Al Bab (www.al-bab.com) Portal covering the entire Arabian Peninsula.
Al Jazeera (www.aljazeera.com/topics/regions/middleeast.html) The region's equivalent of the BBC or CNN.
Arabnet (www.arabnet.me) Useful Saudi-run encyclopedia of the Arab world.
BBC News (www.bbc.com/news/world/middle_east) Comprehensive news on the region.
Bible Places (www.bibleplaces.com) Biblical sites from across the region.
Haaretz (www.haaretz.com) News from an Israeli perspective.
International Crisis Group (www.crisisgroup.org) In-depth reports on the region's pressure points and recent history.
InterNations (www.internations.org) Information service with networking opportunities exclusively for expats.
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/middle-east) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forums and more.
- Don't be too ambitious – the Middle East is a big place, and trying to see everything can lead to frustration.
- Avoid travelling roads at night – traffic is dangerous at the best of times but can be deadly after dark.
- Take small gifts from home to repay the many acts of kindness and hospitality you're likely to receive.
- Take time to greet people you meet – launching into conversation without a greeting is considered rude.
- Learn a few words in Arabic, Farsi or Hebrew and watch the locals smile when you try to use them.
- Avoid openly criticising the country you're visiting – some locals may take such criticisms personally, while some comments can get your newfound friends into trouble.
- Stay alert but not alarmed – despite well-publicised problem areas, much of the Middle East remains safe.
- Dress modestly (covering shoulders and knees) if you want to avoid causing offence, particularly in remote areas.
What to Take
- Hat, sunglasses and good sunscreen
- Electrical adaptor
- Warm clothes
- Universal bathplug
- Ear plugs for early-morning mosque wake-up calls
- Hebrew, Arabic and/or Farsi phrasebook
- Hiking boots
- Small gifts from home for new friends
- Conservative clothing for mosque visits
- Toilet paper
- Scarf to cover your head
What to Wear
Egypt, Iran and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula are the most conservative countries when it comes to dress, while Turkey and Israel are the most relaxed, although the situation can vary within countries (such as Jordan and Lebanon). As a general rule, women should wear loose clothes, covering arms, legs and cleavage. Like all females aged nine and older, women travellers will need to wear hijab while in Iran and an abaya (a full-length robe-dress, but not a head scarf) in Saudi Arabia. Men travelling in most areas shouldn’t wear shorts, or singlets that show shoulders. İstanbul and the Aegean and Mediterranean resort towns are used to Western dress, including bikinis on the beach and short skirts in nightclubs. Cotton or linen clothing is recommended for the heat, and a fleece or wool sweater is needed for cooler nights.
- Ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of six months.
- Organise travel insurance.
- Inform your credit-/debit-card company before you leave home.
- Check government travel warnings before booking your airline ticket; make sure you're not travelling to areas that will void your insurance. Check again before you depart.
- Check if you can use your mobile phone.
- Obtain visas in advance for Saudi Arabia and (online) for Oman.