5th issue

Top10 Middle Eastern Tourist Destinations

Top 10 Middle Eastern Tourist Destinations

unfortunately, when people think about the Middle East, oil production and regional turmoil come to mind. This is extremely discouraging because this area of the world has so much more to offer. We have created a list of the Top 10 Middle Eastern country tourist destinations. The most recent statistics from 2012 have been used to create our list, which also provides an insight of the amazing tourist destinations in the Middle East that should be explored.


Turkey is a beautiful country and is often referred to as ‹the bridge between Europe and Asia›. This country offers up some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and is a haven of idyllic locations. Historic Istanbul is a very popular tourist destination not only for its world famous souk but also for the architecture of its famous mosques. The country displays everything from Roman ruins to natural hot springs and it›s no wonder tourists from around the world continue to flock to Turkey – it is not only #1 Middle Eastern tourist destination, but #6 globally. The country boasted 35.7 million tourists in 2012, up 3% on 2011 figures.



Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the #2 country for tourists in the Middle East. Although the country offers fabulous Red Sea beaches, remarkable museums, and tantalizing restaurants, it is a religious destination that reigns supreme: Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca, the most important Islamic destination in the world thus attracting millions of pilgrims. It is believed that many of the 13.9 million visitors to this country in 2012 were those traveling to Mecca. Although renowned for its oil, Saudi Arabia is investing more in tourism. For the very first time in the country›s history, tourist visas were granted in 2013. Even with so many people visiting, tourism figures in 2012 fell 22% on 2011 statistics.

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Egypt is a logical choice for #3 on the tourism list. Although the country is experiencing some political turmoil, this must not cloud the exceptional archaeological destinations this nation has to offer. In 2012, Egypt boasted 9.5 million in-bound tourists with many visiting the famous Cairo Museum, Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley of the Kings. Egypt is rich in history and there is so much to see, including the Red Sea destinations that boast beaches, great restaurants and architectural delights. 2012 saw tourism figures up 18% on 2011.


United Arab Emirates

This nation is made up of seven Emirates and is the #4 tourist destination. The area has much to offer the 8.9 million tourists that flocked there in 2012. You will find modern malls for shopping, inviting beaches and some of the largest sand dunes on the planet. The country is investing more into tourism so expect to see these numbers grow. Tourism in 2012 was up 10% on previous years.

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Jordan is #5 choice, with the country receiving nearly 4.2 million tourists in 2012. The country offers many ancient ruins and historic destinations. The Dead Sea is a popular destination for many reasons as it offers the lowest point below sea level on the planet offering the chance to experience the therapeutic waters and air. Many tourists visit Petra, a city built into the side of a mountain that has been listed as one of the newest ‹Seven wonders of the world›. Amman is a popular city to visit with modern malls, hotels and fine dining establishments. Tourism was up nearly 5% from 2011.

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Iran makes the list at #6. Iran has experienced some political unrest over the past several years, but once again this should not over compensate for the touristic opportunities the country has to offer. There are wonderful skiing destinations in the Alborz Mountains and hiking is also very popular. You will find alluring beaches on the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. There is much more to see in Iran than first meets the eye and it may become a much easier place to visit in the coming years due to the relaxation of global sanctions. The country received 3.5 million tourists in 2012, up 12.7% from 2011.

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With 2.8 million visitors in 2012, Qatar makes our list at #7. Many tourists visit the capital city of Doha. Other popular destinations are the Museum of Islamic Art, Al-Jassasiya Rock Carvings, and Zubara Fort. Qatar is often considered a great place for tourists to begin their Middle East tour. Tourism was up a whopping 12% in 2012 on 2011 figures.



Lebanon received nearly 1.4 million visitors in 2012 and made our list as eighth favourite country destination. Lebanon is full of Stone Age settlements, Roman temples, and medieval forts. Popular destinations include Beirut National Museum, Moussa Castle, and Sidon Sea Castle. Lebanon is a destination that has more to offer when you take a closer look. However, tourism was down 18% from 2011.



Our final entry on the list, Kuwait, received 309,000 tourists in 2012, up 15% from 2011. One of the most visited destinations in Kuwait is Kuwait Towers. This hospitable country is also home to Bayan Palace, the Islands of Failaka, and the Grand Mosque of Kuwait. Fascinating history can be visited at the Kuwait National Museum. There are plenty of hotels, amusement parks and other interesting destinations around the country.

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Palestine received half a million tourists in 2012, up 9% from 2011. Palestine is a beautiful area that is often referred to as the ‹Cradle of Civilisation›. The religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism all rose from this region. The area offers wonderful destinations to visit including Jericho, the oldest city on earth, and Hebron, a holy destination for all three religions due to it being the last resting place of Abraham. 



The Middle East welcomed 52 million visitors in 2012. That was a 5% decrease from 2011. The region enjoyed US$ 47 billion in revenue due to tourism. Internationally, the world tourism count went over a billion for the first time. It is estimated that one job out of every eleven is related to the tourism market, with tourism making up 9% of the world›s GDP. It is difficult to comprehend that in 1950 there were only an estimated 25 million tourists in the world. By 2012, that figure had jumped to one billion! It is estimated that world tourism will grow to 1.8 billion by 2030.

There you have it, the Top 10 Middle East tourist destinations, according to 2012 statistics.

Although incidents over the last year may have altered these rankings it does not take away from any of the great destinations these countries have to offer.

In order for one to truly appreciate the tourism attributes the region has to offer, one must look past any such turmoil and common stereotypes. The Middle East is a beautiful region that presents diversity in rich culture, history, and archeology. The people can be warm and inviting and the atmosphere as rewarding as you will find anywhere else on the planet. It is time to take off the stereotypical blindfolds and look past the international propaganda.

There IS more to the Middle East than oil! The region is considered to be the birthplace of history and there are many awesome destinations to explore from that history. One can only hope that in the near future Middle East tourism will continue to grow and more people will be able to appreciate what the region has to offer.


The Middle East region showed mixed results when it comes to tourism. After the affect 2011’s Arab Spring had on tourism into and within the region, Egypt experienced a growth in figures by 18%, Palestine by 9%, and Jordan also improved during 2012. The UAE saw figures rise by 10%, Oman and Qatar also had strong demand. Lebanon, with a fall of 18%, still suffers from the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Tunisia, meanwhile, has finally seen a resurgence.

International tourism grew by 4% in 2012, taking the figures over one billion tourists for the first time in history. UNWTO launched a campaign, “One Billion Tourists: One billion Opportunities”, which has four main messages:

– Buy local – Respect local culture – Save energy – Protect heritage

The forecast for 2030 sees an overall jump to 1.8 billion international tourists … so the business opportunity for those working in the sector is definitely there!

Read more at:  http://1billiontourists.unwto.org



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