Your guide to incredible uncovered wonders of the Middle East
| THIS ARTICLE WAS CREATED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH Abercrombie & Kent |
Commonly known as the cradle of civilisation, the Middle East is one of the world’s most rewarding travel destinations.
While many travellers are familiar with the pyramids of Egypt or the mineral-rich mud of the Dead Sea, some countries throughout the region are just beginning to open to tourism, rewarding intrepid and curious travellers with ancient wonders and rich cultural experiences. Here are five of the best, uncovered wonders you can explore on a tailor-made Abercrombie & Kent Middle East journey.
From the rich waters of the Dead Sea to the deserts of Wadi Rim and one of the world’s best-preserved Roman towns in Jerash, the rich historical legacy of Jordan is matched only by the Bedouin sense of hospitality in this incredibly diverse destination.
Arriving at the ancient city of Petra is a journey like no other: first, you’ll slip between the red cliffs of the Siq, then on foot, wind through a one-kilometre gorge before emerging before the iconic, 40-metre-high facade of Petra’s most famous building, The Treasury.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the fourth Century BC, Petra is an archaeological wonder: not only because of the incredible monuments like the Monastery and Treasury carved into the red rock, but also the intriguing cave and cliff-top homes throughout the city that were home to the Bedouin until 1985. On Abercrombie & Kent’s Journey: Jordan Uncovered tour you’ll also visit the uncrowded and equally special Little Petra, which dates back to the first century.
While Petra remains Jordan’s star attraction, Wadi Rum, immortalised in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, leaves a powerful impression on visitors. The desert’s lunar landscape is at once surreal, serene and unforgiving.
Along with a trip to the mineral-rich Dead Sea, guests on the tour also spend a night in the lesser-known, but important Dana Biosphere Reserve, a compact nature park boasting four different ecosystems; visit Jerash, and take in the vista of the promised land from Mount Nebo.
No other destination in the world captures the imagination quite like Egypt. Though geographically in Africa, it’s often considered culturally to be part of the Middle East.
The majesty of ancient pyramids, the legends of pharaohs and the rich history of the Nile have enchanted explorers, tomb raiders and travellers for centuries, each lured by the deep mystery and myth surrounding one of the world’s most vibrant and historic destinations.
Departing from Luxor, Abercrombie & Kent’s Nile in Style river cruise embraces the timelessness of this hallowed body of water, which has sustained life for thousands of years. Over four nights, your ship offers passage to the past, ferrying you to monuments including the Temple of Luxor, Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Horus, all under the guidance of a knowledgeable Egyptologist.
Slip back through time at Elephantine Island, where the wind fills the sail of a traditional felucca, the wooden boats with their distinctive angled sails cutting an iconic silhouette as they sail the river
Beyond the Nile, Abercrombie & Kent offers exclusive tailor-made experiences that immerse you in the destination. Marvel at Abu Simbel, the temples built by King Ramses II, discover the shared residence of the House of the Crocodile and Castle of the Falcon at the Temples of Kom Ombo, and visit what is believed to be the birthplace of creation at Karnak.
Tour the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, custodian of the great treasures of Egypt; and of course, no trip to Egypt would be complete without a visit to see the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.
3. Saudi Arabia
After decades shrouded in mystery, Saudi Arabia is finally opening to the world: revealing evocative desert landscapes, spectacular archaeology sites, and a strong architectural pedigree. Be one of the first outsiders to explore the largest country in the Middle East.
Watch the sunset over Elephant Rock in AlUla, the most rewarding destination on Abercrombie & Kent’s Highlights of Saudi Arabia. Once a stop on the incense trail and the southernmost settlement of the Nabataean Kingdom, Hegra, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in AlUla, has over 111 preserved tombs. Often compared with Petra, each tomb is intricately carved into giant monoliths and rock formations in the parched desert.
The archaeological sites around AlUla, including the city of Dadan, are being painstakingly excavated and restored, and it’s worth spending time discovering thousand-year-old mud brick houses and the fascinating culture in the Old Town.
Saudi Arabia is known for its spectacular architecture, juxtaposing UNESCO World Heritage-listed buildings like the houses constructed with coral by the Ottoman traders in the port city of Jeddah, with the modern skyscrapers that dominate the Riyadh skyline.
One of the most ambitious modern buildings is the Maraya Concert Hall, situated in the desert at AlUla. Made of 9740 mirrored panels that reflect the spectacular desert surroundings, it has the effect of creating a modern oasis, complete with a rooftop restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef.
A cultural melting pot of Arabian, Persian, Indian and African influences, Oman is one of the oldest civilisations on the Arabian Peninsula and, for the visiting traveller, one of the most surprising. Unspoiled and with an eye for sustainability, Oman is a delight of centuries-old castles, desert camps and a spectacular coastline.
Stretching 180 kilometres across the country and reaching heights of up to 200 metres, the spectacular sand dunes that make up Wahiba Sands are one of Oman’s great natural wonders, visited on Abercrombie & Kent’s Arabian Odyssey journey.
At first seemingly desolate, the dunes are home to at least 3000 Bedouins, who still lead a nomadic life here. While some visitors enjoy the adrenaline-fuelled 4×4 driving through the golden sands, others love to sit still and watch the colour of the sand shapeshift from the top of the dunes as the sun sinks into the horizon.
Beyond Wahiba Sands, Oman’s Nizwa Fort is located in the cradle of the Western Hajar Mountains. Here, discover an imposing fort with a stunning mountain location, a thriving city, and a rich history of intrigue.
Dip your feet in the palm-fringed hot springs at Nakhal, or take a dip along the white-pebbled Fin’s Beach, one of many swimming spots along Oman’s 1000-kilometre coastline. Save time to get lost shopping in the winding souks in the walled city of Muscat, snacking on dates and sipping freshly made coffee.
Authentic, uncompromising and with a deep spiritual connection to the land: Israel is like no other country in the Middle East. Situated at the convergence of three continents, Israel offers travellers both contemporary urban centres and centuries-old cities, historic sites and natural attractions.
One of the most complex and fascinating cities in the world, the Old City of Jerusalem has been a crossroads for travellers for centuries and is a core stop on Abercrombie & Kent’s Classic Israel journey.
Split into four quarters, Jerusalem has been a place of pilgrimage for years, with a tapestry of historically and spiritually significant sites located within the compact walls of the Old City. Wander the souk in the Muslim Quarter, take in a bird’s eye view of the Old City from the tower of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, visit the Armenian museum, and pay your respects at the Western Wall, one of the city’s holiest sites.
Leaving the old city, the journey continues with a visit to the Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the victims of the holocaust and visits to Bethlehem and Nazareth. Travelling further afield, visitors can float in the waters of the Dead Sea, or take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee.
Don’t miss a visit to the Qumran Caves, where over 190 scrolls and scroll fragments dating back over 2000 years were found in a perfectly preserved condition, and discover a different side of Israel in Tel Aviv, with its vivid fine dining and food scene.