Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category


Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Jeddah (جدّة) also commonly spelled as Jiddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after it’s capital, Riyadh as well the largest city in the Makkah Province. The city is situated on the coast line of the Red Sea, in the west of the country. As of latest measurement the city Jeddah has a population of 5 million people.

The city of Jeddah is not a popular travel destination, mainly the millions of pilgrims along with several travelers that dear to go beyond regular destinations. Travelers that enjoy to explore the unknown will find out that Jeddah besides cultural and historical sightseeing also offers a complete different side. Other than mosques and other holy places the city also has several shopping and nightlife districts as it’s the major commercial center of Saudi Arabia. Malls, markets, restaurants and cafe’s can be found near the Jeddah Corniche (waterfront area) which is the largest in the kingdom, clustered around the area there’s accommodations such as hotels and resorts with private beaches.

There’s an old city side in Jeddah too, which is a protect area nowadays. Within the area you can find traditional houses which are built of coral taken from Red Sea reefs. In the old city you can also find several museums such as the Municipality Museum, it’s in fact the only remaining building of the British Legation in Jeddah since the first World War. In order to enter the museum you need a permit from the Jeddah Municipality, if permitted you’re free to entrance only after making an appointment.

If you are visiting from the United States, you will need a passport valid for at least six months. You also need to bring documents such as your return ticket. You will generally only be allowed a visa to Saudi Arabia if you are only passing through, visiting relatives or are there for religious or business purposes. If you are visiting as a tourist, you have to be part of an approved tour group.


Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Ajmān (عجمان‎) is one of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the most popular one. With an land area of just 161 square miles, Ajman is the smallest emirate by area. Ajman seats and has its own government and is surrounded to the north, south and east by Sharjah. As of latest measurement Ajman has a population of 370 thousand people.

As the city of Ajman is located in the middle of the United Arab Emirates, it’s an easy reach from anywhere within the country limits. Besides it being near to the ports, it’s also near to the international airports of Sharjah and Dubai. The city can be reached by taxi or car, and even when you count in rush hour traffic it’s less than an 30 minutes drive. Once in the city it’s easy to get round by taxi, unlike other Asian travel destinations the unmetered Ajman taxi’s are cheaper than the official metered ones. You can find the “unofficial” taxi’s in the Somali area.

Ajman is still a city that’s in heavy development, currently over large building projects are ongoing within city limits mainly focusing on tourism, travelers and sightseeing. As of now you can visit the Ajman beach, which is a main attraction, along with shopping areas and malls such as City Center Mall and fancy restaurants with local and international cuisine like India House and Lulu Hypermarket. Fast food counters are also located around city center like McDonalds and Pizza Hut. For nightlife there’s several cafe’s and clubs, where unlike Sharjah alcohol is being served.

Travelers to Ajman need a valid passport and visa. American citizens need only a valid passport, other nationalities may require to get a valid visa. The city is generally safe for travelers, although Americans are advised to be aware of their surroundings. In Middle Eastern countries threats to US citizens are of concern.


Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Sharjah (الشارقة) is one of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is the most popular one. The emirate of Sharjah comprises the city of Sharjah and other minor towns and enclaves like Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn and Khor Fakkan. As of latest measurement Sharjah has a population of 890 thousand people.

The city of Sharjah has interesting contrast of modern and history, exploring the city will show old and gigantic mosques next to modern shopping malls and office buildings rising sky high. Also is the city filled with spacious parks. It’s history also shows in several museums, for example it houses the biggest Art museum in the Gulf. Sharjah has been growing as a travel destination, because of tourism, new hotels, clubs, restaurants were built creating jobs in the city.

Other interesting Sharjah sightseeing includes the old market areas, where you can buy souvenirs, local snacks, carpets but also living animals. Sharjah has a good nightlife scenery, from fancy restaurants to clubs. Although the city comes with certain restrictions, due to religious reasons there’s no alcohol served anywhere in the city. If you fancy a drink, travel to Dubai which is a 30 minute car drive away.

Travelers to Sharjah need a valid passport and visa. American citizens need only a valid passport, other nationalities may require to get a valid visa. The city is generally safe for travelers, although Americans are advised to be aware of their surroundings. In Middle Eastern countries threats to US citizens are of concern.


Monday, October 19th, 2009

Hurghada is located on the Red Sea Coast of Egypt. A few years ago the city was just a small fishing village, but the city has continually been enlarged by investors. Their aim is to make Hurghada the largest and leading seashore resort on the Red Sea. These days Hurghada has a population of 248 thousand people and it is a popular destination for more than 96 thousand travelers every year. 

Hurghada consists of three parts; the old part, the city center and the modern part. The old part is downtown El Dahar where the largest bazaar can be found, as well as mosques, the post office and the long-distance bus station. Sekalla is the center with modest hotels and El Memsha or Village Road is the modern part of the city. Some parts of the city are still under construction. Hurghada is a modern city with no historical sites. Most of the city is filled with all inclusive resorts overlooking the beach. Near the city lie the Desert Mountains where you can take a safari trip.

Hurghada is a popular destination for numerous Europeans to spend Christmas and New Year holidays here. The city is known for its warm weather and relaxation. You can enjoy sun, sand and sea at one of the many holiday resorts. There is only one public beach along the 22 miles of beach. Unfortunately many of the coral reefs offshore have been damaged. Also popular among tourists are the city’s nightlife and the watersport activities. If you don’t like diving you can enjoy sea life at the Aquarium of the Marine Biology Museum a few miles north of the city.

Travelers to Hurghada require a valid passport and visa. A 30 days visa can be obtained upon arrival for $15 US. When you are in Hurghada, don’t forget to go to the uninhabited island of Giftun to enjoy the white beach and the magical coral reefs.

Sharm el Sheikh

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The city of Sharm el Sheikh is situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt on the coastal strip between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai. The population of Sharm el Sheikh has approximately 35 thousand people as of latest count. Sharm el Sheikh is better known as "The City of Peace" referring to the many international peace conferences that have been held there.

Sharm el Sheikh is a accessible and developed travel destination with sea, fun and sand mixed in between five-star hotels, shopping areas, water sports and nightlife entertainment. All round sightseeing include Bedouins, colorful tents, international chains, discotheques, golf courses and health facilities plus all the amenities you may expect of a tourist center.

Na’ama Beach located just North of Sharm el Sheikh is the most popular tourist destination for tourist activities, developing into its own resort town for diving and snorkeling, windsurfing and other water sports, from horses and camel riding to desert safaris it’s nearly impossible to suffer from boredom for the whole family. Most of the hotels in Sharm el Sheikh have their own private beaches and restaurant and bar facilities for fine dining and a beer at night.

For those who love to shop Sharm el Sheikh provides shops for local as well foreign products such as pottery, clothing, leather goods, jewelry and souvenirs.

Travelers to Sharm el Sheikh / Egypt are required a valid passport and visa. American citizens must have a valid passport, and require a visa. A 30 days visa can be obtained upon arrival for $15 US. For the best temperatures travel to Sharm el Sheikh from May till October.


Friday, August 21st, 2009

Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and situated in the north of the country. It is located on the Mediterranean shoreline of Israel below the Mount Carmel. It has become a major seaport. The city has a population of approximately 300 thousand people and is a multicultural melting pot of Arabs and Jews living here. 

Haifa is all about working and praying. The city itself is therefore not designed for tourists. Still, there are lots of interesting sights and entertainment for tourists. Haifa has developed into a hi-tech industry, bringing many theaters, cinemas, hotels and shopping malls to the city. Arab and East European influences combine traditional, contemporary, sophisticated and relaxed atmospheres together in one city. Within Haifa lies the village Kababair, home to Muslim inhabitants belonging to the Ahmedi sect.

One of the main attractions in Haifa is Mount Carmel. Here you can enjoy breathtaking panorama views. On the mountain are the Baha’i Holy Shrines, visited by pilgrims, with the Shrine of the Bab, seat of the Universal House of Justice and the Terraces. Also located on the mountain is Gan Ha’em park which is home to a small zoo and the Druze villages. Within the grounds of the zoo you can visit three museums. Other attractions are the caves of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, the church Stella Maris and Haifa University, open to visitors. You can relax at one of the beaches on the southwest side of the city.

Travelers to Haifa require a valid passport and return ticket. American citizens don’t need a tourist visa. Haifa has a Mediterranean climate, so hot dry summers and cool rainy winters.


Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Luxor is a city in the south of Egypt with a last know population of 377 thousand people. The city is an area of 161 square miles. Luxor is a very popular travel destination in southern Egypt and the Nile Valley. It is known as the world’s greatest open air museum as it holds so many treasures of ancient times. The city lies on the banks of the Nile River.

Luxor was once the ancient city of Thebes. It was the glorious city of the God AmonRa. In the 11th Dynasty the town grew into a thriving city. It became a center of high luxury, wisdom, art, religious and political supremacy. Later it rose to the major political, religious and military capital of Ancient Egypt. After it had been attacked by an Assyrian emperor the city of Thebes fell in significance and ruins. It did remain a sight of spirituality.

The city of Luxor is a relatively small town for Egyptian standards. The center on the East Bank holds restaurants, hotels and shops. Within this modern city stand the ruins of the temple complexes of Luxor, built by Armenhotep III, and Karnak. The Luxor Temple is a beautiful complex with four pillared courts and hypo style halls and holds some colossal statues of Ramses II. Most of the ruins and tombs of ancient Egypt are located on the West Bank of the Nile River. Here tourists can find The Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Tombs of the Noble.

Travelers to Luxor require a valid passport and visa. A 30 days visa can be obtained upon arrival for $15 US. Most tourists stay on the East Bank and travel to the West Bank to visit the tourist sites. In recent years there have been built hotels on the West Bank where many independent travels find their place to sleep.


Friday, August 14th, 2009

Antalya is a popular beach city in the southwest of Turkey on the Mediterranean coast. The city has more than 777.000 people living in it. The province and city Antalya are part of the Turkish Rivera and mostly known for its beaches and nightlife. It is definitely a popular destination for travelers. Due to this fact Antalya has a great infrastructure and many restaurants, shops and clubs.

Antalya is situated on coastal cliffs on the Mediterrenean Gulf of Antalya. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides and the sea on the other side. The town center is located on the rocky plain closest to the coast. The old center of the city is called Kaleici with narrow winding streets. The city also houses the Katel, the Ottoman citadel, and marina Yat Limani, which was once the old harbor.

Most tourists come to Antalya to enjoy the beaches. But the city also offers tourists places of ancient Greek and Roman times. Traveling to the ancient sites of Aspendos, Perge, Phaselis, Manavgat, Side and Termessos is easy. The city has one of the most impressive archaeological museum. Adventurous people can go scuba diving, sailing, paragliding, rafting, mountain climbing and tracking.

Travelers to USA or European travelers to Antalya need a valid passport and visa. This visa need to be bought on arrival at the airport, the VISA can be bought with your own currency, the visa is valid for a period of 3 months.


Friday, August 14th, 2009

Istanbul is the cultural and financial city of Turkey as well as the largest and most popular in this country. The city with its different districts has a population of 12.6 million registered people. It is believed that there are over 6 million non-registered people. Istanbul is strategically situated in the west of Turkey on two continents with the western portion in England and the eastern portion in Asia, divided by the Bosphorus Strait.

Istanbul has a long history since it has been part of many empires. It began as a part of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium. After this colony formed an alliance with the Roman Empire, emperor Constantine made it into the capital city of his Roman empire. The city then became known under the name of Constantinople and turned into a magnificent city. Under the leadership of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed in 1453 the city became a major cultural, political and commercial center. The city stayed capital city until Kemal Ataturk moved the capital of the Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923, to the city of Ankara.

Istanbul offers tourists many museums, parks, bazaars, old mosques and palaces, such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Sultanahmet Mosque. There are also many beautiful waterside palaces around the Bosphorus. Tourists can take a boat trip along the Bosphorus. It is always recommended to visit a special Turkish bath, known as a hamam. The city of Istanbul is crowded with restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs. The transport system of the city may be difficult to figure out as maps are rare and transferring is often necessary. Tourists can easily use the Turkish Smart Tickets, AKBIL, to get around the city.

Travelers to Istanbul need a valid passport and visa. Tourists from the USA or the European Union can buy their visa directly on the airport of Istanbul, before queuing for passport control. This visa can sometimes be bought with own currency and cash money is required, since there is almost no change available. It is valid for three months. The city of Istanbul can be reached by airport bus, metro and tram or taxi, by train or by ship.


Sunday, March 8th, 2009

It is a truly blessed experience to be able to finally see Jerusalem. Israel’s seat of government does not just offer breathtaking views but also offer a feeling of immense spirituality. It is understandable that a city as old as Jerusalem, which goes back 4,000 years before Christ and whose name means “holy,” can create such a definitive impact in a visitor’s life. This is, after all, the birthplace of the three major faiths. Unfortunately, it has also experienced several conflicts that withstand millennia of hate. Still, the most populated city of Israel is home to 750 thousand people according to the latest measurement. This is despite the fact that millions of Jews have spread all over the world.

The people of Jerusalem should not be regarded in terms of religiosity alone. Generally highly spiritual, Israelis are also very artistic. Jerusalem’s museums can offer not only archeological marvels but can also showcase updated works of modern artists. There is also a high emphasis on knowledge, through book fairs. The city also offers theatrical performances, concerts and plays. A visit to Jerusalem can truly be overwhelming to the senses. Do not get too overwhelmed, however. Beware of religious fanatics and activists.

To reach Jerusalem, you must book a flight or a series of flights ending on Atarot Airport, located in the city itself. If you are in Tel Aviv, you can take a train to Jerusalem. Within the city, you can get around by bus or tram if you want to save money. However, taxis are also available if you want comfortable travel. You can also rent a car so that you can drive around to your heart’s content. You may also rent a bike though it is a little tougher to maneuver on Jerusalem’s hilly parts. While going around, be prepared for Jerusalem’s Mediterranean climate. This means hot summers and rainy winters. Though a Jerusalem summer can get really hot and dry, it is still cooler than that of Tel Aviv’s.

If you are American, you do not need a tourist visa to visit Israel. You do have to present a passport which is still valid for six months and your return ticket from Israel.