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Planning a trip to the Middle East

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Nothing is solid yet, looking for people's opinions on where to go, the best way to get around, and how much should i expect to spend.

A few things that you should know:
. I will start off with travelling alone. I say 'start off' in the chance i might end up meeting a fellow traveller
. I am 20, and consider myself generally well travelled but have never been to the Middle East.
. Can not speak Arabic
. have a sensitive stomach (at least when it comes to street food in Vietnam)
. not interested in typical tourist kind of things
. do not have my full driver's license

Just a couple of questions to start things off:
. I plan on visiting multiple countries, should I make arrangements for all the places i visit before i actually go, or is it cheaper to do it once I get to my starting point (i'm thinking Egypt?)
. I would like to travel with a guide, where can i find some information on this?
. What safety precautions should I take?
. What health precautions should I take?
. what part of the year should i start travelling?
. If i decide to go between December-March, what kind of weather and temperature should I dress for?
. What is it that i can absolutely not miss out on seeing or doing?

All in all, what i'm looking to do is to travel through as many countries as I can (within two-three months) meeting as many people as I can, safely and cost effectively.

I'd like to go off the beaten track but I don't want to be kidnapped or anything...
post #2 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip View Post

All in all, what i'm looking to do is to travel through as many countries as I can (within two-three months) meeting as many people as I can, safely and cost effectively.
I'd like to go off the beaten track but I don't want to be kidnapped or anything...

Personally I would stay for a few days in each place, get to know it a little and maybe meet some people. That's much harder if you're constantly on the move ticking off as many destinations as possible. Also, less tiring.

I'd visit Israel, (though having their stamp in your passport isn't the ideal first impression to make on the immigration authorities of some of their neighbours...). It has both a relaxed, Mediterranean beachy vibe by the coast with lots of people your age having fun, and also historical/cultural sites of global importance, within an hour or two of each other.

I spent an interesting few weeks in Iran once - funnily enough Tehran had a similar feel to Tel Aviv (the northern suburbs at least): cosmopolitan and relaxed, and what you might call a cafe culture. I've never been invited to more parties than I was in the time I spent there - every other night it seemed like I was at one. Drink was scarce and expensive of course, which is no doubt why the youth I met smoked so much dope.
Such a shame it's run by a bunch of loons.

I should add I haven't been to either country for five of six years and I gather Iran may have changed for the worse since then.
post #3 of 14
If you intend to visit Israel keep in mind that several Arab countries (and some Asian ones too) may bar your entry if you have an Israeli visa stamped in your passport. No worries because you're not missing anything by being unable to visit Kuwait. If you want to visit Iran you'd run into a hassle. Obviously you'll want to research this issue.

I lived in the ME for a few years and lived in and visited several countries.

Now is the time of year to visit. At night it can drop below freezing, and some places even get snow - you can ski in Turkey and Lebanon. Daytime highs are 15 - 20 C.

In most countries public transport is poor to non-existent; Turkey and Israel are fine. Renting a car requires an International Driver's License. You'll have to rely on taxis, mini-buses and guides. Arab drivers are nuts, so the ME isn't the place to learn how to drive.

English is widely spoken in the Gulf states (many Filipino and Indian laborers), Lebanon, and urban Turkey. Less so in Egypt and Jordan, but the places most frequently visited you should have no problem.

Firstly, the countries you can't visit or needn't bother with.
1) KSA
2) Kuwait
3) Iraq, though you could visit Kurdistan
4) Syria is too dangerous currently
5) In the Emirates you can skip Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain.
6) Yemen is very dangerous currently, which is a pity because I'd like to see Old Sanaa. Note: plenty of travelers have been killed in other countries too, but I think Yemen is more dangerous than Egypt because the Yemeni gov't really can't govern. It's an imminent failed-state.

Countries that you can consider.
1) Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have done much to attract Arab and EU package tourists, and I don't know why the Europeans come. If you like enormous shopping malls, glass-and-steel architecture, $100 champagne brunches, and working girls then pick Dubai over Abu Dhabi. If you're a golfer both a good places.
2) Bahrain is for Saudis on a pub crawl. Lot of working girls.
3) Qatar is safe and boring. No compelling reason to visit, though.
4) Oman is worth a visit... if you've visited all the other places. It has an interesting history. But it's out of the way.

Countries to visit.
1) Egypt. Everyone thinks of Cairo, the Nile and the Pyramids, but Alexandria is a great city. You can also scuba dive in the Red Sea, which is considered the top dive place in the world. Sharm el Sheikh is a seaside resort popular w/ European and Arabs, especially Gulf Arabs.
2) Lebanon is a place that scares off many, but it shouldn't. Stay away from the refugee camps, Druze and Hezbollah areas.
3) Jordan. Petra is legendary. Wadi Rim has beautiful natural scenery. Aqaba is on the Red Sea. Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.
4) Israel. Needs no introduction.
5) Turkey. I think Istanbul is one of the world's great cities. There's plenty to see and do in western Turkey. And this is the country that to you can get off the beaten path, go east, and still be relatively safe.

Sorry to say, but this is very much the beaten track.

Based on your timeline you could do 2 - 4 weeks in Turkey, 4 - 7 days in Lebanon, 2 weeks in Israel, 1 week in Jordan, and 2 weeks in Egypt. If you have extra time you could add Cyprus, Tunisia and/or Morocco.
post #4 of 14
I'd agree with the above, with a slight expection - go to Qatar and see the islamic art museum. that is simply a museum that is worth a detour. as a matter of fact, if you could start in the Gulf you might want to see it early on, it will help you understand more of what you see on your trip.

If you don't go to Oman, you should see the "other" emirates - espectially Furujah, because the drive out of Dubai is very nice.

hanging out in Amman for a few days is cool, there are a lot of university students and places to hang out and meet people.

good luck
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the help guys!

Just wondering, did you guys travel with friends/family, or with groups/guides? Also what kind of budget did you guys set for yourselves?
post #6 of 14
Approx. 75% of my travel is solo, and the remainder is with my wife.

Budget? What's that? wink.gif

I always spend more... er much more... than I planned, so I've given up. But I'm also at the point in my life that I can't travel for 2 or 3 months at a time, so I don't have to plan $x per pay. When it's on my dime I try to find cheap hotels in the $20 - 50 range, but often enough I'm paying $100+. Meals are $5 to $20, but can easily pass $100. Visiting palaces, museums, etc. can be pricey in the ME, too.
post #7 of 14
Spent a week in Dubai for an f1 race a few years ago. Fun but kind of depressing. Just about any girl you meet by her self (or in a group of other girls) at a bar or club is working. No real reason to go there unless you can't find a hooker elsewhere.

Lebanon and Turkey sound really great to me. I guess you'd want to to go to Israel last to avoid border/customs issues.
post #8 of 14
Im in lebanon but dont know much else about other countries here. Its really no problem safety wise here anywhere. If youre straying with no direction alone the maximum that could probably happen is you get stopped at a palestinian or hezballah checkpoint and are told to turn around.

Its very safe to visit Baalbeck (shiite hezballah area) and Beiteddine (druze area).

Usually here its either the country is on fire or its safe.

Let me know of any help i could give.
post #9 of 14
Just make sure you don't deface any swastikas
post #10 of 14
I have only ever been to that part of the world for work. We employed local fixers and drivers. The drivers often made fine impromptu tour guides as well, knowing all the best places to go when we had a bit of time to spare. Of course, I wasn't paying then but if I ever went back as a tourist (i have often thought about it), I'd definitely look some of those guys up and get them to take us about.

You can travel to Egypt with an Israeli stamp, so going with Curzon's recommendations you could go clockwise round the Med coast from north to south - Turkey to Lebanon, Lebanon to Jordan, Jordan to Israel (there are flights from Amman to Tel Aviv, or you can can get taxis from Amman to the Allenby bridge, then another one from there to Jerusalem), then make your way down to Eilat, where you can cross the border to Egypt.
post #11 of 14
curzon has a great list and its a shame about syria , because the people are extremely nice (claims of bedouin hospitality is not exaggerated). and if u skip the oil states the cost is quite minimal. iran is worth a trip with shiraz, esfahan, etc. not sure where you're from but will likely need to plan some time for Visa as well
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curzon View Post

Based on your timeline you could do 2 - 4 weeks in Turkey, 4 - 7 days in Lebanon, 2 weeks in Israel, 1 week in Jordan, and 2 weeks in Egypt. If you have extra time you could add Cyprus, Tunisia and/or Morocco.

This sounds like a good route to take. Would it be better to travel by bus when crossing borders? If so, is that something that would be better to arrange when I actually get to my starting point in Turkey?

If i decide to mostly travel by bicycle (or motorcycle if i can get a license for one) is camping a dangerous thing to do in general?

Also, the only piece of technology i intend to bring is my phone and a gps, but I would like to bring my macbook along as a luxury. Is that a bad idea?
post #13 of 14
Don't really have to add something useful, but I wish you lots of fun, great new impressions and enjoy the great food.
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip View Post

This sounds like a good route to take. Would it be better to travel by bus when crossing borders? If so, is that something that would be better to arrange when I actually get to my starting point in Turkey?
If i decide to mostly travel by bicycle (or motorcycle if i can get a license for one) is camping a dangerous thing to do in general?
Also, the only piece of technology i intend to bring is my phone and a gps, but I would like to bring my macbook along as a luxury. Is that a bad idea?

i don't think the macbook is any more likely to get stolen or broken in the middle east than it would be when touring europe say, so take it if you think it'll come in handy. It's extra weight to haul about if you're cycling of course...

You couldn't do the route suggested by Curzon by land as you can't get from Turkey to Lebanon without passing through Syria (bad idea at the moment sadly). And then I don't think you can get directly from Lebanon to Israel by any means, let alone a land crossing - which is why I suggested going via Jordan. But Lebanon does not have a border with Jordan either so again you'd have to go via Syria. I think you'd basically have to fly from Turkey to Lebanon (though maybe there's a ferry?) and from Lebanon to Jordan. It should be possible to do it all by land from there on in.
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