The Middle East is a region that lies on two continents: Africa and Eurasia and comprises many countries, here are just some of them:
- The United Arab Emirates
It has its complicated moments but on the whole, the Middle East is warm, hospitable and full of life. The region is often described as the cradle of civilization as many of the things we know and take for granted today were conceived in the Middle East:
Every city you visit on a cruise to the Middle East is a legend, where the locals will welcome you with open arms, genuinely:
- Salalah, Oman
- Eilat, Israel
- Petra, Jordan
- Manama, Bahrain
- Doha, Qatar
A cruise is the absolute best way to visit this vast region, you will see, learn and explore an incredible amount in just one holiday.
The Best Time to Cruise to the Middle East
There is so much to see and experience in the Middle East that you will want to be outside a lot of the time: exploring, sightseeing, hiking.
Therefore, do consider the months of March to early May for visiting. This shoulder season is beautiful but quite short, the temperatures start rising (in some parts) to very hot around mid-May.
Here are some of the reasons we recommend cruising to the Middle East in autumn:
- Warm and comfortable temperatures
- The flowers are starting to bloom
- The Berbers are starting to migrate across the Atlas Mountains, making for a great experience
Top Cruise Lines
A great number of cruise lines frequent the Middle East, so the choice is yours:
- Seabourn cruises to the Middle East – great itineraries that will take you to all of the above and more. You’ll also sail along the Suez Canal – the great man-made waterway connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea that the Egyptians take great pride in. The experience will also be made unforgettable by the Seabourn signature luxury on board.
- MSC cruises to the Middle East – the family-friendly, fun and value for money cruise line, offering various itineraries and stops.
- Cunard cruises to the Middle East – itineraries include Dubai, Muscat and Abu Dhabi and will sail you halfway across the world, may even embark and/or disembark in Australia.
Haifa is located in northern Israel and is the country’s third-biggest city, after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Haifa is one of the most popular ports on Middle Eastern itineraries, and for good reason. The city is a kaleidoscope of cultures, people and traditions. Haifa is also, unofficially, known as a model for Jewish-Arab co-existence.
Below are a couple of our must-visits while in Haifa:
- Do not miss out on the Baha’i Gardens – the city’s crowning attraction. The gardens’ immaculately landscaped terraces are almost hanging over the city and are part of the Baha’i World Centre that is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Only the modestly dressed are allowed to enter the Shrine of the Báb for it is primarily a pilgrimage site. The shrine is a stunning example of how different architecture styles, European and Middle Eastern in this case, can work well together.
- Explore the offerings at the Flea Market on any day of the week, the busiest and most interesting days are, however, Saturday and Sunday.
- The queue for the Felafel HaZkenim is long, but once you take a bite of the best falafel in town, you’ll forget the trouble you went to for it.
Kusadasi is a popular resort town and the country’s busiest cruise port, located on Turkey’s Aegean coast. The town also serves as a gateway to Ephesus – the ancient city in the centre of the country.
Kusadasi is more famous for its nightlife and party scene than sightseeing and monuments. However, there are a few sights worth visiting, plus spectacular sea views, good hotels and even better restaurants – all of these things attract thousands of tourists every year.
- – Visit the beautiful Kusadasi Castle, its small and very pleasant. The castle is part of a popular public park located on Güvercin Adası (Pigeon Island), providing scenic views of the whole city.
- – Watch the hustle and bustle happen around you on the Kadınlar Denizi beach.
- – Wander around the Bazaar that’s right opposite the cruise terminal and enjoy the banter, even if you don’t buy anything.
- – Try delicious fresh seafood at moderate prices at the Balik Ekmek restaurant, you’ll also enjoy the port side action around you.
Oman is the capital city of Oman. Located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, the city is surrounded by mountains and the desert. It is also filled with scenic old forts, museums and a great opera house.
Muscat’s architecture is delightfully uniform, even the newly built functional blocks are required to reflect tradition, resulting in attractive elegance, making the city quite different from its neighbours.
- A visit to the Grand Mosque is an absolute must. It is a glorious example of modern Islamic architecture and is stunning inside.
- Bait Al Zubair is one of the city’s most loved museums. You’ll find beautiful Omani heritage on display in the form of handicrafts, furniture and more. There is also a classy souvenir shop and a cafe that are worth popping in to.
- Whether you are catching a show (the season is September to May) or just going in for a guided tour, the Royal Opera House Muscat will amaze you with its beautiful architecture.
- Part of the same complex as the Royal Opera House Muscat, the Opera Galleria offers classy shopping for Omani-produced items.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The city is known as the country’s progressive cultural heart and boasts heaps of traditional Arabic culture as well as modern, even futuristic, features.
Abu Dhabi’s location, on an island in the middle of the Persian Gulf, means that there is no need to leave the city for a beach break, plus there is a Mangrove National Park right on the water.
There is such an array of things to do in Abu Dhabi that we’ve had trouble coming up with just a shortlist. Nonetheless, here it is and these are our absolute favourites:
- The iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a masterpiece of architecture and is one of the few mosques in the region open to non-Muslims. So don’t miss your chance to see the stunning design on the inside.
- Explore the futuristic Masdar City near the Abu Dhabi airport. The project hasn’t been finished yet, but what is already there is a good example of state-of-the-art sustainable architecture and clean tech.
- The Arabian Saluki Centre is a sanctuary and a breeding and training centre for the Saluki dogs. Salukis have been Bedouins’ best friends for centuries. They are very well looked after here and greet you with a lot of affection.
- Enjoy a dance performance, a poetry reading or some great live music at the popular NYUAD the Arts Center.
- Shop till you drop at the World Trade Centre Souk that beautifully reinvented the traditional Arabic souk, or check out the thousands of international brands at the Abu Dhabi Mall.