The Middle East is an extraordinary and fascinating cruise destination. Although the term has in recent years become somewhat synonymous with ideas of political unrest, visitors to the region find it is hard to see why.
The ancient birthplace of the major religions - Christianity, Islam and Judaism - is today a charming place, both beautiful and curious, where epic histories meet affluent business hubs, oozing with delightful culture and decadent architecture.
A popular year-round cruise destination, the Middle East has more than enough to offer the luxury cruise passenger. Most cruises around this region incorporate the highlights of northern Africa, commonly making stops at the ports of Egypt, as well as the popular eastern ports in Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Though technically part of Africa, Egypt is a popular destination on cruises to the Middle East and serves as an ideal introduction to the diverse cultures in the region. The beaches around Sharm El-Sheikh have some fine sites for diving and snorkelling, while a stop at Safaga is an ideal base from which to explore stunning ancient tombs and temples at Luxor.
The bustling capital, Cairo, is home to some architectural masterpieces, as well as being the gateway to the iconic site of the Pyramids and the Sphinx.
Further east, the great port town of Aqaba in Jordan is a popular destination for diving and snorkelling and is within comfortable proximity of Petra, an ancient city carved from the cliffs.
Muscat, the capital port city of Oman, is one of the greatest stops in the region. Devoid of the high-rise buildings that can often be found in port cities, Muscat is full of character and offers some remarkable architecture that reflects tradition.
Another popular Oman port of call is subtropical Salalah, a bright city boasting some exquisite beaches with fertile surrounding plantations.
For further natural beauty, Israel's Haifa is considered one of the most picturesque cities in the Middle East, with some stunning city gardens and the United Arab Emirates city of Al Fujayrah is set against some dramatic mountain scenery.
One of the most iconic ports of the region is the glamorous and extravagant metropolis of Dubai.
Popular ports of call in the Middle East include Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said, Sharm El-Sheikh and Safaga, all in Egypt; Haifa, Israel; Khusab, Muscat and Salalah, all in Oman; Jessah, Saudi Arabia; Al Fujayrah and Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Aden and Al Hodeidah, Yemen.
Middle Eastern cruises most commonly run between Dubai, through the Suez Canal in Egypt, as far as Istanbul, Turkey, or Athens, Greece. Some lines travel across the Mediterranean as far as Venice, Italy or Nice, France.
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