Middle East

Middle East


“One finger cannot lift a pebble”.

— Persian Proverb

Embark on a journey to the Middle East, a transcontinental region encompassing Western Asia and Egypt, to delve into its extensive and diverse history spanning from ancient civilizations to the present day. Understanding Middle Eastern culture involves recognizing its pivotal role as the cradle and spiritual hub of numerous world religions, including Christianity, Druze, Islam, Judaism, Manichaeism, Mandeanism, Yarsan, and Yezidi. Iran, in particular, is noted as the birthplace of the Bahá’í Faith, Manicheanism, Mithraism, and Zoroastrianism.

The Middle East boasts a mosaic of ethnic groups mirroring its religious diversity. Arabs, Azeris, Kurds, Persians, and Turks constitute the largest populations, while minorities such as Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Copts, Druze, Greeks, Jews, Maronites, and Somalis contribute to the region’s cultural tapestry. Among the 17 countries comprising the Middle East are Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkiye (Turkey), the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, though it’s essential to note that not all regions may be safe for travel. Explore the captivating culture of the Middle East and the region’s abundant experiences for avid travelers.


  • Easter Sunday is the most joyous day in the Christian calendar. On a recent trip to Israel we had the pleasure of visiting numerous sites throughout the country that really brought the Bible to life for us.

  •   The Western Wall, (Wailing Wall or Kotel), stands as one of the most iconic and revered sites in the world. Located in Jerusalem's Old City, this ancient limestone wall is the last remaining remnant of the four supporting walls that surrounded the Second Temple on Temple Mount. The Temple was destroyed in 70AD, and only this wall remains. As such, it is a site of profound religious and historical significance for Jews worldwide. Since the destruction of the Temple, the Western Wall has been a source of inspiration and a site that keeps the memory of the Temple alive. The Kotel is always included in tours of Jerusalem and should be seen whether you are a pilgrim, a history enthusiast, or a curious traveler.  Here is all you need to know before visiting the Western Wall. Jerusalem Western Wall Western Wall Basics Open Hours: 24/7 Location: The Western Wall [...]

  • It was a hot summer day when I left Jerusalem to travel south towards the Dead Sea, an indescribably beautiful salt lake, sitting peacefully landlocked between the countries of Israel and Jordan. Although visiting Israel had been on my bucket list since forever, the Dead Sea had always fascinated me the most.

  • Lying on stacked cushions on the roof of a lodge in Jordan’s Dana Biosphere Reserve, I watch a beam of green light shoot into the sky as our guide circles a constellation with the most powerful laser pointer I’ve ever seen. “That orange star, that’s the womanizer,” Ali says. “He’s always chasing the seven sisters.”

  • Easter Sunday is the most joyous day in the Christian calendar. On a recent trip to Israel we had the pleasure of visiting numerous sites throughout the country that really brought the Bible to life for us.

  • Dubai never fails to astound visitors with its contrasting and marvelous sights. Most people visit here for its wealth of modern and cultural attractions. But Dubai is more than that; it is equally worth visiting for its natural splendors, especially its endless untouched desert.

  • I’m encouraged that real change for women is happening in Saudi Arabia. Women can now drive, attend sporting events, and go to the cinema, and the government has recently approved women to travel outside of the country without a male guardian’s approval.

  • Until I spent time in Palestine’s West Bank, seeing it with my own eyes and listening to people’s stories...I didn’t have a grasp or understanding of what was happening or why.

  • World Footprints speaks to Ayesha Tanzeem, VOA Bureau Chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ayesha provides some background into the region's COVID response and ongoing challenges. She shares information that hasn't widely been reported on outside of the Middle East. What you'll hear will be enlightening. *********** Ayesha Tanzeem heads VOA’s Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan bureau based in Islamabad, Pakistan. She is one of a few foreign correspondents who have traveled to areas under the control and influence of the Islamic State militant group while it was at the peak of its power in eastern Afghanistan in 2015. Her reporting that brought to light tales of harrowing cruelty and suffering earned her the David Burke award for Courage in Journalism.        

  • A flood of flat-roofed buildings stands in sharp contrast to the blurry outlines of the distant hills. A chaos of dish TV antennas rules the rooftops. Several minarets of mosques stab the horizon. In southeastern Turkey, just 56 kilometres away from the Syrian border, from the window of my accommodation, I watch the city of Sanliurfa thrive. Though inhabited since the Stone Age, the city was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 304 BCE. Throughout history Sanliurfa has been known by various names like Seleucid, Edessa, and most recently, Urfa. Following the Turkish War of Independence, several cities having a great role in the war were honoured with titles. The title of ‘Sanli’ meaning ‘glorious’ preceded Urfa. I reminisce my entry into Sanliurfa. The rolling hills covered with green pistachio farms had merged with the plains, when the city erupted with concrete buildings, partitioned by lanes, curling away in various [...]

  • Women’s rights have long been a huge issue in Saudi Arabia due to the strict application of sharia law within the country, with women only gaining the right to drive last year. However, a landmark ruling change will now give Saudi women over the age of 21 the right to obtain their own passports without the need for permission from a male guardian. At the beginning of August, a new amendment was signed by the Saudi Cabinet which will overturn the controversial ruling banning women from applying for their own passports. Previously, women needed to get the approval of a male member of their family, such as their husband, father, brother or son, before they could apply for and receive a passport. This will change at the end of the month. The new ruling will also allow women to travel freely without a male chaperone. The ruling comes at a [...]

  • Picture this: You are in Aleppo, standing in front of what is left of your house. You are reeling with the loss of your mother, your father, your brother, or if the world is particularly cruel, more than one family member. An edgily dressed 19-year-old British boy on his gap year comes up to you and, instead of offering help, asks if he can take a picture with his expensive camera. You gawk in disbelief and struggle to comprehend why someone whose government was involved in the war is standing before you, asking for a piece of your dignity.