The Top Destinations For Cultural Tourism In These Arab Countries

The Top Destinations For Cultural Tourism In These Arab Countries

By Susan Sasse

Forbes Middle East: Cultural tourism in the Middle East and North Africa is a wonderful way to discover the richness and diversity of this region. By visiting archaeological sites, interacting with local people, tasting traditional foods, and participating in celebrations, tourists can fully immerse themselves in the traditions and customs of the local populations. This creates unforgettable experiences and enhances understanding and communication between cultures.

Here are the top destinations for cultural tourism in some Arab countries.


Lebanon, rich in its diverse history and culture, stands out as a prime destination for cultural tourism in the Middle East. Ancient cities like Baalbek attract tourists with their massive Roman temples such as the Temple of Bacchus and the Temple of Jupiter, which are among the most important archaeological sites in Lebanon. Additionally, visitors can participate in the Baalbek International Festival, a cultural event held since 1955 in July and August, offering a rich and diverse array of arts.

Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, boasts a Crusader castle and Phoenician ruins, reflecting a history dating back to the 6th millennium BCE. Visitors can wander through the ancient markets, visit the Wax Museum, and enjoy the restaurants and cafes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Beirut is renowned for its blend of modern history and ancient traditions, with numerous museums such as the Sursock Museum, which showcases modern art, and the National Museum of Beirut, home to a large collection of Lebanese antiquities.

Lebanon also features the famous cedar forests in the north, a national symbol that has been added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Lebanese cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its delicious dishes such as Tabbouleh, where parsley is a main ingredient, Manakish with thyme or cheese, and Kibbeh, made from minced meat mixed with bulgur.


It is considered a distinctive tourist destination for culture and history enthusiasts due to its unique geographical location, rich history, and culturally diverse cities. Among these cities is Marrakech, which features historical squares like Jemaa El-Fnaa and lively traditional markets such as the Souk Semmarine, filled with colorful rug stalls, luxurious textiles, and handmade crafts, as well as the Souk El-Ghazal, showcasing leather goods and sparkling jewelry.

The old city also boasts remarkable architectural landmarks such as the Bahia Palace, adorned with decorated plaster, paintings, and mosaics, and the Ben Youssef Madrasa.

The old city of Fez is the oldest historical city in Morocco, home to numerous cultural landmarks like the University of Al-Qarawiyyin, which is considered the oldest university in the world. Additionally, the capital city, Rabat, features significant cultural sites such as The Oudaya Kasbah, which served as the temporary residence of Almohad authority, the Hassan Tower, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, dedicated to the memory of the late King Mohammed V.

Tourists will also enjoy visiting the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the first institution of its kind in Morocco, as well as wandering through the archaeological gardens of Chellah.

Moroccan cuisine is rich in flavors that must be experienced to immerse oneself in the country’s culture. Among the most famous dishes are “Tagine,” cooked in a special clay pot and consisting of meat or chicken with vegetables and spices, and Couscous, served with vegetables and either meat or chicken.


Egypt is considered the cradle of Pharaonic civilization and one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world, known for its unique archaeological sites that attract millions of tourists annually. The pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza are among the most famous archaeological landmarks in the world. Built during the Old Kingdom period between 2480 and 2550 BCE, they are one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World that still exist.

The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo, the oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East, houses more than 170,000 artifacts and the largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world. It includes many mummies and statues and long held the golden mask of King Tutankhamun before it was recently moved to a dedicated display hall in the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Khan El-Khalili in Cairo is the oldest open market in the Middle East, with its construction starting around 970 CE.

The cities of Luxor and Aswan are considered the largest open-air museum in the world, containing numerous Pharaonic temples and monuments, such as the Karnak Temple, which served as an administrative center and treasury for the state and a palace for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom.

Today, it is the largest temple ever built. Facing it is the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings, where members of the royal family and nobility were buried.

Egypt is also renowned for its traditional cuisine, which offers a unique experience. Popular dishes include Koshari, a mix of rice, pasta, fried onions, chickpeas, and lentils, all topped with tomato sauce, as well as Molokhia, Foul, and Falafel, among many others. These dishes provide a gateway to understanding Egyptian culture and its people.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, with its geographical location in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula and its rich history, is home to many important cultural and religious sites. Among these is Mada’in Saleh, an archaeological site featuring Nabataean ruins dating back to the 1st century BCE, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Al-Diriyah, the birthplace of the first Saudi state, is a historical site reflecting the kingdom’s heritage and history, where visitors can stroll through its ancient streets and explore museums showcasing the history and development of the state.

Saudi Arabia is also renowned for its many religious landmarks in Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, attracting millions of pilgrims annually. These include the Great Mosque (Al Masjid Al-Haram) in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque (Al Masjid Al-Nabawi) in Medina, the largest and most important mosques in the Islamic world.

Jeddah, the gateway to the two holy mosques and one of the kingdom’s most important coastal cities, is known for its old town (Al-Balad) which features historic buildings and traditional markets. Visitors can explore the historic Nassif House Museum, which contains artifacts dating back 130 years, and enjoy the beauty of the Corniche overlooking the Red Sea.

Saudi cuisine is famous for its delicious meat dishes, such as Kabsa and Mandi, which are based on rice cooked with various types of meat prepared in different ways.


Despite the progress, technology, and modernity that characterize most parts of the UAE, it possesses a rich cultural heritage. The Dubai Museum and Heritage Village showcase the city’s history and development, explaining the methods of pearl diving and trading. The village also features many traditional markets, such as the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi promotes understanding between different cultures by focusing on their common traits and exhibits a diverse collection of artworks from various cultures.

When staying in Abu Dhabi, do not miss visiting Qasr Al Hosn Fort, the first architectural structure and the oldest building in Abu Dhabi. Additionally, take a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world and a monumental work that combines various Islamic architectural styles.

To further experience the culture of the Emirati people, one should try dishes like Harees with meat, Machboos, and Balaleet, which is a breakfast dish consisting of fried eggs with sweet vermicelli.

Translated by Muhanad Onsy

Forbes Middle East

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