Enigmatic, mysterious and captivating, the Middle East has held the attention and captured the imagination of travellers for thousands of years.
Wildly held as the cradle of modern civilisation, the Middle East has seen countless empires rise and fall, from ancient Mesopotamia to the mighty Persian empire. It has seen the birth of three of the largest religions in the world that are still around today, and many that are not, and had a profound effect on world history and culture. Such is the lure of the Middle East that historians, biblical scholars and archaeologists devote entire careers to the study of this enigmatic region.
From the birthplace of three of the world major modern religions to the mystical ideals of the Arabian nights, the Middle East is a fascinating, intoxicating and rewarding destination that has had more than its fair share of bad press in recent years.
If you listen to the media you would think the entire Middle East is a warzone, rife with political instability and riots, a place where war and poverty are the norm and terrorist atrocities occur daily. It is certainly true that certain countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan for example have descended into war and caution must be exercised in these instances, but that does not hold true for the entire region. Despite its modern reputation, in many ways the Middle East is ideal for independent travel, a place where it is easy to get away from the tourist hordes and tap into the spirit of true travel and adventure. Yes there are many tourist hotspots, but they are far outnumbered by places you can get ‘off the beaten path’ and discover a unique, charismatic and enchanting part of the world.
When to go.
The shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn are widely regarded as the best time to visit the Middle East by those who apply the Goldilocks principle of not too hot, not too cold. It is true that the summers can get insanely hot, and the winter nights can be bitter, especially in more rural or desert areas, but in truth any time is a good time to visit provided that you take common sense precautions for the weather’s extremeties.
The Middle East in general is a budget friendly destination, with only a few exceptions to that rule in places such as Turkey and Israel. A budget traveller staying in cheap hostels or rooftops, eating street food and using public transport can easily get by on around £10 – £15 GBP a day. By raising that budget to £20 – £30 GBP a traveller can live very comfortably. On average, cash is king in the Middle East and it is still the best way to carry your money. With the exception of Iran and Libya, ATMs are widely available and it is easy to access your cash when you need it.
Despite its reputation, the Middle East can be an extremely safe place to visit, even for women, provided you follow some basic common sense and are sensitive to cultural norms.