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Lonely Planet Middle East

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Middle East is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Be awed by the grandeur of Istanbul's Aya Sofia, contemplate history at Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, and explore the wonder of Giza's Pyramids; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of the Middle East and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Middle East:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, religion, architecture, cuisine, arts, landscape, environment, traveller etiquette, safe travel, women travellers
  • Over 75 maps
  • Covers Egypt, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Middle East, our most comprehensive guide to the Middle East, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

  • Looking for a guide focused on Turkey, Egypt or Iran? Check out Lonely Planet's Turkey, Egypt or Iran guides for a comprehensive look at all these countries have to offer.
  • Also check out Lonely Planet Istanbul, a detailed guide to the city's most renowned attractions, or Pocket Istanbul, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Anthony Ham, Sofia Barbarani, Jessica Lee, Virginia Maxwell, Daniel Robinson, Anthony Sattin, Andy Symington, Jenny Walker

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

List price: $29.99

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Egypt

ePub

As Herodotus wrote in the 5th century BC, Egypt ‘has more wonders in it than any other country in the world’. But the Pharaonic temples and pyramids that awed the Greek historian are just the beginning.

In desert monasteries, Egypt’s native Christians, the Copts, preserve two-millennia-old rituals. Egypt ruled the Islamic empire from Cairo, the City Victorious, where the medieval core is still a mesmerising warren.

Out west, sand stretches to the Sahara, dotted with green oases and ghostly rock formations. To the east, the crystal waters of the Red Sea support a vivid frenzy of underwater life. On the Sinai Peninsula, visitors can climb the mountain where God is said to have had words with Moses, and spend their remaining days at beach camp Shangri-Las.

ADec–Feb Egypt’s ‘winter’ high season is sunny and warm, with chilly nights.

AMar–May Spring brings occasional dust storms that can disrupt flight schedules.

 

Iran

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Rewarding doesn't begin to cover Iran as a destination. This exceptionally welcoming country has a multifaceted history and rich, artistic culture manifested in myriad ways. Hospitality is a way of life here and chatting with locals over tea or a meal will likely provide your most memorable moments.

Stunning mosques, palaces and ruins from different eras provide architectural wonder, while the shopping culture of the brilliant bazaars adds a colour beyond description. The outdoors, too, is captivating, with baking deserts and soaring mountain ranges providing a spectacular backdrop wherever you gaze.

Good, cheap transport makes getting around easy and Iran is also very safe for travellers. Though Iranian citizens are often subject to government repression, culturally sensitive and respectful foreigners are unlikely to encounter problems. In fact, many travellers rate Iran as their most-memorable-ever travel experience: come and see why.

AJan Skiing in the Alborz Mountains near Tehran.

 

Iraq

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Torn between its glorious past and its recent bloody history, Iraq is a country in turmoil. Following the 2003 US-led invasion and the problems that ensued, the country had little time to recover before a wave of violence swept through in June 2014, when jihadist group Isis took control of large swaths of north Iraq.

While the majority of the country is extremely dangerous, some parts of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region are still relatively stable. The security situation here can change rapidly too of course, but much of the enclave has so far remained insulated from violence.

Surrounded by imposing mountains, dotted with lakes and home to numerous archaeological sites, the Kurdish region is largely untouched by tourism. Its future may be far from certain, but the warm and hospitable people here are inspiring nonetheless.

Iraq, including the Kurdish region, remains volatile, so be sure to keep up to date with the news and check with your foreign office for current advice before travelling.

 

Israel & the Palestinian Territories

ePub

At the intersection of Asia, Europe and Africa, Israel and the Palestinian Territories have been a meeting place of cultures, empires and religions since the dawn of history. Cradle of Judaism and Christianity, and sacred to Muslims and Baha’is, the Holy Land offers visitors the opportunity both to immerse themselves in the richness and variety of their own religious traditions and to discover the beliefs, rituals and architecture of other faiths. Distances are short, so you can relax on a Mediterranean beach one day, spend the next rafting down the Jordan River or floating in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, and the day after that scuba diving in the Red Sea. Hikers can follow spring-fed tributaries of the Jordan, discover verdant oases tucked away in the arid bluffs above the Dead Sea, and explore the multicoloured sandstone formations of Makhtesh Ramon.

AFeb–Apr Hillsides and valleys are carpeted with wildflowers; the ideal season for hiking.

 

Jordan

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Ahlan wa sahlan! – ‘Welcome!’ From the Bedouin of Wadi Rum to the taxi drivers of Amman, you’ll be on the receiving end of this open-armed welcome every day. It’s this, and a sense of stability amid a problematic neighbourhood, that makes travel in Jordan such a delight.

With heavyweight neighbours pulling big historical punches, Jordan easily holds its own. Amman, Jerash and Umm Qais were cities of the Roman Decapolis, while biblical sites include Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan, where Jesus was baptised, and Mt Nebo, where Moses reputedly surveyed the Promised Land. Grandest of all is the impressive Nabataean capital of Petra, carved from vertical cliffs.

But Jordan is not just about antiquities – it also offers the great outdoors. Whether diving in Aqaba, trekking in the camel-prints of Lawrence of Arabia or hiking through stunning canyons, Jordan’s eco-savvy nature reserves offer the best of adventures in the Middle East.

AMar–May The weather is perfect, with warm days, cool nights and spectacular wildflowers.

 

Lebanon

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As contradictory and challenging as it is charming, this diminutive Mediterranean nation stands with one bejewelled slipper in the Arab world and one Manolo Blahnik planted firmly in the West. It’s a place where culture, family and religion are all-important, but where sectarian violence can too often erupt – claiming lives and scarring both the landscape and the national pysche.

Home to a world-famous national cuisine, a string of sexy beach resorts and the Middle East's most glamorous city (Beirut), this is also a country where the fiery orators and fierce foot soldiers of Hezbollah are based, and where scores of Palestinian and Syrian refugees currently shelter. Scarred by decades of civil war, invasions and terrorist attacks, yet blessed with magnificent mountain vistas, majestic ancient ruins and a people who are resilient, indomitable and renowned for their hospitality, Lebanon rewards the traveller with food for thought and a feast for the senses and the stomach. Don't miss it.

 

Syria

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At the time of writing, Syria is one of the most dangerous places on the planet. To put it simply, you can’t go. And if you can, you shouldn’t.

The uprising against the Assad regime that began in early 2011 long ago became a civil war. Syrians themselves have paid the heaviest price – an estimated 200,000 have died in the conflict and millions have been forced into exile. Most such tragedies happen far away from the international spotlight. But Westerners, including journalists and aid workers, have also been targeted, very publicly so, both for kidnapping and execution. By visiting Syria now, you would run the risk of both.

We have not, of course, visited Syria to update our coverage for this edition. For that reason, this chapter contains no information or advice for travellers to the country. Instead, we have shifted our focus to exploring what daily life is like for those still inside the country.

By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph. He has reported regularly from Aleppo and other parts of Syria since the start of the civil war.

 

Turkey

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Turkey is where Asia and Europe meet and meld together. The 'bridge between continents' tag may be a cliché but this nation's juxtaposition of modern sophistication and ancient tradition is a surprising and heady brew that turns many travellers' first perceptions on their head. Steeped in age-old culture but imbued with a contemporary go-getting pulse, Turkey defies being pinned down and is the perfect introduction to the Middle East.

Every empire builder worth his salt has left their mark here. Stare in wonder at İstanbul's deluge of Byzantine and Ottoman finery or explore the rambling ruins of Ephesus – actually just trip over a rock in Turkey and it's probably going to be rubble from some long-gone empire's era of glory. Afterwards, hike the lunarscape of Cappadocia or sun-bake on a beach backed by lush Mediterranean coastline and you'll discover a countryside just as mesmerising as its monuments.

A Apr–May Hit the trails. Spring is perfect for tackling Turkey's long-distance Lycian Way.

 

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