Introducing Middle East
The Middle East is quite simply extraordinary, one of the world's most fascinating and rewarding travel destinations. It was here that some of the most significant civilisations of antiquity rose and fell and where the three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - were born. Left behind is an astonishing open-air museum of ancient cities and historic buildings, the stones of which still resonate with the sounds of the faithful.
The Middle East is home to some of the world's most significant cities - Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and İstanbul. The ruins of the once similarly epic cities of history - Petra, Persepolis, Ephesus, Palmyra, Baalbek, Leptis Magna and the bounty of ancient Egypt - also mark the passage of centuries in a region where the ancient world lives and breathes.
The landscapes of the region are equally spellbinding, from the unrivalled seas of sand dunes and palm-fringed lakes in Libya's Sahara desert to the stunning mountains of the north and the underwater world of the Red Sea.
Above all else, however, your most enduring memory of the Middle East is likely to be its people. Their gracious welcome, many kindnesses and boundless hospitality speak of an altogether more civilised age.
From the gravitas of the Sahara to the blue tiles of Esfahan, this is a region for discerning travellers, for those looking for the story behind the headline, and where the bridges between ancient and modern civilisations are everywhere evident. If you believe what the media tells you and decide not to visit, you'd be missing out on the journey of a lifetime.
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Best places to stay in the Middle East
Off the beaten piste: winter sports in weird locations
Alpine huts, chocolate crêpes, outdoor hot tubs and gallons of glühwein. These things probably spring to mind when you conjure up images of ski or snowboarding resorts.
Middle East destination guides
United Arab Emirates
While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) these days appears to be little more than a stage for Dubai to strut its increasingly crazy stuff, there’s far more to this fabulous little federation than Disneyesque dioramas.
The world's ultimate desert dares
Grit your teeth, shield your eyes and get stuck into this decathlon of desert challenges. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Blokart in the Mojave Desert, USA Death Valley in the Mojave Desert. Image by Kyle Monk / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images.
4x4 Dubai Desert Safari
Travel by 4x4 across the deserts of Dubai on this exhilarating excursion! Get an adrenaline rush sandboarding on the Dubai desert, enjoy a camel ride and get a henna tattoo! Complete your experience with a delicious barbecue dinner under the Arabian stars and live folk and belly dance performances.
Dubai Hot Air Balloon Flight
Leave the glitz and glamor of Dubai behind and join this early-morning hot-air balloon expedition deep in the heart of the desert. Rising early to see the desert is something you'll never forget! Prepare for an exhilarating flight with unrivaled views as you enjoy a magic carpet ride over giant red sands, emerald green oases, gazelles and wandering camels.
Take to the skies: the world's greatest airborne adventures
Got a head for heights? Soar into the ether in some of the world’s most inspiring locations. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Paragliding at Pokhara, Nepal Paragliders over Pokhara, Nepal by momo. CC BY 2.0.
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Bustling cities, glorious deserts and an ancient, sophisticated culture.