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Those of you who follow my writing closely and keep an eye on my social media have probably noticed a theme lately. I’ve been restless.

Restless?! I hear some of you saying. But you travel all the time! Yes, that’s true. But I go to visit family, or hang out with friends, which is fantastic. I go on campaigns that make this blog and this life possible, and they are a blast. I go places that are kinda sorta near where I needed to be anyway, and that is always a bonus.

But it’s been a while since I’ve had a true adventure. As I started working on a real honest-to-goodness, pen-to-paper bucket list around this time last year, I started to panic. I have all these dreams… when the heck am I supposed to make them happen? At least for this year, I wasn’t willing to give up my US summer or my Thai winter. Which leaves a relatively small window for travel in the spring, a window which is a terrible time to travel to almost everywhere on my bucket list.

Until, I realized, it’s the perfect time to visit the Middle East.

 

I can’t explain the peace that came over my fidgety heart as I realized I’d stumbled upon the perfect dream to make come true next. It’s official — I’m going to Egypt, Jordan and Israel! (…and possibly to Dubai and Lebanon? LET’S NOT GO CRAZY HERE.)

While this is the first time I’ve so much as hinted at this trip publicly, I’ve been chatting to family and friends about it for a while. I’ve been kind of surprised that as I share my plans, there are a lot of raised eyebrows and snide remarks about choosing to travel anywhere in the Middle East right now. I mean, it’s not like I’m planning a vacation to Allepo, guys. But for anyone who needs any further convincing as to why one would want to travel to the Middle east, I provide four fail-safe arguments:

1. Hummus

2. Increased opportunity to bump into Queen Rania of Jordan, become best friends

3. Camel selfies

4. Mind blowing dive sites in the Red Sea, Dead Sea, and along the Mediterranean (yes, even the Dead Sea!)

I rest my case.

I’m going to be honest — I have nothing planned for this trip. No flights, no hotels, no tours, no nothin’. Hell, it isn’t even happening for six months! But as I wrestle with starting to research destinations I know nothing about and have no reference point for and are, as far as I understand, somewhat logistically challenging to travel around, I figured I’d turn to my greatest resource for advice: you! If you’ve been to these countries, I want to hear everything! I’m sharing what I have so far below (which is basically just what I’ve gathered from a guidebook and chats with fellow travelers and a few blogs), with a few specific questions sprinkled in, but feel free to tell me anything.

Egypt

I’ve always dreamed of going to Egypt… “someday.” Well, why not now? Tourists have been slow to trickle back since the Arab Spring, and I hear reports that you can still pretty much have the pyramids to yourself.

I admit that I am somewhat intimidated to travel mainland Egypt solo — not so much due to safety but more due to harassment hassle and logistics. If I have a friend join, we may attempt to tackle it independently, but otherwise I’m looking into a couple tours I might join. One thing I like about the idea of a tour? It would force me to move way faster than I normally do, and knock out the big inland sights in a week or so, so I could then focus my time and attention where I most like to put it: beach bumming and diving on the coast.

• Cairo // The Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Antiquities Museum and the markets of Cairo all call to me — as do the cheapest flights from Bangkok into the Middle East. This is likely to be where my trip begins.

 

• Aswan // Blame Angie Away for this one. Ever since I read about her felucca ride down the Nile many moons ago, I put Egypt firmly on my bucket list, and I’m not leaving until I spent at least one night — ideally two or three — sleeping on the deck of one of these ancient wooden sailing vessels out of Aswan.

 

• Abu Simbel // Abu Simbel is close to NOTHING so as much as I wanted to keep it off any possible itineraries, the gorgeous photos and dreamy stories I keep reading tell my I’ll probably make it here — either as a day trip from Aswan, or possibly as an overnight.

 

• Luxor // The Valley of Kings is a must in Egypt! There are actually a few places in these three countries that are popular to take a hot air balloon ride over, but it’s hard to pass up the idea of a sunrise one here.

 

• South Red Sea // First of all, this is a totally made up term for a stretch of coastline that probably has a proper name I’m unaware of. Ha ha? All I know is I’m extremely keen to check out the dive sites in Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Whether that would be via a liveaboard or daily boat dives from one of the area’s popular dive camps, I’m not yet sure. Let me know what you all think!

 

• Sinai Red Sea // My final Egypt destination will be the diving hotspots on the Sinai Peninsula. I plan to fly to Sharm El Sheikh, if only to check out Ras Mohammed National Park — possibly camping overnight! — and then spend the majority of my time diving in Dahab, known as Egypt’s one true destination with a backpacker vibe. Depending on the security situation at the time, I’d love to climb Mount Sinai as well. From here, I’ll either cross into Jordan via sea or overland via Israel.

 

Jordan

Jordan! I know embarrassingly little about this country for a place that approximately every other travel blogger on earth has visited. What I do know is it is an oasis of peace in an oft unstable region, and I look forward to some leisurely sightseeing while I’m here.

What I’ve gathered from friends who have traveled the region is that there isn’t much of a backpacker or independent traveler scene here. I plan to do the trip independently, without a tour and using public transportation, so it will be interesting to see how that shakes out. Ideally I’d love to have two full weeks here. Again, I’d absolutely looove to hear from any of you have been there and done that! Here’s what I’m thinking my route will be.

• Aqaba // I’ll enter the country from Aqaba, the main city along Jordan’s small slice of the Red Sea. Here I plan to do even more diving, wander through some of the city’s small mosques, ruins, forts, and museums, and start a routine of regular hammam-ing.

 

 

A post shared by Visit Jordan (@visitjordan) on

• Wadi Rum // Where Laurence of Arabia was born! I can’t wait to sleep under the stars at a Bedouin camp — any recommendations? — and do desert stuff like ride a camel, take a jeep tour, and perhaps even hop in another hot air balloon.

 

• Petra // I’m pretty sure it’s like, fully illegal to go to Jordan and not stop at the ancient city of Petra. I can’t wait to get my hiking and photography on at Jordan’s number one attraction.

 

 

A post shared by Visit Jordan (@visitjordan) on

• Dead Sea // The Dead Sea can be visited from both Israel and Jordan, and ideally I’d like to try both. From my understanding, the Jordanian experience is far more exclusive and high end, and this spa lover is hoping to splurge on one of the fancy hotels in the area for a properly lush first Dead Sea experience. I may also hop over to the Ma’in Hotsprings.

 

• Amman // Jordan’s capital is likely to be my last stop as I head into Israel. I don’t know much about the city — yet! — but I’m sure it will be nice to be back in an urban environment for a few days. Yoga classes, here I come!

 

 

A post shared by Visit Jordan (@visitjordan) on

I’d also like to add in one of Jordan’s nature reserves to this itinerary, though I’m not sure which. Aljoun Forest Reserve and the Dana Biosphere reserve seem like they’d be difficult to tackle solo, while Mujib Biosphere Reserve seems more accessible.

 

I may have a friend join me for the Jordan portion of my trip, but regardless, I’d love to hear your recommendation for hostels or other hotspots to meet up with other travelers!

Israel and the Palestine Territories

I love Israelis. I find that, like Americans and some other nationalities, they have a reputation that precedes them in the traveler community and it’s not always positive. But what can I say, I like the intensity with which they approach life.

 

 

A post shared by Israel (@stateofisrael) on

I was chatting to some Israeli travelers the other day here in Thailand at my gym and they seemed surprised when I told them I was planning to visit Israel soon. “You have family there?” they asked. “Nope,” I replied “….but I did grow up in New York.” Ah, they said, a look of understanding coming over their faces. “An honorary Jew.”

That little exchange cracked me up, but it actually did speak to part of what draws me to Israel. I went to college on the edge of a Hasidic community in Brooklyn. I grew up surrounded by friends keeping kosher, occasionally going to shabbat dinners, and attending a whirlwind of bar and bat mitzvahs. It’s a religion that I’ve always admired for seeming to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people I care about.

 

So yes, the Jewish culture feels familiar to me in a way that I think will make a visit to Israel oddly comforting in the midst of a region that feels almost dizzyingly exotic. I’m also pretty ashamed of how little I understand about the Israel Palentine conflict, and hope to do some serious learning and listening while I’m here.

• Jerusalem // I’m going to be brutally honest here — I don’t really have any burning desire to go to Jerusalem. But I kind of figure when I get there it was just stun me with its overwhelming charm? I don’t know, I think I’m more of a Tel-Aviv girl. But don’t worry, I’m going anyway (if only to see Temple Mount, which looks like a stunner.)

 

 

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• Tel-Aviv // Tel-Aviv is the reason I wanted to come to Israel. Everything I’ve ever heard, read or seen about this beach-obsessed city along the Mediterranean says, “Alex, you will love it here!” I can’t wait to soak up the sun, art, and nightlife that make this city hum — and I might even sneak in some diving in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

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• Nazareth // Originally, I didn’t really have any plans to head to Nazareth. Then I cracked open a guidebook. Turns out this Bible superstar city is also a great place to take daytrips to kayak in the Sea of Galilee, tour the gardens of Haifa, and explore the wineries of Golan Heights.

 

• Dead Sea // Here I plan to take a full-day course in full-face-mask diving, climb Mount Masada, and check out the Israeli side of the furthest-below-sea-level destination on earth.

 

 

A post shared by Israel Tourism (@visit_israel) on

• Eilat // Time to unwind in Israel’s answer to Aqaba! You know the drill: more beaching and more diving, this time with some legendary nightlife thrown in for good measure.

 

 

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…Lebanon?

I would absolutely love to check out Beirut. However, considering the stringency with which Lebanon rejects travelers who show any hint of having traveled to Israel and the fact that there are no land border crossings and that I may run out of time mean I may delay it for another trip and/or passport.

 

 

A post shared by Live Love Beirut (@livelovebeirut) on

….Dubai?

Why visit the glitteriest city in the Middle East? A long layover! I might fly to Cairo via Dubai and stop there for a few days to visit a friend, if time and our schedules allow.

 

Clearly, I have a few big decisions that need to be sussed out ahead of time, primarily if I am taking a tour in Egypt and if so which one, if I am doing a liveaboard in Egypt and if so which one, and what flights I plan to take into Egypt and out of Israel. Otherwise, I would like to try to avoid my usual tendency to overplan and try to leave some time and flexibility to linger in places I might fall in love with (cough cough Dahab) and move on more quickly from place I’m just not quite feeling. I think my trip will start off fairly organized and efficient and become more and more spontaneous as I move gradually into areas that are easier and easier to travel independently.

Well, I hope you guys are as excited about this trip as I am! Please, leave your advice, your ideas, your blog posts, your whatever in the comments and I’ll be eternally grateful. And if you’ve also never been, tell me what you want to read about. Okay, let’s do this!

Can’t wait to share this adventure with you!

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My Middle East Itinerary
My Middle East Itinerary
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141 Comments...
  • Jade
    October 30 2017

    Super, super excited to hear about this trip! Jordan has been top of my bucket list forever and Hippie in Heels had already made me really keen to see Israel too!

    Isn’t the first part of trip planning the best?!
    Jade recently posted..Taiwan Itinerary: 7 Days in 4 Destinations

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Yes I love it! It’s so nice to have some time now that I’m chilling in Thailand for a bit to actually sit down and really enjoy the research stage of this trip, too. Rachel’s coverage TOTALLY got me excited for Israel — she has great posts on Jordan, too!

  • Scott
    October 31 2017

    I can’t wait to see your photos from this trip!

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Thanks Scott! I have a feeling I should purchase several new memory cards 🙂 I think I’ll be quite inspired!

  • Amelie
    October 31 2017

    Jealous. **crying emoji**

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      I’ll take you along virtually 🙂

  • Angie Orth
    October 31 2017

    I’m so excited for you to go on this adventure! I feel a Skype date in our future to plan…
    Angie Orth recently posted..Two Years Later… Our Wedding Photos!

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Heck yes! You’re the one who got me excited for Egypt 🙂

  • Erika
    October 31 2017

    I have no insight or advice for traveling to this part of the world, but I’m very interested in seeing it through your eyes! I’m especially intrigued by your Israel plans!

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Me toooo! I think Israel will be the perfect, carefree note to end this trip on. Plus, there are super affordable flights from Tel Aviv to New York 😉

  • Lucinda
    October 31 2017

    Wow! how exciting! I highly recommend reading a book called “Lost Wife, Saw Barracuda”, which is written by a diving instructor in Sharm. It’s hilarious, and will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect! 🙂

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Oh, awesome! That sounds perfect. I’m going to download it on my Kindle the second I’m done with the book I’m reading 🙂 Have you been?

  • Nadia
    October 31 2017

    It’s been about 10 years since my Egypt trip and it was much different then. I saw everything on my list in Cairo and Luxor and would not trade those experiences for the world. But it is also the only place I hired security when I wanted to do something solo. It was necessary. Granted, because of my interests in architecture, I was spending my time at tourist sites and was a target with my blond hair, though I did keep it covered most of the time.
    I’ve read that lots of people think going inside the pyramids is overrated because there is nothing in there – I have to say it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      I bet you went crazy over the architecture in those cities! I plan to most likely cover my hair quite frequently as well… I have found it just makes life easier in some places.

  • Taylor
    October 31 2017

    Oh my goodness I’m so jealous of this itinerary! I had started planning a trip to Egypt as a stopover before going to Thailand in December, but had to cut it do to time constraints. While I was researching I really didn’t find a lot in form of travel blogs but I’m sure you can’t go wrong with travel guides. I’m so excited to read about all of your travels!!

    • Taylor
      October 31 2017

      due*

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Thanks Taylor! I’ve found quite a few travel blogs that cover Egypt but mostly in a similar fashion — did a group tour, didn’t do much diving. I’d love to find more first hand accounts of traveling to the Red Sea destinations specifically but will have to keep digging!

  • Caroline
    October 31 2017

    This sounds like it is going to be a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to hear about it! Petra is incredible, and I wish I could visit further into these countries!

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      I really look forward to spending some quality time at Petra! I think Jordan will be incredible.

  • MARIA
    October 31 2017

    I just went to Egypt last November and I absolutely loved it. We did Cairo, Giza, Aswan, Luxor and a Nile cruise with a tour group and it was amazing. It will blow your mind and now (I think) is a good time to go because tourism is way down. The people are friendly and grateful for tourists. I would suggest hiring a tour guide for the sites for a few reasons: 1-you will make sure you don’t get ripped off, the people taking money/tickets can be a little wiley. 2- they are not close to each other and transpo will help (the driving there is ridic) 3-they will know the history and legends that are essential to understanding and appreciating the sites. the stories they can tell are far better than any guidebook!

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Those are definitely all good reasons, especially #3! Sometimes at those sites it can be easy to get bored after a few days of them if you don’t have someone bringing them to life for you with their stories. And yeah, not having to hassle with taxis or buses is also appealing!

  • Stephanie White
    October 31 2017

    Your camel selfie is outstanding! I love it 😀

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      None of these photos in the post are mine — as I haven’t been yet, I embedded some of my favorite inspiration from Instagram 🙂 You can find all the photographers by clicking the photos!

  • Heather
    October 31 2017

    I have no advice to give you since I haven’t been to any of these places, but Egypt has been my number 1 travel goal since I was in elementary school! So while I may not have travel advice, I can supply lots of encouragement!! I can’t wait to hear more about this trip 🙂

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Yay! Thank you for the kind words Heather. Egypt will absolutely be a dream. Can’t wait to share it with all of you.

  • Cate
    October 31 2017

    Omg this itinerary is to die for! It is one of my dream trips to do one similar, a backpacking extravaganza around the Middle East. Can’t wait to read more
    Cate recently posted..On Growing Up

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      I’m excited! I’ve found from my research that Egypt and Jordan don’t have much of a “backpacker culture” the way we may be accustomed to it from Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America, but Israel chock full of hostels and whatnot and thus I thought it would be quite a fun place to end the trip on.

  • Emily
    October 31 2017

    Super excited to see how all this pans out for you! You’ve officially put Egypt on my bucket list.

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Yay… and I haven’t even gotten there yet 😉 Just wait till I arrive!

  • Tessa
    October 31 2017

    ITS going to be incredible. Can’t wait to read all about i this. Pls pay careful attention to research on land crossings from Israel. You need to be careful of Israeli stamp for a lot of countries (Indo, Malaysia, Egypt) but if you use an airport to enter they sometimes Let you stamp a piece of paper. I don’t think they let you do thay for land borders.

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Yes I am definitely going to be cautious there! However I will be getting a new passport in 2019 so that will clean my slate quickly if anything goes awry 😉 Israel will be my last stop on this trip.

  • Tany
    October 31 2017

    I’m so beyond excited! It seems like I’m going with you. I CAN NOT WAIT!

    First time commenting tough
    Love from Brazil <3

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Aw, yes! I feel like I’m taking all of you with me and I love it! Thank you for commenting! <3

  • Ashley
    October 31 2017

    Ahh this is such an exciting itinerary! The Middle East has been calling to me for so long now, so I’m really looking forward to following along on your adventures! I received quite a few ignorant remarks when I decided to visit Istanbul in the spring, so I can only imagine the feedback you must be dealing with. I think the countries that garner those types of responses are the most worthwhile to visit 😉
    Ashley recently posted..Living in Edinburgh: The Expat Survival Guide

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      I definitely think you are right, this will be an incredibly rewarding adventure… and a tough one at times. I can’t wait to start confirming a few big details and feeling like this one is more real!

  • Dominique
    October 31 2017

    Fun! I haven’t been to the Middle East very often, but it’s on my list 😉 I have lived and loved the Gulf countries though. Oman is up-and-coming and it’s gorgeous. Nature is beautiful, diving is good (granted, not as good as the Red Sea) and people are incredibly nice.

    One thing to watch out for is not to get an Israeli stamp in your passport, it will restrict you from future travel. I’m looking forward to seeing your plans for the region! 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..Mulu National Park – Animals of the Night

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      I have heard great things about Oman! Actually, one of my friends used to be a dive instructor there 🙂

  • Kalie
    October 31 2017

    Alex! I’m so excited to hear that you are getting back to adventuring to new and exciting places. Looking forward to seeing some blog posts reminiscent of the earlier days. 🙂

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Indeed, it will be quite the adventure… and I am excited to have some chilled time and space to really plan for a prepare for this trip so I can really enjoy it in the moment. I can’t wait!

  • Alanna
    October 31 2017

    Another honorary NY Jew here (and from Long Island, no less). I went to Israel a few years ago. They gave me a piece of paper with my visa on it rather than actually stamping my passport, so I don’t have to worry about any future countries having a problem. I thought I was going to have to ask for this but they did it automatically. I have a friend who went to school there and she had visited Jordan before moving there and was ALWAYS given extra security by the Israelis because of the Jordanian stamp, so honestly I think you might have a harder time with getting into Israel than going to other countries after Israel. Also, the Israeli airport security were BY FAR the most stringent I have ever met. I assume I was singled out as a single traveler who doesn’t speak any Hebrew, but it took me probably about 3 hours to get through security before my flight home to the US (I went through about 5 different checkpoints/luggage checks). At no point were they rude or anything, but just something to be aware of! Basically the point of this comment is that you should give yourself lots of extra time at the airport in Israel, both coming and going!
    However, I LOVED it there. Definitely go north to Haifa and the Golan Heights. So beautiful with wineries and farms and everything! Also, I took a tour into the West Bank. I could have done it solo but I just wasn’t really sure that I knew enough about the situation to go it alone. I am really glad I went. Visiting Bethlehem was really cool (just a few minutes from Jerusalem) and we went to Jericho too. Anyway, it was awesome to see the other side of things there. I felt very safe the whole time but of course you have to judge the situation for yourself when you’re there because things change so rapidly.

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      That is a great warning, thank you! I will likely arrive to Israel by land but depart by air, so I am definitely glad for the heads up to arrive at the airport WAY early (since I’m usually cutting it close, ha.) So did you take a day tour to the West Bank from Jerusalem? I think that’s a great idea… you must have gotten way more context from a guide than you ever would have solo, anyway!

  • Jello
    October 31 2017

    Aaaaah I’ve been a long time reader/follower of yours and I am so excited to see how your trip in this side of the world turns out. I haven’t been to Egypt, Jordan and Israel but I currently residenin Dubai and I would be so thrilled (and hopeful) to see you here! You may want to hop on over to Oman as well or to Turkey if you feel like adding a few more stops to this leg. Anyway, goodluck! And well uhm, see ya around? 😛
    Jello recently posted..SIARGAO ISLAND

    • Alex
      November 2 2017

      Fun! I will definitely let you know if Dubai ends up being a stopover for me! I have visited Turkey briefly a few years ago… I do want to go back someday but since time will be limited I’ll probably skip it this trip. Lots of votes for Oman though!

  • Alexander
    October 31 2017

    Alex – have you considered checking out Oman? Amazing Arab culture and the BEST diving in the gulf.