Middle East: what do you think?
Our readers give the lowdown on their favourite places in the Middle East.
Bahrain was like nowhere I’d been before. Despite the huge expat community that lives there, it served me with an enticing taste of the Middle East. Surrounded by desert, the pounding heat of Bahrain during the day drew me towards the sleek indoor shopping centres and the refreshing flumes of Bahrain’s premier water park. By night the country transformed. With fantastic dining and drinking venues, the liberal attitude of the Bahraini government means that the country is a partying hotspot.
My favourite place in Bahrain was the sprawling souq market in Manama. I spent hours trawling the winding streets in search of exotic spices and glittering Middle Eastern trinkets.
Dubai is a city of contradictions with the extremely wealthy living alongside the very poor. As a consumer society, Dubai’s culture has been described as capitalism on steroids. You can do anything you want in Dubai, from skiing to jet skiing, dining underwater to spending a day jetting up and down waterslides.
As long as you can afford it Dubai is a treasure trove of mindless fun and entertainment. By night, the city is similarly busy with international DJs and some of the world’s biggest music artists travelling to Dubai to perform in arenas and nightclubs for fans who are prepared to pay top dollar for a bit of VIP treatment.
A melting pot of Arabian cultures, sights, smells and colours. Ever wondered how it would feel to walk in Lawrence of Arabia’s footsteps, or perhaps to discover a lost city carved deep into a gorge like something from an Indiana Jones film?
Jordan is the country to make your fantasy reality. Sleep under the stars after a Bedouin feast in Wadi Rum, roam cliff tops and gaze in wonder at the legendary stone city of Petra. Stroll along perfect Roman streets in Jerash, and float in the remarkable Dead Sea. Jordan is a land of breathtaking landscapes, smiles and
Damascus in Syria is the most exotic city I have ever been to. Visiting the ancient crossroads is like stepping back in time and the city oozes with warmth and hospitality. The souk with its glass ceiling stretches on and on past fascinating shops selling everything from perfume oils to creamy hand-made ice cream.
Beyond this friendly shopping haven, Syria has magnificent architectural ruins. The Roman ruins of Palmyra, backed by an imposing Arab castle, loom up out of the desert landscape. The magnificent Crusader castles and lush green hills of the east provide a contrast. As a solo female traveller I have never been treated with as much respect as in Syria. The people are generous to a fault and I always feel as though I’m among friends.
I had mixed feelings about Abu Dhabi. The constant sunshine does however allow for endless barbecues and lazy days. Eating out was a particular highlight not just because of the Middle Eastern and Lebanese influences, but also because it was really cheap. The clubs in Abu Dhabi are expensive but worth it if you want any type of entertainment. There are libraries, ‘English’ pubs, outside pools and private beaches. Thankfully there is no shortage of air con either.
I visited the West Bank in Palestine and despite the fact that Palestinians suffer living under occupation, they are incredibly kind and welcoming – I was invited into the houses of so many strangers and fed so much food.
My favourite town is Bethlehem, it is a bustling town that mixes the old with the new, you can look up and see the minarets of mosques next to church steeples, it is a truly special place! Visiting a Turkish bath where I had a relaxing afternoon which included a full body scrub and massage was amazing!