Snow caves, fjord snorkeling, and horse soul sessions. Yes, this is real life.
The Middle East offers so much more than desert sand, camel caravans, and the disproportionately negative news we see and hear. You may be drawn to the region by significant historical and spiritual cities and sites such as Petra, the pyramids, and Jerusalem. Those are, of course, perfectly good reasons to travel here. But while you’re planning your trip, consider adding some of these activities you probably didn’t know you could do in the Middle East.
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Go Snow Caving
If you’re up for a chill challenge, join 33 North on one of their multi-day winter expeditions through the Lebanese Mountains. Explore the snow-covered backcountry and learn technical skills—such as sheltering, snowshoeing, and rescue techniques—while you trek through the wilderness and camp overnight in tents or snow caves. 33 North leads several expeditions during Lebanon’s winter months, providing all the equipment you need including shovels and stoves.
Sail and Snorkel in Fjords
Try Equine Therapy
WHERE: Wadi Rum, Jordan
Find your squad in the Pink Spirit stables. Horses are known to mirror human emotions—even those you might keep hidden—and create a safe “herd” vibe that allows you to explore your inner world. Join equine trainer Sandra Jelly and her horses in Wadi Rum or Little Petra for an equine soul session and the chance to open your heart and mind to horse-led healing.
Ride the World's Longest Zipline in Ras Al Khaimah
WHERE: United Arab Emirates
If your superpower is no fear, you can soar Superman-style (yes, that’s face first) down the world’s longest zipline, located in Ras Al Khaimah. Start atop the highest peak in the United Arab Emirates, strap in, and fly for nearly 1.8 miles—the length of 28 soccer fields—with views of the desert-scapes below. Though let’s be honest, you may not have time to see much with all that squinting and screaming; the ride tops out at nearly 100 miles per hour. Good news for those that do better with a buddy: you don’t have to go it alone. There are two zip line cables side-by-side so you cruise at cheek-shaking speeds together.
Kayak Through Mangroves
WHERE: Ajman, U.A.E.
Mangroves might not be what you had in mind when picturing your Middle East adventure, but the greens and blues of the Al Zorah nature reserve paint a refreshing picture. After an action-packed visit to nearby Dubai, slow your pace and paddle the tidal lagoon in Ajman with Quest for Adventure. Keep an eye out for wildlife—nearly 60 species of birds can be found here, including kingfishers and pink flamingoes.
Take a Beer or Wine Tour
WHERE: Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan
Given that much of the region is Muslim, alcohol is not always on the menu when you’re traveling in the Middle East. And in some places, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, alcohol is actually banned. Those that prefer their travels include a taste of the local beers and wines will be pleased to find vineyard tours and tastings in Lebanon (check out Wild Frontiers trips to Lebanon) and the possibility to visit an organic vineyard in northern Jordan, as well as brewery tours at Taybeh Brewing Company in Palestine and Carakale Brewing Company in Jordan.
INSIDER TIPEvery country has its own regulations and punishments when it comes to alcohol. Read up on the laws, customs, and availability in your destination prior to departure to ensure you don’t earn yourself an overnight (or longer) in a foreign jail.
Sleep in a Solar-Powered Eco-Camp
WHERE: United Arab Emirates and Oman
Tented camps are not a new concept in the Middle East; Bedouin people have long been using mobile woven goat hair tents, and visitors to places like Jordan, Egypt and Israel can include a Bedouin tent stay on their itinerary. What makes Magic Camps so, well, magical is that they offer a new twist on this old favorite, providing a desert camping experience combined with some key comforts that include gourmet meals and a private bath and shower, all powered by the sun. You can request to set up camp in parts of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Oman—in the desert dunes, a mountain clearing, or on a beach.
Harvest and Forage
WHERE: Jordan, Lebanon, and Oman
Foraged food tastes better. Okay, that’s not exactly science but there is some satisfaction in harvesting produce from a family farm, finding ingredients such as wild sage and mint while out on a hiking trail, and plucking olives and grapes alongside a local—and then using those ingredients to make a meal. While in the Middle East there are ample opportunities to engage through food-focused activities: You can harvest grapes in Lebanon and dates in Oman. Book a foraging experience with Baraka Destinations or participate in an olive harvest with Engaging Cultures in Jordan.
INSIDER TIPThese activities are seasonal, so be sure to inquire about the best dates to book.
Hike a Long Trail
WHERE: Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt
Walking is still a way of life for tribal people across the region, and many of the modern-day hiking routes follow old Bedouin and pilgrimage paths. If a long trail is on your travel goals list, you’ll find plenty of options here. Trek the length of a country and connect with the land and locals on the Jordan Trail, the Lebanon Mountain Trail or the Masar Ibrahim Al Khalil in Palestine. Or walk the Sinai Trail, Egypt’s first-ever long-distance hiking trail that recently began incorporating female Bedouin guides—another first for Egypt.
INSIDER TIPThe weather can make or break your trip. Skip the hottest months and save yourself from heatstroke (or worse). Cold and wet winter weather also presents a risk; frigid overnight temperatures can be a challenge and flash floods can be fatal. This varies by country but generally, the summer months are around May through August while winter runs from November through March.
WHERE: Oman, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan
You might imagine that the desert is home to snakes and scorpions. You wouldn’t be wrong (sorry!) and you should do your best to steer clear of those. But sea turtles, dolphins, and lapis lazuli-colored lizards also live here. From April to August, witness sea turtles nesting and hatching on the beaches of Oman. Go on a wildlife safari at Shaumari Wildlife Reserve in Jordan and spot the endangered Arabian Oryx. See what lies beneath the surface with a Red Sea snorkeling or diving tour in Jordan, Egypt, or Israel.