Map of Middle East
Most Western definitions of the "Middle East" define the region as "nations in Southwest Asia, from Iran to Egypt". However, North African nations without Asian links, such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, are increasingly being called North African as opposed to Middle Eastern. On TravelBlog, we use a slightly narrower definition for The Middle East - the area stretching from the Bosphorus (Turkey) to Afghanistan, and the Red Sea.
In the Western world, the Middle East is generally thought of as a predominantly Islamic Arabic community defined by frequent war and upheaval. Yet the area encompasses many distinct cultural and ethnic groups, and seven main languages. As a result it holds some of the most diverse and vibrant population centers.
Highlights from Middle East
Hints and Tips for Middle East
- In predominantly Muslim countries, restaurants will close during Ramdan until the evening when fasting is broken by the iftar (a meal or even buffet). In Israel, during Passover, grain products or leavened bread may not be sold. It's good to check local holidays that may affect your travels (or make for an interesting experience).
- Public displays of affection, taking photos of local women/men (or government-related people/buildings), wearing revealing clothes, trying to touch someone (i.e. to shake hands or tap their shoulder) are a few examples of what may be insulting or even punishable by law.
- Many of Israel's neighboring countries will not allow entry if you have visited Israel. To avoid this complication, ask the Israeli authorities to place the visa stamp on a separate document (you may have to assert yourself). There is a chance that the border guards may refuse to do so, but it's worth asking.
- Double-check visa requirements beforehand to know whether the country issues visa-on-arrival or if you must apply for an advance visa. Prepare to pay entrance/departure fees in some countries, the cost of which may unexpectedly change. In some countries, you may not be allowed entrance based on your citizenship or because they do not offer tourist visas.
- Due to volatile politics, it's wise to stay current with the news in this region.