The small island nation of Bahrain may be known internationally as a modern oil state, but it has kept many reminders of its long history. Besides the glass towers and shopping malls of the capital Manama, Bahrain also has historic sights such as the Khamis Mosque, one of the Gulf’s oldest places of worship, and the traditional architecture of the island city of Muharraq.
Iran is a wonderful, ancient country with a captivating history, a thriving culture and a delicious and varied cuisine. New visitors are greeted by a friendly, accommodating population, which is perhaps contrary to the Iran we are presented by the media. The capital Tehran is a bustling metropolis, with fantastic museums and cultural highlights, but the true draw to Iran is the beautifully diverse landscape – from stunning inhospitable desert to rugged mountainous regions and everything in between.
Jordan is a desert kingdom, which has been attracting tourists, traders, diplomats and refugees for 2,500 years. For anyone interested in ancient civilisations and the lands of the Bible, Amman is an essential stamp in the passport. After the heat and dust of Wadi Rum and Petra, there’s welcome relief in the laid-back Mediterranean resort of Aquaba and the saltier pleasures of the Dead Sea.
Overlooking its own bay, tucked into the head of the Gulf between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait City bristles with skyscrapers but has a history extending back more than 300 years. Its port once traded incense, spices and pearls; now, following the discovery of oil, Kuwait has found new prosperity.
Arabic and Mediterranean cultures co-exist in Lebanon, a small but astonishingly fertile and varied country sandwiched between Syria and Israel. Its location at the crossroads of competing faiths and ideologies has been the cause of much strife – but has also left an incredibly rich cultural and archeological legacy. Lebanon celebrates the 70th anniversary of its independence in 2013 – and no city knows how to celebrate better than Beirut.
Combine sea and desert activities for the perfect Oman holiday. Dive or snorkel the aquamarine waters, then relax under a date palm. Explore Oman's ancient desert forts and hike to lush oases. Climb Jebel Shams, Oman's highest mountain. No Oman holiday would be complete without visiting Muscat's mosques, museums and markets.
Visit archaeological sites at Al-Zubarah or gaze up at high-rises along the coastal Corniche promenade in Doha. Lose yourself looking for bargains to take home from bustling souk markets, then cool off on a boat trip to the islands surrounding the Qatar peninsula.
Explore the cultural heart of the Middle East. From the modern business metropolis of Riyadh to the holy Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia offers a range of historical and cultural experiences. Roughly divided into five historical regions, from Hejaz on the Red Sea coast - the city where most of the country's trade and commerce takes place, to the Eastern Province.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a heady mix of Arab traditions and western consumerism, with sparkling modern cities lapped by the ocean and remote desert oases shaded by date palms. Admire ingenious skyscraper architecture in Dubai and Abu Dhabi or laze on remote beaches in Ras al Khaimah.