You had better take some real good advice before visiting the Middle East. The area has some stable countries but it is not considered safe by normal travel standards. With recent conflicts still happening and Revolutions taking place the area again is a hot zone, Libya though in Africa is the latest unstable country and will be unsafe for a long time. We hope that Iraq can one day say hello to a democratic way of life, and that Afghanistan can be known for something other than exporting terrorism.
There are safer destinations like OMAN and the UAE. Dubai has one of the more built up strip of dessert meets ocean sands in the world. You can compare the best hotels in Dubai with our hotel comparison page here Compare Hotels in Dubai.
Until the wars stop and probably long after you should probably steer well clear of Afghanistan even the bordering countries. Still it will hold a fascinating recent history and no doubt it will one day be a place to adventure in
In 2001 a war was launched against the ancient country of Afghanistan. Too bad, as while as of today the place might be war-torn, yet it is a maginificent place filled with all sorts of wonders throughout its 652,000 square kilometers.
Sadly, almost half of the capital city of Kabul has been destroyed by war. However, with a lot of tender loving care the city will make a comeback. Maybe this way everyone will get to enjoy the National Gallery, the Kabul Museum, and the Gardens of Babur--created in the 1500s with its own marble mosque and tomb. Kabul's Sultani Museum is filled with all sorts of pottery and carving treasures.
Shahr-i-Zahak is also an ancient city, and its also known as the Red City. Bala Hisar was also once a thriving ancient city, eventually destroyed by the Brits in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
Jalalabad was once a winter resort filled with cypress trees. Not any longer, but maybe one day soon it'll return back to its former glory.
The current war in Afghanistan doesn't make it easy to get here to see it all, but flights are available from New Delhi and Dubai; so long as you've got a passport, a return ticket, and a visa.
Afghanistan's network of roads are not really passable any longer (again, thanks to the ongoing wars); and public transportation in Kabul is unreliable at best.
What makes the inconveniences worth it is just one look at the remote Hindu Kush Mountain Range. Its tallest peak stretches a staggering 24,600 feet into the sky.
Weather in Afghanistan is affected by its altitude, making the milder Spring & Autumn the best times to come. Winters can be harsh, summers sweltering--so the middle of the road seasons are best.
Whatever season you've managed to get here, take necessary precautions against landmines, waterborne diseases (think boiled or bottle as the safest), and the necessary vaccinations before departure (Diphtheria, Hepititis A & B, Malaria, etc.).
Eating can be treat, so long as you don't eat undercooked or raw meat. Dishes tend to be spicy, and mostly eaten with your right hand. Fresh fruit like pomegranates and oranges make for a delightful after-dinner treat.
Shopping for some extraordinary items in Afghanistan are a treat to bring home. The embroidery, glassware, brass & copper goods are some of the best you can get.
You'll have to pay cash, as no credit cards or travelers cheques are accepted. Some ATMs will dispense United States Dollars, mostly in part to the US military's presence in the region.
While the US personnel will speak English, the official language in Afghanistan is both Pashto and Dari Persian. One thing that trancends language barriers is the fact that alcohol, drugs, and homosexuality are illegal. Know before you go--and this is a predominately conservative Muslim country--some 90 percent of its 28 million people.
Whether it is, or not--maybe one day Afghanistan will rebuild itself so that everyone will know what lays hidden within.
Bahrain might be exceptionally small, just 710 square kilometers spread out over 33 islands, going to show you that wonderful things come in small packages. Its population is small too, just over 700,000 people.
What isn't small is Bahrain's 50-story twin towers of its World Trade Centre. Other than that, this is a tropical paradise with a history that spans back some 7,000 years.
What's remarkable about Bahrain's history are its 170,000 burial mounds, found at the Tombs of Sar & A'Ali.
Also part of that history is when the Portuguese came back in the 1500s, and the Brits had their influence throughout the 19th century; which is why English is widely spoken, although Arabic is the official language.
Arabic, by the way, because Bahrain is a Muslim country. They're quite the tolerant society, but a few social graces will go a long way. If offered a cup of Arabic Coffee, be sure to take two cups; and keep knees and shoulders covered.
This doesn't apply, of course, if you're swimming out in the Hawar Islands with the dolphins, or if you're going pearl diving. A fun way of getting from island to island is via motorboat or ferry.
Bahrain, by the way, was once known for its pearl trade. Today it's oil, which is detailed at its Il Museum.
Getting around to many of Bahrain's sites can be relatively easy, as many roads are well maintained. One famous road is the King Fahd Causeway, linking the country with Saudi Arabia. The Tower Restaurant in the middle of it all is a great way to see into the countryside.
There is talk of linking another roadway with Qatar--you'll have to wait and see.
Another great sight is the Formula 1 track, whose winners are showered with rose water instead of champagne. Fitting since alcohol is only allowed if you're not Muslim.
Shopping is always a good idea, and luxury is the name of the game in Bahrain. Luxury goods like gold are found all over, especially in Gold City; an area in the capital of Manama that's full of gold shops.
As if bargain hunting isn't wild enough, the actual wildlife in Bahrain is extraordinary. Come see the Arabian oryx at the Al-Areen Wildlife Park & Reserve, or the Tree of Life--a stand alone tree in the middle of nowhere.
When's the best time to see Bahrain? Depends on how you like the weather, as it gets pretty hot & humid from June to October. It rains some in the winter, where it can get a bit cooler.
No matter what the mercury says, eating is a must. Try some Baba ghanoush, an eggplant dish with garlic and yoghurt; or some Machbous, rice served with either meat or fish.
No worries about food safety, mostly everything is safe to eat or drink. Just try to make sure your meat or fish is well-cooked during the hot summer months.
You'll need to keep your strength up if you're going to tackle the 16th century Bahrain Fortress, or to relax in Bahrain's water springs. And since the country's not all that populated--you'll feel like you've got the whole place to yourself.
Places to stay in Israel:
The Sultanate of Oman ,one of the safer destinations in the Middle East. Its an Arabic country. It has some great Architecture in destinations like Muscat [find a hotel in Muscat] and when you get fed up of that you can go Scuba Diving.
Chances are if you ask a hundred people to name a country where you'll find mountains, luxury camping, and hundreds of years of history, they won't ever answer Oman. Too bad, this place deserves some respect.
While predominantly Muslim, the country of Oman isn't really progressive as much as it is friendly--for everyone. Of course being respectful of its culture goes a long way in ensuring that all visitors will have the most remarkable time.
Beachwear should be left to Oman's magnificent beaches; and modest attire is suggested throughout the rest of the country. As friendly as Oman is, remember that homosexuality is illegal.
Alcohol is also forbidden, so long as you're Muslim. Penalties for drinking and driving in Oman are stiff, a risk no one should be willing to take. With all the taxis, minibuses, and flights around the country--you don't really have to drive.
At the moment there is no rail service in Oman, but a train network should be in place by the end of the decade; making another exciting way to see Oman.
What's to see? Bird-watchers will find some 280 species within the Al-Ansab Wetlands, and the Bimmah Sinkhole (40 meters wide) is worth the climb to jump in its green & blue waters (both, since it mixes both salt and fresh water).
In the capital city of Muscat, you must see the Grand Mosque with its 10 ton chandelier, and its carpet that took 600 women to make as one piece.
Off-roading is big fun in Oman, and 4x4 and jeeps will take you to Wadi Sahtan that's got cliffs and date palms as well. During monsoon season every one heads to Al Mughsayal to see the "blowholes" created by the water.
Exciting as the natural landscape is to see--it also gives us the famous frankincense and myrrh; which can be bought at any one of Oman's souks. Two of the best are found in Muttrah and Nizal--but just about anywhere will do.
Get ready to haggle, and even if you don't speak Arabic (the official language), you'll get by with English, Swahili, Urdu, and Farsi.
Just be cautious when dining out. Most tap water is safe to drink, stick to boiled or bottled; avoiding dairy and street vendor stalls. If you really want to try some local dishes, try schwarma, or if you're really lucky--Shuwa, which is cooked for 2 days underground, usually for special occasions.
Wouldn't you say that visiting an Oryx Sanctuary, sitting under a palm tree eating pomegranates, or riding a camel is special occasion enough?
Maybe its good that not everyone knows the hidden treasures in Oman--this way you get to enjoy it to yourself.
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the country of Pakistan might not have made the news for the very best reasons. From a tourism standpoint, that's not always a good thing. But maybe one day, people will get to know how wonderful it can be.
One of the most famous places in Pakistan is its Khyber Pass, the natural border to Afghanistan, 3,501 feet above sea level. No, it isn't as high as say K2 or Everest, but the jagged beauty of the Hindu Kush Mountains can still take your breath away.
Pakistan's capital is now Islamabad, but it used to be Karachi. This is home to Auaid-e-Azam-Mazar, the mausoleum to the country's founder. While Islamabad is full of parks & gardens, the National Gallery, and one of the country's largest mosques.
You'll find lots of mosques in Pakistan, as almost 100-percent of the country's 187 million people are Muslim. Arabic, believe it or not, isn't the official language, Erdu is--but English and Punjabi are widely spoken. Whatever you're speaking, just remember to dress modestly; and ask before lighting up a cigarette.
Forget smoking, there's barely enough oxygen to breathe when you've gotten to K2, the second highest mountain on the planet--found close to the city of Kashmir. Peshawar doesn't have high terrain, more like 20 gates along its high city walls.
On top of everything else, Pakistan has a variety of watersports found along Rawal Lake; and the shopping is great pretty much wherever you are. Buy some camel skin lamps, some pottery, or bamboo products to bring back home. You should be careful with antiques more than 50 years old--check with the Antiquities Department before putting it in your suitcase.
You gotta check withe consulate before you leave home--you'll need a passport and visa. Your vaccinations should be updated; and only drink bottled or boiled water during your stay. You could try some tea or chai (not the same thing, by the way), and Tibetan Tea is made with butter--tasty, but not good for anyone on a diet.
Try some Sag gosht, a curry made with lamb. It has spinach in it, so consider it good for you--not just for your tastebuds.
No worries about calories, since you can burn them off getting around Pakistan. While bikes aren't the best mode of transportation in the cities, they're great for getting around in more remote areas. Cities have buses, minibuses, and taxis for getting around. Sorry, no car rentals as driving on your own isn't recommended.
What is recommended is to take Pakistan for what it is; a place with modest nightlife, awesome architecture, and lots of fun by white water rafting and skiing.
Yeah, maybe one day the world will know Pakistan--and not for just what's been in the news.
From the outside you might think that the tiny (only 11,000 square miles) of Qatar is the stereotypical Middle Eastern country of desert, camels, and not much else.
No so. With the upcoming World Cup games coming to Qatar in 2022, located near countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE, they've decided to make themselves ready for the world to come.
Right now Qatar is quiet and intimate, with almost half of its 907,000 people living in the capital city of Doha. Doha has all sorts of wonderful attractions, including the Qatar National Museum, Islamic Art Museum, and the Doha Golf Club. One of the most famous sites is its Doha Fort, built by the Turks back in the 1800s.
Outside the big city are places like the inland sea area of Khor al-Adaid that's great for 4-wheeling to camping and picnics. A dhow boat ride around the region is a relaxing and unique way of making your way around.
There is desert, so if you're looking for some camel riding or other adventures you'll want to hit up Bir Zekreet. Camel racing is popular in Qatar, so make sure you get your bet in.
And picking the right camel is a bigger gamble than, say, eating or drinking in Qatar. Most water in Doha is safe, but if you're headed outside the capital stick to the bottled or boiled variety.
Try the schwarma (shaved meat served in a delicious pita) or the Egyptian inspired taamiyeh, which are fried chickpeas. Like what you've tried? Cooking classes are offered for anyone interested.
Don't worry about some calories--you'll burn them all off walking around Qatar's souks. You best practice your bargaining skills before leaving home to get the best prices on spices and silks.
It is also best to make sure your vaccinations are updated before leaving home, and you've contacted the consulate for your visa. Some Nationals can receive one upon arrival.
Don't let anything stand in your way of placing your bets, destressing at a spa resort, or just having an all-around great desert adventure.
If you get a chance watch the Kingdom, does a reasonable job at highlighting the unique nature of this place its oil politics money and rest.
The easiest way to sum up Saudia Arabia in terms of tourism is, tourists are tolerated not welcomed. Yes, it sounds a bit harsh--but the fundamentalist politics of the country don't make for easy going in this part of the Middle East.
Spread out over some 2.2 million square miles, Saudi Arabia is a land of some 26 million people, which are predominately Muslim. Non-Muslims aren't allowed to such famous places as Mecca and Medina, although getting around the rest of the country can be quite difficult.
It isn't as if there isn't a decent infrastructure, the country is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahed Gateway, and most other roads are in decent shape. The hassle, especially since women aren't allowed to drive, just isn't worth driving on your own.
Flying is one of the best ways to get to different areas in Saudi Arabia, and the rail service offers 3-classes of service if you've decided to go that route. Ferries and dhows are also available to get around by water, nice since the country borders the Red Sea.
The Corniche Road around the Red Sea is stunning; a most beautiful way to do it is by bicycle. Women, by the way, use cycling to get around much of the country because of its driving restriction.
Non-Muslims might not be allowed to see Mecca or Medina, but everyone is welcome to see the ottoman architecture in Jeddah, the ruins of Medain Saleh with its carved temples, and shop at the many souks.
Ladies should remember that an abaya (a black robe) is required if you're going out in public--but the veil over the face and gloves on the hands are optional. The Wutawwa, or religious police, are all over the place to make sure you're covered up, or the opposite sexes aren't intermingling and/or acting inappropriately.
The weather in Saudi Arabia isn't all that welcoming either. That is, unless, you like it hot. Winters are the most pleasant time to come, often cooling off enough to actually enjoy it.
You won't find much nightlife in the Western sense, as music and alcohol are forbidden. The best you'll find is traditional Saudi drumming or sword dancing.
Eating, however, should count as entertainment since the food's so good. Try some hummus with pita, or locally made kebabs. During Ramadan, it is illegal in Saudi Arabia to eat, drink, or even smoke in public.
A lot of things might be illegal in Saudi Arabia, but not visiting outright--so enjoy what you can while you're here.
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