Even in this time of global uncertainty, you don’t need to be an intrepid adventurer to visit the Middle Eastern landmarks on your must-see list. While the U.S. State Department has warned of the potential for terrorist activity in throughout the region, several cruise lines continue to offer trips, carefully monitoring security and shifting itineraries if risks rise.
Other bonuses of visiting the Middle East via a cruise: Tour options led by knowledgeable locals, safely-prepared foods and the simplicity of unpacking only once on your trip.
Among the choices: Azamara Club Cruises offers a 17-night voyage in May 2017 that offers access to these must-see wonders. Cruise prices start at about $3,500 per person, double occupancy, including port fees.
▪ PETRA: The massive Treasury carved into the rosy sandstone made famous by movies is only a tiny fraction of Petra, a major trading hub and travelers’ rest stop beginning 7,000 years ago. Not even photos and videos give a clue to the size, wealth and sophisticated water system that enabled the desert-locked city to thrive.
▪ VALLEY OF THE KINGS: The young king Tutankhamen is the best known of the Pharaohs that live along the west bank of Nile, thanks to the pristine nature of his tomb when it was discovered in 1922. But seeing Tut’s treasures in a museum can’t compare to standing in one of the 2,500-year-old tombs — 63 discovered to date — on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor, also home to the vast Luxor Temple, Alexander the Great’s chapel and the Temple of the real Karnak (apologies to Johnny Carson.)
▪ JERUSALEM: No city has played as pivotal a role in faith — or history — as Jerusalem. The Western Wall sacred to Jews, the Muslim Temple on the Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus’s body is said to be laid to rest, are just a few of its must-see monuments.
▪ SUEZ CANAL: The current manmade waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea opened in 1869. But the first canal through the desert was actually dug nearly 4,000 years ago by an Egyptian pharoah. Today it stretches 120 miles (193 kilometers) through the sand, providing 17,483 transits in 2014.
▪ ACROPOLIS: Though it’s not in the Middle East, this itinerary’s Greek endpoint offers the opportunity to visit the 2,400-year-old ruins atop Athen’s rocky crown, a testament to the enduring influence of Athenian democracy and Greek civilization.
IF YOU GO
Azamara Club Cruises 17-night Petra & Eilat Voyage sails May 12, 2017, from Mumbai, India. From $2,999 plus $532 port fees, per person, double occupancy.