Some -but not all- Of The Middle East’s Hidden Gems

When planning a trip, we rarely consider the Middle-East as an option, though their visa procedures are easier, it’s in some cases cheaper, and above all there won’t be any language barriers, or huge culture differences. And when we do it’s usually to Lebanon’s Beirut to enjoy nightlife, and to ride a cable car or ski in Faraya, Dubai to shop till we drop at the Dubai Shopping Festival, or to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj or Umra.  We often forget that our region is filled with interesting places and sights that totally worth checking out.

Therefore we have put together a list that only mentions some -but not all- of the most extraordinary sites in the Middle-East.

Haraaz Mountain Villages & Socotra In Yemen

Yemen…Yes, Yemen! Yemen is credited to be the first place where coffee was consumed as a beverage, it appeared in the middle of the 15th century in Yemen’s Sufi monasteries, where farmers used and still transform the collected beans from Haraaz mountain into coffee blends as we know them today. Haraaz mountain is home to several mountain villages, the most famous are Al-Hajarah Village known as the fortified village (Al-Hajarah Fort) the most accessible, offering stunning views of the city. It has been built out of huge blocks of natural stone in the 12th century, making you feel that the whole village was mountain-carved.

4325360732_733ec1f25e_zAl-Hajarah Mountain Village by yeowatzup
15355738720_eb3fd73dc5_zStreets of Al-Hajarah Village by Rod Waddington

The next or probably the first best thing in Yemen would be the Socotra Archipelago that consists four islands and two rocky islets. It’s a wildlife heaven, with some plant, reptiles, and land snails species native only to this island, not found anywhere else in the world, in addition to being a habitat to bird species, including some endangered species. Spanning along the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean gives Socotra a rich marine life, filled with coral reefs, and coastal fish species.

Socotra - FBSocotra Island in Yemen

Not to mention the beauty of the old capital city of San3a2 (San’aa).

16832667727_6961d83bd1_zOld city of Sanaa by Rod Waddington
16832146669_06423dcf28_zMore of Sanaa by Rod Waddington

Lebanon Mountain Trail (specially Baatara Gorge) In Lebanon

Known as Darb Al-Jabal Al-Lobnani; the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) extends from Qbaiyat in the north of Lebanon to Marjaayoun in the south, covering an area of 470 KM, along the way you’d pass by more than 75 towns, villages, and communities,  you’d see mountains, flowing rivers, cloud forests, valleys, waterfalls, holy shrines, and monasteries at an altitude ranging from 670 to 2,011 meters above sea level.

9064517437_fce77b0c8c_zQadisha Valley by cwirtanen

The LMT is divided into 26 sections, every section ranges between 12 to 20 KM, and each could be hiked in one day, that’s why the full trek would require 26 days of hiking to cover the whole distance, some hikes would necessitate a high fitness level, while others would be easy to finish. The LMT Association has trained guides, who for your own safety & enjoyment should be hired; walks along the trail should not be undertaken without a guide.

4056521853_33992b5a98_zBaatara Gorge by Serge Melki

The Baatara Gorge -also known as Baatara Pothole Waterfall or the Cave Of Three Bridges- is one of the most incredible sights on earth, it’s a masterpiece in the making for millions of years dating back to the time of dinosaurs!

18373630421_51ea93f937_oCourtesy of: Bo Stern

After winter time, when the snow covering Mount Lebanon melts, a beautiful waterfall starts to flow through a Three Bridges Gorge. Baatara Gorge is at Balaa village, and the waterfall is best seen in spring time around March to April. It’s better to avoid walking on the bridges, no matter how tempting they seem to be, as they are very slippery and so fragile.

Video by Red Bull

Wadi Mujib In Jordan

While everybody dreams of a crazy “floating on the water surface” experience at a 5 star Dead Sea Resort, and to explore the carved into the sandstones city of Petra, our recommendation would go for one or more of Jordan’s valleys.

6838899226_bb80c327b9_zFloating on the dead sea waters

Wadi Rum famous for its amazing rock formations, camping under millions of stars, and star-gazing.

wadi rum - fbWadi Rum -a.k.a The Valley Of The Moon

Wadi Mujib is the lowest nature reserve in the whole world, known as the Black Gorge, this is somewhere where you can enjoy hiking, canyoning, sliding, swimming, and abseiling all in one place. Make sure to be geared up with wet-suits and waterproof containers, because water would be your journey’s main highlight.

Wadi MujibAbseiling at Wadi Mujib by Stijn Nieuwendijk

Wadi Feid is the canyon with 12 waterfalls, Wadi Ghuweir offers a wonderful walk, and is close to Dana Nature Reserve home to several animal and plant species, it is the most ecologically diverse reserve in Jordan, and your chance to follow a hiking trail up to the charming city of Petra. But if you want to see the highest waterfall in Jordan head to Wadi Himara.
petra at night - blog
Wadi Hasa better completed over the course of two days, it is the longest following Wadi Mujib, the canyon itself is 15 KM long, you’d better have all needed equipment to camp somewhere for the night. In this trek, not only you’d walk through canyons, but would see palm trees and lush greenery.

3844978701_5291237c4f_zEnjoying water sliding at Wadi Hasa by Jonathan Gropp

Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Al Rub’ Al Khali, & Bimmah Sinkhole In Oman

Al Jabal Al Akhbar is part of Al Hajar Mountain range, which is mostly desert, however at high altitudes, it is usually moist enough to allow the growth of trees, shrubs, and to even grow walnuts, pomegranate, peach and apricot.

14981002557_27bd659e19_zAl Jabal Al Akhdar by Sylwia Pecio

Jabal Shams “Mountain Of The Sun” is the highest point in the mountain range, in Oman, and in eastern Arabia with an elevation of 3,000 metres high.

jabal akhdar - blogAl Jabal Al Akhdar

Al Rub3 Al Khali known in English as The Empty Quarter, is the second biggest desert in the world, lying between the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen & Oman, with day trips from each country to visit the Omani part – which is the most significant- with sand dunes that tower 30 stories high.

2690623016_4c980004e0_zAl Rub3 Al Khali by Christopher Eden

The Bimmah Sinkhole -a.k.a. Dibab sinkhole- has been formed due to the natural process of erosion, it is located in northern Oman at the Hawiyat Najm Park, and is characterized by its vibrant Turquoise shade. It’s a great way to freshen up, and to experience some natural fish-spa-pedicures as the sinkhole is a natural habitat for little fish who enjoy nibbling people’s toes.

13009177034_bb71bc77e7_kBimmah Sinkhole by Marlon Cureg

Tataouine & Dougga In Tunisia

Did you know that Matmata was one of many filming locations in Tunisia where the famous sci-fi Star Wars’ was filmed?!!! In 1976, the Hotel Sidi Driss was used as a filming location for Episode IV: A New Hope, which was the home of the Lars on planet Tatooine. And was re-featured in 2002’s Episode II: Attack Of The Clones.

6684670761_7dc3a81b93_zCourtesy of: Dmitry Mishin

Matmata is a small Berber speaking town in southern Tunisia, famous for its traditional underground troglodyte structures where residents live, once you step a foot you’d be immediately taken to Star Wars world.

1008586437_07f264abff_zCourtesy of: Vincent T

The name “Planet Tatooine” is derived from Tataouine the name of a Tunisian Berber village, that is more impressive than Matmata is, and well worth visiting specially Ksar Ouled Soltane that was used as a background for some of the Slave Quarters shots in Episode I.

4478305954_de433c87c4_zKsar Ouled Soltane by Sarah Murray

Interested to see one hell of a Colosseum that could compete with Rome’s?

7845219872_791c4049b3_zThe Colosseum by Dennis Jarvis

Or an Acropolis as impressive as Athens’?

7845300746_dc5f175f5c_zThe Acropolis by Dennis Jarvis

Then Dougga in northern Tunisia is the place to be. The road to Dougga is very scenic, and arriving there is very rewarding!

12308284564_0ef785b502_zRoad to Dougga by Jacqueline Poggi

Chefchaouen -a.k.a. Chaouen- In Morocco

Situated in the Rif Mountains, inland from Tangier & Tetouan, and is known for its blue-rinsed eye-catching houses and buldings. The village has been used as a fortress against the Portuguese invasion, which soon formed a part of the Spanish Morocco, hence the Moroccan-Spanish-Portuguese influence.
Chefouan in Morocco - blog
The village is very popular among tourists, specially those seeking unique local Moroccan handicrafts that aren’t produced elsewhere in Morocco, among which are native; goat cheese, woven blankets, rugs, leather wares, metal works, wool garments and spices. Kef Toghobeit Cave formely considered the deepest in Africa, but the discovery of deeper caves in Algeria has made it the deepest in Morocco. The cave is approximately 722 metres deep, and 4 KM long, near the settlement of Bab Taza.

22095344795_deabf9a1e5_zCourtesy of: Singa Hitam

And it goes without saying…

The Oases Of The Great Sand Sea In Egypt

This trip starts at Siwa, specifically Shali Fortress; a mud-brick fortress built in the 13th century where Siwans used to live, passing by Gabal Al Mawta -Mountain Of The Dead- where tombs are cut into the hillside, healing yourself in a hot sand bath at Gabal Dakrour, taking a dip at one of the refreshing, and self-healing water springs, cycling your way around the oasis, and above all enjoying camping and ecotourism at their best.

Note: You will need permissions to get from Siwa to other Oases. 

Shali Fortress in Siwa OasisShali Fortress in Siwa Oasis

Farafra is the best place to see leafy palm trees, and painted houses, and your starting point to Agabat Valley, and the great Crystal Mountain in the White Desert near Bahariya Oasis.

4196226778_600279d5d4_zThe White Desert by neijls
5821611568_0444d01af8_zThe White Desert by Marc-Olivier Bergeron

With Djara Caves at El-Dakhla, and Bagawat Necropolis in Kharga dating back to the 2nd century.

Djara Caves, El-Dakhla Oasis

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  1. this website is so interesting thanks and educational.

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