The Middle East is that region in Western Asia, South Eastern Europe and North Eastern Africa that separates Europe from Asia. "Middle East" is a political term as well as a geographical one, however, and exactly which countries are included in a description of the Middle East region often depends on the area's political situation at the time.
Traditionally, the Middle East includes such countries as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Its borders could stretch as far as Iran in the north-east and Turkey in the north-west, however, and it could even be taken to include northern Egypt. Some Middle Eastern countries, like Israel and Palestine seem to be in almost continual conflict - so tourists should exercise caution while visiting - while others, like Egypt, welcome tourists with open arms. The area shows great religious and cultural diversity and most of the countries have several official languages. Negotiating the Middle East can be a little daunting for the first time traveler, however, and it is recommended that they thoroughly research the areas they are going to visit before they set off. But the Middle East is so full of unforgettable archeological, cultural and historic experiences that everyone should visit it at least once in their lifetime.
Anyone with an interest in architecture, history and archeology should visit the ancient Rose City of Petra in Southern Jordan. Petra is carved from solid rock and stands in the shadows of the cliffs that gave it birth. It has recently been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the New World and also achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site status as far back as 1985. Petra was the capital of the Natabaean civilization from the 6th century BC until the city was crippled by a devastating earthquake in AD663. Abandoned and then lost for centuries, this fabled city was re-discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812 and is now Jordan's most famous tourist attraction.
The Dead Sea is another of the Middle East's iconic sites and lies on the border between Israel, Jordan and the West Bank Palestinian Territory. Geographically, the Dead Sea, or Yam HaMelach, is the lowest point in the world and lies at 394.6m below sea level. The extreme saltiness of the sea's waters permits no marine life and tourists delight in floating high on top of the water. A perfect day trip would include swimming in the Dead Sea and then visiting the nearby mountain stronghold of Masada where the Masada Sound and Light Show will light up the sky with its world-class pyrotechnical display.
There are far too many attractions in the Middle East to mention in one article or to see in one trip and other amazing sights include the Wahiba Sands desert with its 100m high sand dunes just outside of Nizwa in Oman, the world famous Rawcheh Pigeon Rocks in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, and the Souq al-Hamidiyya Market and Umayyad Mosque in fabled Damascus, the capital of Syria.
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