Middle East Wonders

Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia also was known as Aya Sofia is the most famous icon of Turkey. This museum is considered as the oldest museum in the world. According to history, this museum is 1400 years old. Located in Sultanahmet in Istanbul, this museum served as a church in the 6th century. Later, it was converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II of that time. That’s the reason why its interior depicts both Byzantine and Islamic architecture.

Blue Mosque is also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It is located at just a few minutes of walk from Hagia Sophia. The construction of Blue Mosque was started during the ruling of Sultan Ahmed I in 1609. It took about seven years to complete this grand mosque which is now an iconic attraction of Turkey. Though the mosque is a popular tourist attraction, Muslims pray here regularly five times a day. During the prayer time, tourists cannot enter the mosque. However, they can walk around the courtyard outside.

Hagia Sophia

We visited Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in 2009 as part of our 3-week Eastern Europe and Turkey trip.

Cappadocia & the Goreme valley

Cappadocia is an area in Central Anatolia in Turkey best known for its unique moon-like landscape, underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks.

Göreme is rich with history, but not all of Cappadocia’s troglodyte dwellings are museums. Some still serve as homes and others as hotels, which offer a truly unique hospitality experience.  Staying in a cave hotel is a highly recommended experience while in the area.

Whimsical boulders of Cappadocia

We visited Cappadocia in 2009.

Dome of the Rock & Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Dome of the Rock is a 7th-century edifice located in Jerusalem. It enshrines the rock from which Muḥammad is said to have ascended to heaven. The first domed shrine to be built, the Dome of the Rock is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The Dome of the Rock is located on a rocky outcrop known as Mount Moriah, where, according to Jewish belief, Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice. The inscriptions inside the building glorify Islam as the final true revelation and culmination of the faiths of Judaism and Christianity. The building is actually not a mosque but a ciborium, erected over a sacred site.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, at a place known as “Calvary” or “Golgotha”, and Jesus’ empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected.

The Dome of the Rock shrine, on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

We visited  Dome of the Rock & Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 2012 as part of our 23-day Egypt, Jordan & Israel trip.

The Nabatean city of Petra

Petra is without a doubt Jordan’s most valuable treasure and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer rock facade by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arabs who settled there more than 2,000 years ago. They turned it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

The entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1 km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 m high cliffs. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling. As you reach the end of the Siq you catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).

The Monastery is similar to design to the Treasury, but it is much larger (50 m high x 45 m wide) and much less decorated.

We visited Petra in 2012.

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum, also know as the Valley of the Moonis a spectacularly scenic desert valley in southern Jordan.  This area of is quite isolated and largely inhospitable to settled life. The only permanent inhabitants are several thousand Bedouin nomads and villagers. There is no real infrastructure, leaving the area quite unspoiled. Apart from the Bedouin goat hair tents, the only structures are a few concrete shops and houses and the fort headquarters of the Desert Patrol Corps.

Sunset at Wadi Rum

We visited Wadi Rum in 2012.

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the saline water of the lake led to the name ‘Dead Sea’ because no fish can survive in the salty waters. The other result of the salty water is their renowned health and healing properties, and the unique feature that one can float naturally in them.

The Dead Sea is a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.

Floating is a novelty that makes visiting the Dead Sea a kick, but most visitors come for the therapeutic value of the mud and salt water

We visited the Dead Sea in 2012.

The Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, is a staggering 828 meters  tall, soaring over Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It’s three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower and nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building. Laid end to end, its pieces stretch over a quarter of the way around the world.  It’s home to thousands of metres of office space, 900 private residences, the 160-room Armani Hotel.  There are two observation desks, the two-storey one on the 124 and 125th floors, and another one, the world’s highest, on the 148th floor.

At the bottom of the Burj Khalifa complex. The tour of the tower is worth the steep cost and advance booking requirement.

We visited Burj Khalifa in 2016 as part of our UAE, Oman and Qatar trip.

The Empty Quarter

The Rub’ al Khali desert, or commonly known as the Empty Quarter, is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The desert covers some 650,000 km2 including parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. It is part of the larger Arabian Desert.

Geologically, the Empty Quarter is the most oil-rich site in the world. Vast oil reserves have been discovered underneath the sand dunes.

We visited the Empty Quarter in 2016 while in Oman.

Jebel Shams

Jebel Shams, also known as Mountain of Sun is a mountain located in northeastern Oman north of Al Hamra town. Jebel Shams is best known not for its peak but for the view into the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul lying alongside it. The straight-sided Wadi Ghul is known locally as the Grand Canyon of Arabia as it fissures abruptly between the flat canyon rims, exposing vertical cliffs of 1,000 m and moreThe mountain is a popular sightseeing area located 240 km from Muscat.  

The Balcony Walk hike at Jebel Shams.

We visited Jebel Shams in 2016.

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