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Top 12 Things to Do in the Middle East and North Africa

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Al-Khazneh or "The Treasury" in Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

The top things to do in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate layered history, provide exceptional cultural connection, and reveal heritage through landscapes and cuisines.

Explore Middle East landmarks by visiting the renowned pyramids or uncovering millennia-old temples. Wander the lanes of iconic North African marketplaces and revel in the artistry of fascinating museums. From family-friendly activities to scenic cruises, there are compelling ways to discover the differences and commonalities of each country in the regions.

Ancient wonders, exceptional flavors, and great beaches reveal only part of the treasures you can enjoy when discovering the top things to do in the Middle East and North Africa.

  1. 1. Experience the Wonders of the Ancient World
  2. 2. Delight in Traditional Local Flavors
  3. 3. Revel in the Gorgeous Coastline
  4. 4. Embrace the Diverse Galleries
  5. 5. Experience the World With Your Children
  6. 6. Find Exquisite Romance
  7. 7. Enjoy the Colorful Vendors
  8. 8. Indulge in a Unique Cruise
  9. 9. Revel in the Incredible Marine Life
  10. 10. Trek Surprising Trails
  11. 11. Take to the Skies for Great Panoramas
  12. 12. Uncover the Opulence of History
  13. Experience the Top Things to Do in the Middle East and North Africa

1. Experience the Wonders of the Ancient World

Ephesus, Turkey

Ephesus, Turkey

The ancient world continues to compel visitors from around the globe with promises of incredible ruins and gateways into the past. Around the Middle East and North Africa, the remains of historical civilizations provide glimpses into daily routines, epic battles, or immortalization rituals.

From stoneworks that tower over the desert landscape during a Turkey vacation to grand structures etched into canyon walls while exploring Jordan, marble pillars to the foundations of a holy monument, remnants of the ancient world prevail. Temples, tombs, fortresses, and libraries all share different stories, but continuously demonstrate engineering marvels and elements of the former civilizations we have yet to come to know.

Best Places for Ancient Ruins: Pyramids of Giza, Egypt • Volubilis, Morocco • Karnak Temple, Egypt • Masada, Israel • Ephesus, Turkey • Petra, Jordan • Temple Mount, Israel

2. Delight in Traditional Local Flavors

Meat and vegatables served in a tajine dish in Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira, Morocco

The flavors of the Middle East and North Africa may share foundational elements, but demonstrate how the distance between empires and kingdoms changed through the presence of local, seasonal ingredients. Marketplaces discovered on a Morocco tour, restaurants enjoyed on a visit to Israel, and home cooks celebrating tradition by sharing the aromatics of customary spices as they cook bring different dimensions to the travel experience.

The scents often drift into the streets, providing an idea of the dishes kitchens focus on. From falafel to warm pita bread, traditional dips to mounds of spices, the flavors may feel like familiar cousins across the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, but the differences highlight the unique qualities of each region and share the evolution of the cuisines over time.

Best Places for Food: Marrakesh, Morocco • Cairo, Egypt • Haifa, Israel • Amman, Jordan • Essaouira, Morocco • Nazareth, Israel • Gaziantep, Turkey

3. Revel in the Gorgeous Coastline

Hilton beach in Tel-Aviv, Israel

Tel-Aviv, Israel

Exceptional beaches are not the first images that spring to mind when thinking of the Middle East and North Africa, but the coastlines across the countries provide access to golden sands, quiet corners, gentle waves, and vibrant coral gardens.

The blend of ancient cultures and gorgeous shores provides endless options for enjoying the scenery, with activities that can take you above or below the water. Scuba or snorkel, enjoy a scenic sunset cruise, lounge in the shade, or visit a historic maritime wall that protected the city for centuries.

You will quickly find how the beaches along the Red Sea in Egypt, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean may not be the first thing people think of when visiting the Middle East and North Africa, but they should be.

Best Places for Beaches: Mirleft, Morocco • Tel Aviv, Israel • Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt • Patara, Turkey • Wadi Mujib, Jordan

4. Embrace the Diverse Galleries

Luxor Museum in Egypt

Luxor Museum in Luxor, Egypt

Museums are essential for showcasing history and culture in a single space, and the galleries across the Middle East and North Africa provide unique access to heritage that can date back thousands of years, but support contemporary life.

The museums provide ample diversity in their scope and designs, from connecting you to Islamic art as you discover the diverse things to do in Morocco to offering a timeline of ancient kingdoms as you enjoy the best places to visit in Egypt, exploring the stories of the Shoah and the importance of tolerance, to highlighting artifacts pertaining to Biblical history.

The pieces each museum displays can give you a better understanding of national culture, historical context, and local life.

Best Places for Museums: Cairo, Egypt • Marrakesh, Morocco • Jerusalem, Israel • Istanbul, Turkey • Amman, Jordan • Fes, Morocco

5. Experience the World With Your Children

Family walking in Tel-Aviv at sunset Israel

Tel-Aviv, Israel

Traveling with family means finding activities and places to visit that inspire and satisfy adults and children of various ages, and the Middle East and North Africa contain timeless cities and fascinating thrills that can capture the imaginations of youngsters and adults.

Whether hiking through beautiful terrain in teen-friendly places in Turkey or visiting a museum in Egypt dedicated to children, exploring ancient monuments or wandering vibrant and ancient marketplaces, the Middle East and North Africa can easily become a playground for the family, taking you camel riding or on a hot-air balloon adventure.

Best Places for Family-Friendly Activities: Tel Aviv, Israel • Marrakesh, Morocco • Cairo, Egypt • Bursa, Turkey • Petra, Jordan

6. Find Exquisite Romance

Couple on a rooftop in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

The Middle East and North Africa are romantic destinations. The scenery speaks to the magic of the desert, where golden sands and rolling dunes create a feeling of seclusion.

Glamorous mansions have become elegant accommodations within the romantic places of Morocco, the love between kings and queens has been immortalized in preserved tombs, and the possibility to relax on remote, sandy beaches adds romance to a couple’s Middle East and North Africa getaway.

Whether for a honeymoon, anniversary, or other passionate escape, you will find your expectations exceeded as you discover the history, heritage, and scenery your way.

Best Places for Couples or Honeymoons: Wadi Rum, Jordan • Cappadocia, Turkey • Erg Chebbi, Morocco • Luxor, Egypt • Old Jaffa, Israel

7. Enjoy the Colorful Vendors

Medina street market in Marrakesh, Morocco

Marrakesh, Morocco

Shopping in the Middle East and North Africa is an exciting adventure rather than a passive activity. Become part of the rustling crowds and enjoy the beauty of traditional style and timeless elegance scattered around a marketplace or within an opulent commercial center.

Shopping becomes invigorating as you take part in the custom of haggling, wander through the labyrinthine lanes of an ancient city center, find the iconic conical mounds of spices, and weave through lines of colorful lanterns.

Find clothing, carpets, and artwork, light pieces, shoes, and jewelry. The possibilities are endless, from elegant soaps in a high-end mall to essential oils in a private shop.

Best Places for Shopping: Tel Aviv, Israel • Cairo, Egypt • Marrakesh, Morocco • Istanbul, Turkey • Amman, Jordan

8. Indulge in a Unique Cruise

Two cruise ships on the Nile River in Egpyt

The Nile River in Egypt

The water can be majestic across the Middle East and North Africa, a symbol of life and in sharp contrast to the arid landscape most often associated with the region. A scenic cruise combines views of the water and landscape for a unique perspective.

From sailing the Nile River to snorkeling in the Red Sea, taking a scenic ride along the Atlantic Coast of Morocco or a romantic boat ride around a Turkish island, find luxury and stunning views, no matter where you choose to enjoy the water.

Best Places for a Scenic Cruise: Luxor, Egypt • Istanbul, Turkey • Eilat, Israel • Aqaba, Jordan • Essaouira, Morocco

9. Revel in the Incredible Marine Life

Scuba divers in the red sea

Eilat, Israel

The marine life around the Middle East and North Africa is often overlooked, but provides incredible insight into the regional ecosystems and local cuisines.

Coral gardens in the Red Sea shimmer with color, while deep seas are alive with unique mollusks and interesting fish as you travel around Egypt.

With the possibility of coming into contact with dolphins, sunken ancient cities, and curious parrotfish, the marine ecosystems will reveal much more than the fusion between the reefs and surrounding life. They will also showcase elements of Mediterranean and Atlantic civilizations.

Best Places for Scuba or Snorkeling: Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt • Coral Reef Beach, Israel • Aqaba, Jordan • Agadir, Morocco • Alanya, Turkey

10. Trek Surprising Trails

Hiking through the Sik in Petra, Wadi Musa, Jordan

The Sik in Petra, Jordan

The hiking trails around the Middle East and Morocco are exciting and surprising. Each new trail can give way to a fascinating vista or an unexpected discovery. You may anticipate routes leading to views of an empty desert, but the diverse regions offer more thrilling opportunities to enjoy, from waterfalls to ruins.

Venture into a rolling range to witness the highest peak in North Africa, wander over a canyon for exceptional views of ancient buildings carved into the walls, or hike to the top of a legendary mountain to follow in the footsteps of Moses. Hidden treasures become unforgettable memories when you take to the trails across the Middle East and North Africa.

Best Places for Hiking: Rif Mountains, Morocco • Golan, Israel • Sinai, Egypt • Petra, Jordan • Goreme National Park, Turkey

11. Take to the Skies for Great Panoramas

Luxor, Egypt

Luxor, Egypt

Hot-air balloons provide an immersive aerial experience across the Middle East and North Africa. The views of the surrounding landscape are inspiring as you absorb the expanse of the desert, the outlines of hidden tombs, or the vibrant colors of the winding canyon walls.

Natural rock formations can resemble fairy chimneys when viewed from the sky and the lush greenery below fades into the edge of golden, arid sands. Whether looking for romance or to entertain the family, interested in a new experience or a thrilling adventure, a hot-air balloon ride provides a unique perspective.

Best Places for Hot-Air Ballooning: Cappadocia, Turkey • Galilee, Israel • Marrakech, Morocco • Luxor, Egypt • Wadi Rum, Jordan

12. Uncover the Opulence of History

View of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey

Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey

The palaces across the Middle East and North Africa celebrate preserved luxury and historic opulence. The variety of architectural styles creates a wonderful introduction to the diverse histories and evolution of engineering kingdoms, shared and kept secret as they built their power, established empires, or cultivated artistic ideals.

Part of the beauty of each palace is the representation of a localized aesthetic and designs that reflect the surrounding environment. From Egypt to Jordan, Morocco to Israel, and leading away from the Bosphorus in Turkey, you can find exceptional examples of palaces reflecting the layers of the past and foundations of present-day culture you can uncover with our Middle East and North Africa travel guide.

Best Places for Palaces: Rabat, Morocco • Istanbul, Turkey • Aqaba, Jordan • Jerusalem, Israel • Cairo, Egypt

Experience the Top Things to Do in the Middle East and North Africa

Traditional riad interior in Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco

Elegant palaces, hot-air balloon adventures, and hiking trails that weave alongside the desert landscape bring the beauty of the Middle East and North Africa to life. Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey demonstrate the treasures for which the regions are known.

Find inspiration for your trip using our sample itineraries by visiting our Middle East and North Africa tours and vacations.

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