are safe and tourist friendly, ready to receive visitors from all over the world. Ultimately though, you need to know, is it safe to holiday in the Middle East?

So, the question: Is it safe to travel to the Middle East? This might be answered; Mostly, yes. Generally, the countries face  stereotypes and misrepresentation. This is the case of Israel, for an example. Even though Jerusalem is considered amicable for travelers, it often receives the reputation for its unsafe areas like the Gaza strip and West Bank, where there can be an eminent threat. On the other hand, some countries face an unsafe environment, as is the case of Syria in which the whole country is experiencing local and international violent attacks. When deciding to travel to a country located in the Middle East, the main tip is to do good research and stay tuned for travel advisory warnings. So you will find that with the right precautions taken and with sensible planning, it is safe to holiday in the Middle East.

Walking around the city is like stepping into history.

The Department of State provides a list of countries unsafe for American tourists. On the website it is possible to find travel alerts and warnings issued with explanations about the motives for it. The government has two types of information. The travel alerts work as a short-term event lik a political election, health alerts or evidence of terrorist attacks. The travel warning is considered for places in ongoing intense violence, war or terrorist attacks. It is important to read the warning completely, as you may encounter full information for specific areas in a country.

As noted above, sometimes an area is under warning and other parts of the country are completely safe. The research will help you decide where to go and all the real risks involved for American travelers, if still you decide to travel to a high-risk area where the Department of State have low ability to help due to local’s departments bad functioning, corruption or internal conflict, you will still be able to enroll your trip details in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) keeping you connected to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

The threat of terrorism is serious and one of the main reasons to consider a country unsafe, but considering the fact that nowadays a possibility to face danger anywhere in the world is existent, being in risk at your home country or in the Middle East is an unfortunate reality. That is one of the reasons the research is essential while planning your trip to this area, and you will notice that a lot of the time the prejudice is inside us and the real risk is away from your destination. Once you safely decide where to go, a place full of attractions and incredible experiences will come out for you.

Where to go

The Middle East region is culturally rich. A land of Judaism, Christianity, and Islamism. Its countries are where religious events have occurred and are yet still alive, transcending the modern way of living.

It is the combination of different people that shapes this incredible and yet complex environment. The regions attractiveness goes way beyond any imagination.

Seeing the important rivers like Nile and Euphrates, the experience of swimming in the Dead Sea or visiting arid deserts as the Sahara and Wadi Rum are among the top things to do. Even though there is in-numerous attractions in uncountable destinations, here are five cities to consider visiting in this area.

Petra, Jordan

Petra is a special sandstone city with carved palaces, temples and tombs as its main attractions. Located more than 200 kilometers away from the capital city of Aman, it is far away from the  Iraq and Syria
borders, where a warning was placed by the Department of State.

Once in Petra, stop by its visitor’s center to buy the tickets for famous attractions such as the Treasury and Street of Facades. Another breathtaking attraction is the Wadi Rum desert, only approximately 100 kilometers from Petra.

A full day tour will provide a good overview of this amazing place and includes hiking around the desert in 3 hours’ round trip to contemplate the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but if you want a full adventure it is highly recommended sleeping in one of the desert camps.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai can be considered the city of exaggerated attractions and is the home of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

The constructions seem to challenge nature, for example the Burj Al-Arab hotel, built on an artificial island or the Palm Islands, three artificial islands on Dubai coastline.

But the city also keeps its tradition and they can be noted in the Jumeirah Mosque or in the Bastakia Quarter.

Due to its extremely hot weather, it is common to find travelers visiting air conditioning places like the Mall of Emirates or Dubai Mall, with attractions such as the Dubai aquarium and ski slopes.

Jerusalem, Israel

The holy city of Jerusalem is a sacred place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Walking around the city is like stepping into history.

The Dome of the rock is a widely-known attraction and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, together with the famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.

This neighborhood is divided into four quarters named as the three religions and an additional Armenian quarter. Jerusalem itself has three main parts: Old City, East, and West Jerusalem, where it is possible to discover this combination of cultures in only one place.

Even if you are not a religious person, you certainly will enjoy the trip through its history.

Muscat, Oman

Few people recognize this country in the world map, and even fewer decide to choose it as a destination.

The capital city Muscat can be a great surprise with sights such as the only mosque in the country open to non-Muslims, the impressive Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, or the interesting National Museum.

A great experience while in Muscat is to visit Mutrah Souq, a traditional Arab market, and also its area devoted to gold artifacts.

If considering Oman as your next destination, think about going deep in the country to discover wonderful surprises like the Wahiba Sands, you are sure to be amazed.

Cairo, Egypt

Home of the oldest wonder of the ancient world, the Giza pyramid complex, Egypt is unique.

It was in this country, for example, where one of the most important libraries in the antique times was located, the library of Alexandria.

During a visit to the capital City Cairo, it is possible to wonder how it was possible to build the magnificent Great Giza pyramid and its surroundings.

Add to your itinerary a visit to Khan al-khalili market and discover the best of the great bazaar. If you enjoy history don’t forget to tour the collections of Pharaonic arts in the Egyptian museum.

Stay Out Of Harms Way

So is it safe to holiday in the Middle East? Some tips are recommended when traveling to unknown countries and with the Middle East countries it is vitally important. Start by doing your research carefully, reading guides and talking to people who have traveled to your next destination. This will present new perspectives and provide knowledge leading to an ideal safe trip. Continue by keeping informed, write down the US embassy or consulate information before you go.

Traveling in a group or with a private tour might be recommended but not mandatory. If traveling by yourself consider studying the area carefully and take extra precautions following the safe basic tips as respecting the rules and avoiding unsafe places.

The next steps will be valuable during your trip, especially respecting the cultures. Traveling to the Middle East is like being open to a multicultural world, where it is possible to find one culture completely different from another just a few steps away.

Each culture and religion follow its own beliefs, and it is the visitor’s obligation to understand and follow their rules. You will be sure to be fascinated.

Must do’s include being prepared for religious holidays and adhere to the dress code, especially for women. The tip here is to do as locals do. The way women dress unfortunately will be the way they can be treated. Consider dressing conservatively, and it will be necessary to cover upper legs, arms, shoulders, and cleavage. To always carry a scarf will be a smart decision, as it will be useful to cover neckline or head when visiting a mosque.

Other than that, follow the key tip for when visiting all countries – always buy reliable travel insurance and remember to always leave your itinerary with a friend or family. Whilst at the destination, avoid visiting remote areas at night and avoid any doubtful places. After following these tips, enjoy what this dynamic area can present to you and ultimately you will find it is safe to holiday in the Middle East.

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