The Middle East is largely known for it's vast deserts and blistering hot weather. It's also, unfortunately, a widely stigmatized destination for travelers due to the ongoing wars in some of its parts, and the rising threat of extremism. 

Despite a lot of the negative press, the Middle East is a dynamic continent made up of 14 unique and diverse countries. Within many of these countries is a host of some the most marvelous cities. 

Many of the cities are modern paradises with beautiful buildings and luxury hotels and restaurants. The climate is generally hot and it's the ideal destination for those of who just can't get enough of the summer vibes. 

Dubai, UAE

First thing's first: the United Arab Emirates is one of the most crime-free countries in the world. Popular for its two most opulent destinations, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE, fueled by it's vast oil reserves, has plenty of luxury in full view. But Dubai is slightly more impressive and is the city on the spotlight here. 

Dubai has several spectacular wonders, including the world's tallest structure, the megatall skyscraper, Burj Khalifa. Amoungst its list of tourist draw cards are the camel safaris in the desert and its pristine white sandy beaches. 

Oh, and for those who operate under the ethos, "Shop 'til you drop" Dubai offers some of the best malls in the world, and it's completely duty-free. Hooray!


Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey has been embroiled in its fair share of political turbulence over the last few years. Despite this, things have stabilized somewhat over the last few months. 

Istanbul is Turkey's most populous and vibrant city. Storied mosques and churches coupled with modern restaurants and nightclubs make the city a diverse melting pot of different cultures, ideologies and beliefs. 

The traditional Turkish bath ( the hamman) is popular amoungst tourist and sees ones skin getting scrubbed clean for about R300. Like, completely clean, apparently. 

Among the city's other popular activities are visits to its small bazaars, festivals, Aghia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Place. Istanbul offers a mix of Asian, European and Middle Eastern culture. Given that Istanbul is a transcontinental city straddling the Bosphorus strait (which separates Europe and Asia), this shouldn't be much of a surprise.


Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut is probably best known for having been through the lengthy, bloody civil war spanning 25 years between 1966 and 1991. 

Two and half decades on and it's one of the middle East's safest cities. It's also one of the most westernized cities on the continent, yet still maintaining it's Middle Eastern charm.

Ancient monuments and architecture are cornerstones to this charm, and they are all over the place. In the midst of the rubble — the remnants of the civil war  — Beirut has several stunning beaches, clubs, luxury hotels, fine restaurants and other eye-catching attractions. Culturally, it's diverse and, thankfully, vacationing isn't too heavy on the pocket.