Quick! When you think about traveling to the Middle East, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Traveling through Arabian deserts on camelback? Climbing the pyramids in Egypt? Andre Agassi and Roger Federer playing tennis some 1,053 feet in the air on the helipad of one of the tallest hotels in the world? Okay that last one might be a stretch, but here’s the thing: Arab culture is full of landmarks that mix the ancient world with the modern one, so we’ve compiled this list of five of the “must see” cultural icons that everyone should have on their travel bucket lists.
01 Burj Khalifa \ Dubai
Since the Burj Khalifa hotel’s completion in 2009, this 163-story, 829.8 meters (2,722 feet) tall building has been a modern-day example of mankind’s incredible achievements. The Burj Khalifa cost $1.5 billion US to build, and for 11 years it has remained the world’s tallest building where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Dubai cityscape and beyond, dine on the gastronomical delights in the highest restaurant in the world, or get treated like royalty at relaxing, world-renowned, first-class spas.
02 Petra \ Jordan
Petra, Jordan is a national treasure located in the southern part of the Hashemite Kingdom. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World In 2007, the site attracts visitors from all over the world. Once inhabited by Nabataean Arabs who existed some 2000 years ago, it is thought to be the heart of their civilization.
Fondly called the Rose-Red city due to the colour of the rocks, the ancient art and architecture of the its millennia-old monastery along with the carved facade of the Petra Treasury (or al-khazneh) still stand as a testament to Petra, Jordan’s history, as truly glorious and wonderful as it is.
03 Giza \ Egypt
Perhaps when one thinks about traveling to the Middle East, nothing is more iconic than the pyramids of Giza (also known as the Giza Necropolis in Egypt) , as well as the equally Great Sphinx of Giza. Striking even from a distance, you’ll marvel at how these vast, great pyramids seem to rise out of the desert against the dusty backdrop as you approach first them. From its temples, statues, tombs to mysterious Sphinx, there is a lot to discover and reflect on at Giza Necropolis as you wonder how these grand structures were made with incredibly heavy stones so many years ago.
04 Al-Aqsa Mosque \ Palestine
The heart of Palestinian Jerusalem is, without a doubt, Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam where Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Great Mosque of Mecca during the Night Journey. The mosque was built on top of the Temple Mount, known today as the Al Aqsa Compound. Nothing seems more serene as it does when the beautiful sound of the muezzin making the call to prayer rings out and echoes around compound, and indeed, around the city and Al-Aqsa’s inside is filled with both pilgrims and regulars who come to prayer together at every prayer.
By the way, while you’re here, Jerusalem is a great place to try Palestinian cuisine. Your taste buds will be excited as you sample everything from hummus and falafel to delicious shawarma and the mouth-watering local sweet, kunafa. Try some of the restaurants just outside the Damascus gate that never fail to impress with both their quality of food and quality of service.
05 Wadi Bani Khalid \ Oman
For those who love outdoor luxury in the great wide open, Wadi Bani Khalid in Oman is definitely a bucket list destination for a blissfully relaxing afternoon at this stunning desert oasis. The pools of emerald green water are irresistible and refreshing, especially in the hotter summer months. Add the surrounding beauty of age-old mountains, sparkling springs, and vibrant date palms and you’ve got Wadi Bani Khalid – a great place to spend a relaxing day.
From the luxurious tower of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa to the historic sites of Petra, Jordan and Giza, Egypt, to the relaxing waters of Wadi Bani Khalid in Oman, the Middle East is an area filled with both ancient ruins and modern convenience. An adventure through the Arabic speaking countries of Middle East will truly give you a more authentic picture of the culture and people of the Arab world.
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