Middle East

The timeless landscapes and archaeological treasures bring visitors from across the world to The Middle East. The celebrated cities and sacred sites will take you back in time, through historic vaults that reveal much about the cultures and the conflicts that continue to shape this fascinating land.

About The Region: Middle East

Years of war and turmoil have made the Middle East a less-traveled region, however, there are amazing destinations for travelers throughout. Dubai is a mecca for international travel and over-the-top luxury, The Pyramids of Giza attract nearly 15 million visitors every year and Tel Aviv, Jerusalem combines sandy Mediterranean beaches with a world-class nightlife, a buzzing cultural scene, incredible food, UNESCO recognized architecture, and an international outlook. 

When to Go

The Middle East is renowned for its hot, dry desert climate, interspersed with tall mountain ranges and little patches of oasis. Despite the rather consistent climate, boiling under the blazing sun is a real concern when temperatures can reach an easy 120°F. Get to know the slight differences in this region’s climate and you’ll experience the Middle East at it’s best.

Spring – Falling roughly between March, April and May, spring is largely considered the best time to visit the Middle East thanks to the lovely, warm temperatures and blooming of wild flowers in the mountainous regions. This makes it the perfect time to tackle a trek through Jordan’s Dana Nature Reserve to arrive at the Rose City of Petra. It’s equally a good a time for sightseeing around Israel’s many religious monuments with speckles of color provided by hydrated foliage. Try out windsurfing or check out the endless festivals in Turkey.  

Summer – Hot! Hot! Hot! June, July and August are unbearably hot, so head to the Israeli’s coast to cool down at one of many Tel Aviv beaches or witness a night-time spectacle as the Perseids meteor shower decorates the sky in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Have a scenic pick-nick during the Salalah Tourism Festival, where visitors flock to enjoy a desert-turned-oasis after monsoon season in Oman.

Autumn – Cooler hints of autumn begin to greet countries of the Middle East, but many are still baking under intense rays. During September, October and November you can wander Turkey’s postcard-like, Turquoise Coast or thermal pools with minimal crowds, attend the final Formula One race of the year in Abu Dhabi, or run over 100 miles across the Middle Eastern desert, between Petra and Wadi Rum at Jordan’s Running Adventure Race. There is still plenty to do as the temperatures settle down.

Winter – Pleasantly warm during the day, bitingly cold at night and overall less crowded! Low-season prices apply in most areas, except in Christian areas at Christmas, at ski resorts and in Egypt where Europeans flood in search of winter sun. December, January and February are great months to enjoy the snow, and yes it snows here! Snorkeling and diving are a coastal pass-time in Middle Eastern countries where the temperatures are still warm.

Travel PrerequisiteS

The DoD Foreign Clearance Guide outlines all the requirements you must complete before traveling. The requirements vary by combatant command and country and they change continually based on current threats.

  • Approved liberty (This process varies greatly from unit to unit, be sure to check local guidelines)
  • Completed itinerary 
  • The DoD Foreign Clearance Guide may suggest completion of additional travel prerequisites that may include the following:
    • Level 1 Anti-Terrorism Awareness Training via JKO
    • SERE 100.2 via JKO
    • Travel Tracker Individual Anti-terrorism Plan (TT/IATP) 
    • Country Clearance via Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System (APACS) 
    • Theater Clearance via APACS
    • Special Area Clearance
    • Isolated Personnel Report training
    • SCI Brief via local command
    • Detailed Itinerary

Military Installations and Historical Sites

The United States continues to have a vast military presence in the Middle East and permanent bases should not be considered exceptional resources for liberty. With that being said, travelers will find bases location in Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and The United Arab Emirates.

Travel Considerations

The Middle East hasn’t received the best reputation due to political and military instability, but sands are shifting and this region is becoming a hotspot for world wanderers wanting to experience travel at new, untouched levels. Nearly 60 million tourists visited the Middle East in 2018 and many articles are buzzing about the top reasons to travel to this part of the world.

Like many other continents in the world, there are some countries or cities that are legitimately unsafe for travelers. It is always recommended that at the time of planning any trip, that you check the current political climate or general state of affairs in the country you are thinking of visiting.

The trick is simply knowing the do’s and don’ts both geographically and logistically. Here are some valuable safety tips for travel in The Middle East

  • Vaccinations are recommended and required for some parts of this region. A detailed list can be found here from the World Health Organization.
  • Check The Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs travel advisories regarding the safety of every country.
  • It is a local custom in most places in the Middle East to dress conservatively, especially if you are female. Loose pants and a long linen shirt are best and will help to blend you in with the locals and detract attention from you. You may also choose to wear a cotton scarf to cover your chest. In more modest cultures such as that of Afghanistan it may be required for women to cover their hair.
  • Physical contact with any Middle Eastern female is considered highly offensive, and as a visitor, you should respect this custom and refrain from it.
  • If you come across any large gatherings or demonstrations in the streets, it is best to keep your distance from this, and do your best to cooperate with any authorities.
  • After researching the exact Middle Eastern countries that you will be travelling to, be sure to investigate which parts of the country are dangerous for tourists and should not be visited. For example, Pakistan’s North-eastern border with India known as the ‘Kashmiri Line of control’ should be avoided, as well as Iran’s border with Afghanistan and Pakistan due to political issue and civil unrest. It is very important to be aware of this.
  • Be respectful of Middle Eastern holy places, such as mosques and remove your shoes and cover your shoulders and legs when visiting. Skirts or shorts are unacceptable and will attract unwanted attention.
  • In some parts of the Middle East such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, you must ask permission before photographing certain buildings and people. It is also important to steer clear of photographing and military buildings, as some local countrymen are wary of the remnants of soviet-era surveillance.
  • Although shaking hands is an acceptable and standard greeting in the Western world, holding hands in public in the Middle East is not accepted and is frowned upon. It is best to refrain from contact, introduce yourself, and address locals by their full name that they were introduced with.
  • Navigating yourself around any Middle Eastern city during the night is considered unsafe. If it is necessary to do so, try to travel in groups and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Although many in the tourist industry speak English, the locals in most Middle Eastern countries will be flattered if you attempt the local language. Do your research on the basics before you leave, including the words for Hello, Goodbye, Thank you and Please.
  • When visiting the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, it is considered inappropriate to interact with men. Women who visit restaurants not accompanied by a male may be refused service or harassed.
  • In Saudi Arabia possessing alcohol is illegal, not to mention drugs. In many other Middle Eastern countries, alcohol may be accepted but is illegal to drink on the street.
  • During the holy month of Ramadan, the faithful fast from sunrise to sunset, so you can show respect by not consuming food or drink in front of those who are fasting.

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