Just Returned From → Sun Peaks, British Columbia. Headed To → Bella Coola, British Columbia.

Middle East Hit List: 5 Sights to See

tourism-egypt

If you feel like ignoring your country’s respective travel warnings and heading out on a real adventure, there’s surely no place quite like the Middle East — The Cradle of Civilization.

In This Middle East Article You Will Discover:

  • Jordan’s Most Famous Site
  • Why Go to Iran?
  • Impressive Modern Architecture in Dubai
  • And More!

OK — disclaimer: I’ve yet to visit the Middle East. Egypt was the first country I ever remember being fascinated with, though, and that hasn’t changed. However, the classic Great Pyramids are only one of the many wondrous sites this region holds.

Granted, travel in and around the Middle East is not easy. Unrest and outright war plaques many countries — currently leaving places like Syria or Iraq, for example, as no-go zones. Also, Iran (on this list) will turn you away if you even have an Israeli stamp on your passport, so don’t do this list in the order I suggest… Still, the fascinating cultures and timeless history of the region is to awesome to ignore.

So are you going to beat me to these sights, or will I see you there?

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The magnificent ruins of Petra, Jordan (courtesy David-Bjorgen).

Petra (Jordan)

I first laid eyes on Petra while watching Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, only learning some 10 years later during a University Art History class that magnificent carved stone palace is real, and not a movie set. In recent years, Petra has gone from being an obscure ruin hidden in the Jordanian desert to a traveller’s must-do.

Archeologists estimate Petra was built in 312 B.C. — and this year marks the 200th Anniversary of its re-discovery. Originally, it was built by the Nabataeans as an important trade junction. (No, movie fans… the Holy Grail is not inside.) Even though it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for almost 30 years, there are constant worries about age and element-related deterioration.

The time is now — wander the one-km-long, 80-metre deep gorge (The Siq) and be awed by “a rose-red city as half as old as time…”

The Dead Sea (Israel & Jordan)

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The Dead Sea, Israel (courtesy M. Disdero).

I have been fascinated by the Dead Sea for almost as long as I’ve been fascinated by the Pyramids of Egypt. Everything about it seems weird. After all, how can a sea be located 423 metres below “sea level?” Not to mention that, at almost nine times saltier than the ocean, you can pretty much float around like you’re pumped up with helium. Plus, it is said to have holistic benefits — curing people of psoriasis, arthritis and other ailments. Hey — just the fact that King David (you know, from the Bible) used it as his primary vacation destination is a good enough reason to go. 

Great Pyramids of Giza (Egypt)

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The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. (courtesy Tourism Egypt)

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — and the only one still in existence — Egypt’s Great Pyramids should be on any traveller’s bucket list. They have been on mine since I first saw photos of the Pyramids (and the Sphinx) in my parent’s National Geographic magazines. More than 4,000 years old, the Great Pyramids are human history incarnate.

Note: Did you know the pyramids, Tombs of Kings, were originally white as snow? Can you imagine what they must of looked like then?

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The incredible Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE. (Vlarub/Dreamstime.com)

Burj Khalifa (UAE)

Let’s flip the script 180 degrees and head to the land of conspicuous consumption — Dubai, UAE. This uber-rich citadel by the sea is full of ridiculous displays of wealth — but all pale next to the 828-metre (2,716 feet) tall Burj Khalifa.

This structure is the world’s tallest building, the tallest free-standing structure in the world, has the most storeys of any building in the world, the highest occupied dwellings in the world… and pretty much every other height-related record there is. Whether you go to shop, stay in the Armani Hotel, buy a luxury suite or do as I plan on doing… just enjoy the view, it’s one of the Modern Wonders of the World for sure.

This skyscraper literally scrapes the sky — engineers didn’t just have to factor in load- and wind-bearing capabilities, but also temperature and moisture changes from bottom to top when they designed and constructed the Burj. OK — let’s all get booking our Dubai holidays, because this I have to see.

Masjed-e Emam (Iran)

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Masjed-e Emam (Imam Mosque), Isfahan, Iran.

For most Westerners, Iran is not high on the list of “must-see” countries. We’re pretty much bombarded by terrifying images of this country, and surely it is not without its problems (to say the least), but Iran is rich with beauty, wonder and amazing sites to wow even seasoned backpackers. After all, 3.2 million tourists headed there in 2011… The mosques of Iran look to be particularly stunning, each more than the next, culminating at Masjed-E Emam. This colourful, blue-tiled Holy site took 26 years to build — and it is said to change its hue depending on the ambient light. Those who have seen it first-hand rate it as one of the world’s great wonders.

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

1 comment… add one
  • Albert Sep 17, 2012

    Why won’t Iran let you in with an Israeli stamp on your passport?

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