The Middle East was one of the cradles of civilization and the point of origin of most of the world’s major religion. Positioned at the meeting point of three different continents it has, over the milennia, exerted huge influence throughout the world as well as having had obvious strategic importance for many of the world’s greatest empires. Nowadays it is the heartland of Arabic and Muslim culture with all of its (to many of us) exotic architecture and culture.
A typical itinerary in the region can take in sights as diverse as:
- The pyramids of Egypt
- The ancient ruined city of Petra in Jordan
- The the high-rise towers of Dubai (picture above).
From UNESCO world heritage sites to ultra-modern cityscapes, there is little that you can’t find on a cruise around the Middle East. What’s more, visiting the area on a cruise means that you retain your idyll of home comforts on board enabling you to experience the local culture whilst knowing you’ll be returning to Western gourmet food in the evening.
The Most Popular Ports of Call
Dubai is a city, a country, and one of the seven Arab Emirates. The first thing to know about Dubai is that it is in the middle of one of history’s biggest construction booms, a fact that is interesting in itself. The shopping in the city is a world class mix of authentic Arabian souks and high-end Western shops. With some of the world’s biggest malls next to some of its most gorgeous beaches, Dubai is like a version of California on steroids and forms a curious counterpoint to many of the other ports in the region.
Nearby Muscat is the capital of another country, Oman. Its architecture is modern but has proceeded on far more traditional lines and the city is known for having kept far more of its old-fashioned souks. Those who
love the heat will also appreciate the fact that, due to its lack of wind, Muscat is known to be one of the hottest places in the world. Check out the Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace and the beautiful, Portuguese influenced Al Jalili fort for some uniquely Arabian photo opportunities.
The only port in the country of Jordan and happily one which provides a convenient location for exploring some of the greatest historical wonders in Jordan and the region. The most famous of these is, without doubt, Petra – “the rose red city half as old as time.” The city of Aqaba itself is well known for how warm the sea is and Jordanian tourists come from all over the country to take a dip. It’s also famed for its marine life and many scuba diving companies who operate tours of the local waters. Other ancient sites, however, include the impressive crusader castle known as the Citadel of Kerak and Madaba, site of the world-famous Madaba map at the Church of Madaba (play the video below for more details of the Citadel of Kerak).
The entrance port to the Suez Canal which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean by cutting through Egypt and best known for the many films and books that have taken it as a subject. It’s an extremely common port of call, mainly because it has to be, and to be frank there is little of great interest in the town. It is, however, somewhere that many cruises which take in both Egypt and the emirates will call.
Cultural Sensibilities and Travel Regulations
Women travelling in the middle east will need to remember to cover up as showing too much skin is seen as indecent. Long sleeves and long skirts or trousers (in a light fabric such as linen) are the order of the day although the actual strictness depends on where and in which country you are in. Yes, even shorts are considered indecent on women in most of these countries. If you are intending on visiting a mosque you will also need to cover your head.
Those whose passports have Israeli stamps may have trouble gaining admission into some of the countries mentioned above and this is something to make sure to have cleared up before departing. Also, any medicine involving codeine can get you a conviction for drug trafficking if you do not also have a prescription with you for it so be careful if taking any medication along with you.