Last updated: 12:14 PM ET, Thu October 12 2017

Middle East

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The Middle East is the great land of antiquities. It’s the land where many of the great ancient civilizations were born and developed into the modern world. Anyone interested in history, anthropology or archeology should visit the Middle East, the source of much of what is known about humankind. In the Middle East you can visit the sources of our modern world. Anyone interested in current events, politics and the future of the world should also take an interest in the Middle East, where many of the most important political developments that will set the future of the world are taking place.

The region of the Middle East is defined in different ways. Though Europe and Asia are considered separate continents by convention, they are in fact one land mass with Europe being a peninsula off Asia, the largest continent in the world. The border between Europe and the East is usually drawn at Turkey, specifically the city of Istanbul, a rich kaleidoscopic layering of many civilizations and cultures at the hinge point between Europe and Asia, West and East. East of Istanbul is Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.

Some draw the line there, limiting it to only countries on the Asian continent, but most include Egypt, which is really in North Africa, but Africa is not strictly separated from Asia. It is contiguous via the land bridge of Egypt between the Mediterranean on the north and the Red Sea. It’s possible to travel by land from Egypt to Jerusalem. If the definition includes Egypt, it should not stop arbitrarily there, but should also include the Arab countries along the Mediterranean rim of Africa: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Some definitions include Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is a large region with many different countries and cultures. What these countries all share is a common thread of history and culture, couched within tremendous diversity. The Arab culture is the dominant one of the region, but most of the major cultures of the world left their marks there as it was the crossroads of civilizations and the home of trade routes between Asia and Europe. From the times of ancient Egypt thousands of years ago to the present day, the Middle East has at the center stage of world affairs.

It is the home of the Holy Land, the center of origin of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i faith. It is the center of the world’s greatest oil deposits, making it vital in world politics. For tourists it is the center of enormous attractions, countless historical monument, modern urban centers, markets, a great variety of cuisine and adventure travel opportunities. In recent years American travelers have increasingly turned their attention to the Middle East for cultural and historical exploration, religious travel, casinos, beaches, spa and wellness, ocean cruising and adventure activities, such as hiking, biking, whitewater rafting. Egypt, with the Great Pyramids and many other monuments from ancient times, is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Israel, with its concentration of historical sites from the monotheistic religions, continues to draw greater numbers of visitors. Dubai, with its spectacular new architecture and dazzle, is gaining more attention. Turkey has been a big draw for Americans for decades. Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are a new frontier, just starting to appear on the horizon of the American travel industry.

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