I remember the first time that I saw the pyramids, I was in a taxi driving through the city of Giza.

The city was welcoming, with wide dusty roads, and residents, visitors and business people walking in all directions going about their day. I hung my head out of the window like a happy puppy taking in the Arab culture, the new sights, sounds and smells of the Arab world. The problem was that I was looking out of the wrong side of the taxi.

It was the driver who took the initiative to point to the other side of the street, to tell me that the pyramids were there. I looked out of the other window of the taxi and simultaneously burst into tears. They were tears of shock and awe because there they were supreme, gigantic and slap bang in the middle of the city.

I had always assumed that the pyramids were in the middle of the urban desert, you rarely see pictures of the Arabian city of Giza sprawled out next to the pyramids. But the reality is that you could potentially rent an apartment in Giza and have your neighbouring view from your bedroom window be the pyramids. They might as well be on a development in the middle of the busy state of Cairo!

Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel located in Dubai. Photo Source: Unsplash

Can you imagine, living your best life in the city of Giza with a pretty much free view of the pyramids? The idea seems surreal, but this is the reality for a number of cities in the middle east and north Africa, not to mention other global countries.

Let’s take a look at some gorgeous Middle Eastern cities that come with a wealth of unique features.

  CityArab CountriesProminent FeaturesBeautiful Features
1

Abu DhabiUnited Arab EmiratesAttractionsWhite beaches
2DubaiUnited Arab EmiratesExpat populationCulturally vibrant
3JerusalemIsrael3000 years of historyThe old city
4PetraJordonNon traditional cityArchaeologic park
5BeirutLebanonFood heavenRuins
6DohaQatarWorld cup 2022Pearl island
7ManamaBahrainOld fortsTraditional markets
8SalalahOmanFestivalForts and castles
9IstanbulTurkeyEuropean and asianDiverse neighbourhoods
10GizaEgyptArchaeological parkPyramids

1. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. It is a well-established travel destination with cosmopolitan Arabic culture. Abu Dhabi is an increasingly exciting city where nothing stops, it has the fastest roller-coaster at Ferrari World, a famous Formula 1 race track, the only other Louvre outside of Paris, virgin tours, islands and white sand beaches.

Abu Dhabi has also launched and developed a village of Eco-buildings, which all have cutting-edge architecture and forward-thinking technology, to promote essential concepts in the hopes of bringing empowerment to the idea of protecting our resources and the planet. Abu Dhabi is a beautiful destination, and you would be forgiven for thinking that this city has it all, because it almost does.

2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai has been built up from the desert into a shiny modern city, which almost in many respects takes you into the future. It has become the most popular city in the United Arab Emirates, with its only rival being Abu Dhabi. It has one of the most diverse and international populations, of all the countries in the middle east.

Dubai is unique because within one day you can go skiing at Ski Dubai, climb the worlds tallest building  - Burj Khalifa, go shopping in the worlds largest mall – Dubai mall, and skydive over the man-made  Palm Jumeirah Island. Ok, if we are realistic, you would struggle to do all of this in 1 day. But these attractions and many more are available in Dubai. Making it a city full of attractions, giving you endless ways to enjoy the city.

3. Jerusalem, Israel (Palestine)

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and it is a fantastically historical city, that takes you back in time. The old town proves that size is not everything because you can walk through its streets quite quickly due to its small size. But it is, without doubt, a hugely impressive part of the Israeli / Palestinian city.

The walls that surround the old city encase some spectacular attractions like the dome of the rock, the western wailing wall and a souk with vibrant colours. Jerusalem is food heaven with food representing Arab culture and other cultures from around the world.

4. Petra, Jordon

Petra is the archaeological jewel in Jordan’s crown. Located in the desert, this archaeological site is half carved and half-built into the rock, it is a breath-taking landmark. One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this large ancient city is made up of religious landmarks, tombs, and carvings of all sizes.

Petra is known as the lost city, as only a tiny part of it has been excavated. Although Petra is not a city, in the traditional meaning of the word, as it is not permanently inhabited.  Petra is now largely a tourist site, full of opportunities for discovery.

5. Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut is the capital and largest city in Lebanon, Located on the Mediterranean coast. Beirut is the city with it all, history, modernity, and world-famous cuisine. No matter what you enjoy doing with your spare time you likely find it in this beautiful city.

Romantic walks on the corniche with views of the Mediterranean sea, Exotic new flavours for lunch, soaking up the sun on the beach or snapping selfies with some of the most unique architecture in the region. Beirut is a diverse and cosmopolitan destination.

Vast and busy city at night
Modern Arabian city lit up at night. Photo Source: Unsplash

6. Doha, Qatar

Doha is the capital of Qatar, like many Middle Eastern cities, Doha is transforming itself rapidly and building itself into a city of culture. Doha will play host the upcoming 2022 world cup so there couldn’t be a better time to investigate this rising star.

Doha is an eclectic city with mega malls and luxury hotels being built alongside ancient souks and landmarks. The forward-thinking creativity is reflected in its developments.  For example, the Pearl is an island off the coast of the city that has the most extensive collection of Islamic art in the world, housed at the museum of Islamic art.

7. Manama, Bahrain

Located on the Arabian peninsula, Manama is the capital city of the island of Bahrain, its small size makes it easy to discover its gems. Famous for its pearl trade, Manama is fast becoming a hub of culture and the arts in the region. Amazing museums showcase and celebrate Arabian and international art. But the art is not confined to museums, Bahrain has let art lose on the city.

You will find Arabic culture and art overflowing on to the streets, from the annual art fair called the Nest to outdoor Museums, art galleries, architecture, concert halls, theatres, cafes and libraries. All a part of the vision and organic expression of this beautiful city's uprising to promote Art and culture in the country.

8. Salalah, Oman

Salalah is a city off the beaten tourist track in the south of Oman and on the Arabian peninsula. It is a city full of natural beauty and is known as the perfume capital of the country with fragrances to tantalise your senses. It is also rich with archaeological sites such as forts, castles.

During the summer the temperatures in Salalah drop to around 24 degrees and the city holds its famous tourism festival, which started out as a local festival but has now grown to have international appeal.  The festival is full of vibrant art, cultural displays, sporting opportunities, Omani heritage, exciting contests and shopping activities.

9. Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is the capital of Turkey and is positioned in an exciting location in both Europe and Asia. Not many other countries can boast such diverse positioning. Walking through eclectic Istanbul is surprising, as around every corner is a different expression of history, modernity, European and Asian culture.

Istanbul is a diverse and humongous city with neighbourhoods that express that same diversity. Unique neighbourhoods like Balat contain modern art and culture in historic buildings. Anyone with interests in the Islamic world will love the huge mosques that adorn different areas of the city.

10. Giza, Egypt

The Egyptian city of Giza is the gateway to one of the most famous archaeological parks in the world.  A short train ride away from Cairo you will come to Giza the home of The pyramids of Eygpt. They rise up from the sand and sit between the Sahara and Giza city. The monuments in the Giza plateau tower over the city like free unmoving guardians, impossible to ignore.

As Gizas principle highlight, the Archaeological park complex comprises the breathtaking Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza. Which tends to overshadow other attractions in the city. But the Desert is a vast place with lots of variety and lots to explore and discover. From Desert tours to crawling into the centre of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu
The breathtaking Great Pyramid at Giza Archaeological park. Photo Source: Unsplash

11. Amadiya, Iraq

Amadiya is a popular historic Kurdish town frequented by masses of visitors in summer. It has been said that the city was founded in 3,000 B.C. and was a place where people of all religions existed in harmony - Christians, Jews and Muslims included. Adding to its appeal for tourism is the tale that three of the most important Persian priests started their journey to Bethlehem from this ancient ground, to meet baby Jesus in year 0.

Yes, the Three Wise Men were from urban Amadiya!

Today, Amadiya, also know as Amadi, is peaceful and beautiful, with the preserved ancient gate - Bahdinan Gate - at the entrance to the village being the main attraction for tourists.

12. Baalbeck, Lebanon

Baalbeck, a city steeped in history, can be found east of the Litani River in Lebanon's Baqaa Valley at a distance of just under 70km from Beirut. People flock to Baalbeck to see the ancient ruins, known as a site for the gods.

The city can be found on a hill overlooking the valley and is one of the biggest Roman religious sites worldwide. So is its significance, the towering columns have become an emblem for the entire nation. In spite of its 300-year Roman rule and 10,000 years of settlement, the city is now known as a modern, buzzing city containing many a business and with a population of 80,000 people.

13. Isfahan, Iran

Isfahan is located in central Iran and has become world-famous for its architecture, which features a 17th-century Mosque or Inam in the massive Maqsh-e Jahan Square and Ali Qapu Palace among other influential buildings.

Also know as Esfahan, this place is the most frequented city in Iran for good reason. Its visual appeal is completely unrivalled, with not just structures taking the glory, but also Persian gardens and picturesque squares making it a beautiful holiday destination. Honestly, it's worth a read about this picturesque town if you want to visit the Middle East.

14. Al Balad, Saudi Arabia

Al Balad of Jeddah is the second biggest city in Saudi Arabia and comes with a huge history. Its name translates as "The Town" and its town is magnificent! A world Heritage Site, this place is colourful and charismatic with some worn down areas reminding us that this was once a throbbing primary gateway to Makkah.

The Old Pilgrimage Road is a sight not to be missed, as it retains a strong sense of the old Arabia. You'll find market stalls, carts and street vendors all offering up a range of wonderful souvenirs!

15. The Old City of Damascus, Syria

The Ancient City of Damascus is the historical part of Damascus itself, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the whole of the world. This UNESCO listed site was once a flourishing centre for the crafts industry with many a sword being made there. As well as its cultural history, there are also remnants of its physical appeal that can still be seen today, like 8th-century Great Mosque of the Umayyads.

In addition to this, there are around 125 more monuments spanning a range of periods to discover!

The Middle East is a continent full of history, unique landmarks, exciting culture, Arabic language, striking architecture and lots of fun. We hope that your interest has been peaked and you are up for the challenge of discovering new and beautiful destinations in the Arab World.

There are many cities to explore in the following Middle Eastern countries Bahrain, Cyrus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordon, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, Yemen.

Although we were not able to list all of the beautiful and remarkable Middle Eastern cities in this blog post. They are quickly becoming some of the most popular destinations, I hope that you won’t just read about them here but go out and visit them.

Meanwhile, enjoy the discovery!

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Vanessa