Burkhinis in Saudi or beers in Ramallah, your guide to the Mideast's hidden tourism gems

Published May 21st, 2013 - 13:11 GMT

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Baalbek Lebanon
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Image 1 of 10: Located in the Beqaa District of Lebanon, Baalbek is was called the ‘City of the Sun’ by the Romans. Filled with beautiful ruins that have made it a UNESCO world heritage site, it hosts an annual music festival every year. The only problem is, it’s a Hezbollah stronghold. Still worth a visit!

Yanbu Saudi Arabia
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Image 1 of 10: A major Red Sea port on Saudi Arabia’s western coastline, Yanbu boasts some of the best snorkelling in the region. There’s a beautiful old city and a thriving downtown area, surrounded by palm trees and running springs. Just make sure you sub your bikini for a burkhini when you take a dip in the sea!

Tripoli Libya
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Image 1 of 10: Once called the ‘White Bride of the Mediterranean’, Tripoli is filled with history. With no airstrikes to worry about, you can wander around Medina, the name they give to the Old City. In 2003, a UN embargo was lifted to make it easier for tourists to visit Libya’s capital - so it would be rude not to really...

Socotra Island Yemen
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Image 1 of 10: Don’t be deterred by the drones overhead; Yemen has some beautiful spots, especially Socotra Island, which has been likened to the Galapagos Islands due to the crazy and unique species that live there. A third of the plant life found on the Island can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Homs syria old
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Image 1 of 10: Currently off limits to anyone not wielding an AK-47, the city of Homs used to be a great touristic spot for history and culture alike. It has amazing food, a folklore museum and even hosts two festivals a year, including the Desert Folk Festival. Let’s hope that the fighters find some time to strum a few tunes.

Egypt White Desert Farafra
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Image 1 of 10: Who needs the pyramids? There’s plenty more to see in Egypt, especially it’s amazing White Desert. Only inhabited by 5,000 people, this desert is unlike anything else in the Middle East - huge chalk formations loom over the sand. Visiting here will make for some impressive Facebook photos.

Wadi Dana Jordan
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Image 1 of 10: Poor Wadi Dana. Always overshadowed by Petra, this Jordanian nature reserve can pack a punch of its own. Covering over 300 square km, Dana is home to some unique landscapes and a huge variety of wildlife, including the almost extinct Nubian Ibex.

Yazd Iran
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Image 1 of 10: If losing yourself amid winding alleyways in an ancient, romantic desert-city is your idea of fun, then the Iranian city of Yazd is simply a must. Back in the days of Marco Polo, this little gem used to be a trade hub and the city remains a top spot to pick up the finest Persian silks.

Ras Al Khaimah UAE
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Image 1 of 10: Undoubtedly, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the big dogs of the UAE. If you’re looking for something smaller and more serene, seeped in history and with a strong level of opulence, look no further than Ras Al Khaimah. It’s got the only old town in the Emirates - called Al Jazeera Al Hamra... which is said to be haunted by ghosts.

Ramallah palestine nightlife
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Image 1 of 10: Ramallah has some of the best nightlife in the region. At night, the city is transformed into a vibrant hub of culture. There’s lots of bars in the city which play music and are open until the early hours where you can go and get a drink, or pick up some locally brewed beer from the Taybeh brewery if a pint is more your thing.

With summer vacation season on the horizon, the Middle East’s holiday hotspots are sure to be crowded and stressful. Let’s face it, a visit there will probably leave you in need of another holiday as soon as you get home. It’s time to cast the Pyramids and Petra aside people!

 

Believe it or not, there are more hidden gems in the Middle East than there are shawarma shops. Whether you fancy finding an isolated spot for burkhini snorkelling, the oldest ghost town in the UAE or the rambunctious Ramallah nightlife, there are myriad ways to escape the tour groups and discover your own favourite holiday hangout in the region.


Drop us a line with your favourite destinations. Here are some of ours...

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