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The '''Middle East''' is a world region in Western [[Asia]] and North-eastern Africa. The term was created by British military strategists in the 19th century, and definitions of the Middle East vary; it is ''not'' simply a geographical term, but also a political one, connoting that it separates Europe ("the West") from the Far East, and the traditional trade route of choice between these two extremes.
== Cities ==
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* [[Damascus]] — credited with being the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world, the old-walled city in particular feels very ancient
* [[Dubai]] — most modern and progressive emirate in the [[United Arab Emirates]], developing at an unbelievable pace
* [[Jerusalem]] — containing the [[UNESCO World Heritage Site]] of the Old City, this city is sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
* [[Mecca]] — forbidden for non-Muslims to enter, this is the holiest city in Islam mostly known for the [[Hajj]]
* [[Tehran]] — a bustling metropolis of 14 million people, it is a cosmopolitan city, with great museums, parks, restaurants and warm friendly people
As one of the wellsprings of human civilisation in the ancient and medieval worlds, the birthplace of several world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Bahai) and an area of much modern economic and political importance, the Middle East remains a popular destination for travellers.
The border between southeastern [[Europe]] and the Middle East is also unclear. Many writers include [[Turkey]] in their usage of "Middle East" and we include it above, but parts of Turkey are very much European. Large parts of Turkey and all of [[Lebanon]] and [[Israel]] are also clearly Mediterranean regions. On the other hand, several countries usually considered European — [[Greece]], [[Cyprus]] and to some extent the [[Balkans]] — also have Middle Eastern aspects to their culture.
This is a more practical option than trains in the Middle East as they are less prone to delays and breakdowns and have far more extensive coverage of the region.
Cookery provides obvious evidence of the extent of Middle Eastern influence. Turkish ''doner kebab'', Greek ''gyros'' and the ''shawarma'' of the Arab countries (everywhere from Oman to Morocco) are all basically the same dish. A traveller going overland from Europe to India will find very similar dishes — notably flat breads and kebabs — in every country from Greece to India. These are also seen in [[Central Asia]] and even [[China]]. Many Greek dishes are closer to Iranian cooking than to Italian.
Planning a visit to the Middle East can be complicated in various ways:
* Some countries and territories in the area, such as [[Iraq]] and the [[Gaza Strip]], are in a state of war and should not be visited. See [[War zone safety]] if you must go.
* Some countries, such as [[Saudi Arabia]], do not issue tourist visas except for a few expensive tours.
* Some countries in the region have strict Islamic Law, with heavy penalties for [[Gay_and_lesbian_travel#Dangerous_destinations|homosexuality]], adultery and other offenses. * Many countries in the region do not recognize the state of [[Israel]] for many reasons. These nations may refuse you entry if you have an Israeli visa or an Israeli stamp in your passport, or even a visa for another country that was issued in Israel. The Israeli authorities will generally help you avoid these problems by providing a visa as a separate document so it is not in your passport, however now this has been discontinued; see the [[Israel]] article for details. Only [[Turkey]], [[Egypt]] and [[Jordan]] have official relations with Israel.* For most of the area, suggestions in [[Tips for travel in developing countries]] apply
* [[Turkey]] and [[Cyprus]] — with lots of border posts and extensive transportation alternatives, southern Turkey is well linked to [[Syria]]. It may also be possible to take cruises to the island nation of Cyprus from Syria as well as [[Lebanon]].
* [[Egypt]] — with [[Cairo to Jerusalem by bus|buses]] from [[Israel]] and [[Ferries in The Red Sea|ferries]] from [[Jordan]], Egypt is an easy trip from the region.
* [[Caucasus]] — the lush and beautiful Caucasus is a short hop north from Iran.