United Arab Emirates
For most people, the United Arab Emirates means just one place: Dubai, the sci-fi-esque city of iconic skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands, city-sized malls, indoor ski slopes and palatial beach resorts. But beyond the glitter awaits a diverse mosaic of six more emirates, each with its own character and allure.
Dubai is a stirring alchemy of profound traditions and ambitious futuristic vision wrapped into starkly evocative desert splendour. Nocturnal Action After dark, Dubai sometimes seems like a city filled with lotus eaters, forever on the lookout for a good time. Its shape-shifting party spectrum caters for just about every taste, budget and age group.
Destroyed and rebuilt over thousands of years, Jerusalem's spiritual magnetism endures. With interlacing histories, clashing cultures and constant reinvention, the city is an intense, multisensory experience. The Old City Jerusalem's Old City is a spiritual lightning rod, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
As Middle Eastern cities go, Amman is a relative youth, being mostly a creation of the 20th century. But though it lacks the storied history and thrilling architectural tapestry of other regional capitals, there’s plenty here to encourage you to linger awhile before making for Petra, the Dead Sea or Wadi Rum.
A land of wild extremes and wilder history, Western Iran is the independent traveller's adventure playground. From the fecund Caspian coast to the stark, mountainous northern borders and the crumbling desert ruins of the southern plains, the region hosts everything from paddy fields to blizzards to the original Garden of Eden.
This diminutive Mediterranean nation is a fascinating nexus point of the Middle East and the West; of Christianity and Islam; of tradition and modernity. It’s a place where culture, family and religion are all-important, but where sectarian violence can too often erupt – claiming lives and scarring both the landscape and the national psyche.
In Muscat's Grand Mosque, there is a beautiful hand-loomed carpet; it was once the world's largest rug until Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, in the United Arab Emirates, pinched the record. This is poignant because Oman doesn't boast many 'firsts' or 'biggests' in a region bent on grandstanding.
The world's largest hand-loomed carpet, the fastest roller coaster, the highest high tea, the tower with the greatest lean, the largest cluster of cultural buildings of the 21st century – UAE capital Abu Dhabi isn't afraid to challenge world records. Welcome to an exciting city where nothing stands still…except perhaps the herons in its mangroves.
Central Iran, encompassing the magnificent cities of Esfahan, Yazd and Shiraz, is the cultural tour-de-force of Iran. Wedged between the Zagros Mountains to the west and the Dasht-e Kavir to the east, it offers the quintessential Persian experience and it's no coincidence that it attracts the most visitors.
Welcome to the home of the Bedouin, a people of legendary courage and bravado who inhabit a landscape of sand dunes, oases and weathered escarpments. Wadi Rum is at the heart of any visit to southern Jordan, a landscape so magnificent that it leaves all but the most unromantic at heart dreaming of casting everything aside to lead the life of a nomad.