Introducing the Middle East
A cluster of countries between north-eastern Africa and Central Asia, the Middle East is a hotbed of ancient civilizations and nations with geographical, political and religious ties. While definitions of the Middle East vary, the common consensus is the area contains 15 countries with the largest being Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. And where these countries may share some common similarities, they also vary widely across culture, religion and political ideologies.
Consider what you know about the Middle East and then flip it. Renowned as a dry region – both alcohol- and climate-wise – the countries of the Middle East are variously known for their ancient civilizations or ultra-modern metropolises. A study in contrasts, you can see snow in Syria and Jordan, float on the Dead Sea or swelter in 50-plus degree heat in areas of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Iraq. It’s where you can traverse ancient cities like Damascus and Jerusalem, or be dazzled by the nascent skyscrapers of Dubai and modern cities like Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv, Tehran, Istanbul and Beirut. The major religious ideologies of Christianity, Islam and Judaism also originated in this small part of the world.
With absolute rule in the Gulf States and continued revolutionary uprisings sparked by the late 2010 Arab Spring sweeping across Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia, spearheaded by a predominantly young population, the times they are a changin’. As such, some of the most volatile countries in the Middle East come with a travel caveat of wait and see.
For those who do venture to the fascinating Middle Eastern region for travel or work, the rewards are great and the hospitality of the people and even the call to prayer is what resonates on your return home.