Favorite thing: Your itinerary should be Cairo, Luxor, Petra ending at Jerusalem, I assume there will be a train from Cairo to luxor then using a boat to go to Petra crossing to Jerusalem through Amman ( so many sites to visit between Petra and Amman ).
Hi, i came across your queries re your trip to Bahrain. I will be traveling to Bahrain this coming Saturday. Maybe you can share with me the immigration requirement. I am Filipino as well with existing UAE residence, was it easy to go through the immigration. I was told that there is no need for visa application and visa can be granted at the airport upon arrival. How true is it? would really appreciate your response. Thanks alot
I am travelling those countries often due to my job. I would like to remind you that you can take a bus from Istanbul to Gaziantep and you can go to Aleppo first and you can move to Damascus and from Damascus to Amman and from there to Israel all by land transportation. Even if you take a taxi for all, its not going to cost much. You can visit three countries at once.
Since you saw Cairo and red sea already, I would not suggest you to take another time for Egypt however luxor etc are facinating. Once you make sure that which country you would like to visit, I can give more precise ideas what do do, what to see, where to stay etc.
Good luck! Tarkan
Travellers should know a little bit about Islam before venturing into the area because I believe if you understand a little bit about the religion then you will understand the people better. Knowing about the culture before hand helps in this part of the world because you do not want to be mistaken for something culturally insensitive or offensive. Muslims believe that Allah decides everything and that they must submit to his will. Unlike the Torah or Bible, in which many different people record and interpret the many words and deeds of God, the Quran is said to be the exact words of god himself. The Five pillars are:
1. Shahada which means Muslims must declare pubicly 'There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet'
2. Salat means Muslims are expected to pray five times a day (sunrise, noon, mid afternoon, sunset and night)
3. Zakat mean that every Muslim has a duty to give alms to the poor. (1/40th of their income is given to the poor)
4. Ramadan - every Muslim must fast for the entire month of Ramadan.
5. Haj - Every Muslim capable of doing so must peform the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life time.
Understanding and being informed is the key to having a great experience in this part of the world ;)
Favorite thing: Most travellers think that the possibility of travelling around the hot desert climates without a drink from time to time is torture or that they will not be able to access their favorite liquid. Many Middle Eastern countries have their own brewed beverages including beer and wine. Almost every single Middle Eastern country offers travellers or expats a chance to relax with a drink. The Arabian Gulf excluding Kuwait, Yemen and Saudi have Western pubs that sell foreign products while alcohol can be purchased in shops in Syria, Jordan etc. Lebanon, Turkey and the UAE have nightlife that would rival most European countries with Dubai and Beirut being better than most European cities. Most people obviously dont travel the Middle East to party but anything is possible and some countries will even shock you ;)
One of my favorite things about the food situation in the ME is the possibility that you can find food just about anytime you want depending on the country. Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon offer loads of restaurants and stands offering kebabs and shwarmas while the Gulf states cater more towards the coffee shop crowd. Both experiences are cheap, quick and gives you a chance to eat on the move. Almost every country in the Middle East other than Syria and Yemen have KFC and Western chains. Places like Dubai and Bahrain have so many different chains of Western restaurants that the choice would be on par or better than your home country. The Gulf countries with their coffee shops offer up some great Indian dishes (due to sub continent expats) which is cheap and delicious. The Indian food is usually the cheapest and most reliable because due to the amount of Indian and Bengali expats, the food doesnt sit on a counter top in a restaurant during the heat so you have a better chance of not getting sick if you eat thalis rather than chicken dishes during mid day.
Most restaurants open around noon and the kitchens close when the last customer leaves during the night. The Gulf countries tend to shut down during the afternoon and open up after 5pm and shut down around 11pm. Middle Easterners are late eaters so chances are your eating habits will change during your trip. Note: Ramadan is an exception with shops closing down between sunrise to sunset.
Favorite thing: Standards range greatly between each of the Middle Eastern countries as well as the Gulf states. The Middle East generally has a good selection to choose from with the cheapest fundooqs being in Egypt, Syria and Yemen. The most expensive hotels are in the Gulf, Israel and Jordan. Hotels in the top range offer you everything you could ever hope for with AC, double beds and showers and Western toilets. Bottom of the bunch are ones with no AC, no TV and less than clean washrooms. The standards in the lower class are squat toilets as well as cold showers. The top end to mid range are suitable for female travellers but the lower end places should be avoided due to the presence of working girls as well as business men. The standards are what you may expect in this part of the world.
Islam started in The Middle East.
Do visit at least a mosque & see for yourself the sacred place where the Muslims do their prayers.
A historical mosque like The Umayyad Mosque is a good example...
If you must, learning Arabic would be a good way to know the people, the countries around The Middle East.
There are institutions, Arabic schools, even private tutors for this purpose...You could learn the language BEFORE coming to The Middle East or even staying in your own chosen country in The Middle East for this purpose !
Good luck !
Favorite thing: Egypt is a popular destination for studying Arabic, and there are many schools in Cairo. My university sent students to ILI (International Language Institute) and also to the University of Alexandria, although course details, addresses and opinions I don't have. Other British universities send their students to Fez in Morocco, although the local Arabic there is very different to Modern Standard Arabic. In Khartoum, there are courses available at the African University in the south of the city in an area known as Ma'amoura...a volunteer enquired about courses and was quoted $250, but where that figure came from was anybody's guess, and again, course info and dates are hard to find. In Palestine, there is the Birzeit University, and courses in Jordan are available in Zarqa and Amman...again, no info ;@( The American University in Beirut offers a very expensive Arabic course for foreigners, but I think the price of the course and cost of living in Beirut probably put many off that idea. It is possible that the American uiversities in Cairo and in Sharjah (UAE) also have similar courses.
Al-Jumhuriyah al-Lubnaniyah, or else the Lebanese Republic is a small country which is densely populated... sometimes, especially near beirut, it's hard to tell where one town ends and where another starts. It boders with Syria and Israel, but this border is closed. Born on 22 November 1943, it was once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East.. this at least until 1975 - where a civil war that went on until 1991 virtually tore down and apart the country. Lebanon has been quick at picking itself up - I must add - and like a phoenix it has once again risen from the ashes... if you were to judge it by its prices - it's again the Switzerland of the Middle East.
Fondest memory: Despite its diminuitive size there's a lot to see in lebanon - and of various interest. Like many other Middle Eastern countries there are interesting roman ruins - in Tyre and especially in Baalbeck (the legendary Heliopolis). There's an impressive castle by the sea at Sidon - very scenically located - and there's traditional-ish towns like Tripoli. The capital, Beirut, is buzzing with life - you'll see more mercedes and BMW cars there than in your entire life - it also doesn't feel like the Middle East at all. And then there is Qana... the most touching place in Lebanon.
Al-Jumhuriyah al-Arabiyah as-Suriyah, or else the Syrian Arab Republic is a mainly deserted country bordering with Iraq, Israel (but the border between the two countries is closed), Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Born on 17 April 1946 it's now ruled by the young Bashar al-Assad, who is trying to improve the qualitfy of life my many Syrian people as well as preserving their own national identity. One example? you will never find an American product in Syria... no McDonalds, no Pizza Hut, no Coca Cola! But try the local Ugarit Cola: it's delicious... better than the real thing!
Fondest memory: Syria is a country of contrast and hidden splendours - there's just so much to see - of everything. Abandoned old cities (Palmyra, Afamia) and the bizantine Dead Cities, "religious" sites like church and pillar of Saint Simeon, the villages where Aramean is still spoken (like Maalula), crusards castles (Ibn Wardan, Krak des Chevaliers, Bosra), and cities buzzing with life... with colourful and perfumed souks - like Aleppo and Damascus. And a lot more...
Turkiye Cumhuriyeti, or else the Republic of Turkey, is the crossroad between East and West - since a part of it geographically belongs to Europe. Turkey was created in 1923 from the Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire and it borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It's a republican parliamentary democracy whose economy is very dynamic despite its high unemployment rate.
Fondest memory: Turkey is the first country I visited in the Middle East - and within 24 hours after my arrival, I had decided it was not going to be the last. I only visited 2 areas of it: the impressive Cappadocia with its fairytale-like landscape, old abandoned churches carved into soft volcanic stone, and impressive underground defensive cities - and Istanbul... the cty of thoudans and one nights... vibrant, chaotic, full of beauty. One lifelong would not be enough to fully appreciate its charm... its skyline is one of those sights impossible to forget
Al-Mamlaka Al-Urduniyya Al-Hashimiyya - or else the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - is a small but interesting country. Most of its surface is a desert, and it owns even a little stretch od red Sea. It borders with Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the West Bank. At the moment it's ruled by the young and ambitious King Abdallah - who's working hard at getting rid of Jordan's main problems: debt, poverty, and unemployment.
Fondest memory: The beautiful things one can see and experience: the roman ruins of Um Aqys and Jerash, the castles of Ajlun And Kerak, the desert castles, swimming in the Red Sea and floating in the Dead Sea, the buzzing life in Amman, the "religious" sites of Mount Nebo and Madaba, the unreal Wadi Rum and the plendour of the abandones nabatean cities: Beida and in particular Petra. To this... add the friendiness of the people and their sense of hospitaly. Add also the children: it's the only place where I've been approached by kids wanting to tuch my hair to see if they're made of gold
ponder on this parable:
A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.
Fondest memory: And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,, And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might see, and hearing they might not understand. Luke 7: 5-10................these pics are.....on the left is an old arab village named lifta, and on the right side is a view from the old hadavidka hostel right off of Jaffa street
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