When people plan travel, North Africa and the Middle East are often left off the itinerary. Whether it’s perceived danger due to recent events, uncertainty about what to expect, or just the unknowns, these tend to be the regions that people have the most questions and apprehension when visiting. If Marrakech, Tel Aviv, Doha, Cairo, or Jerusalem are on your visit list, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your trip without breaking your budget.
The red city is full of ultra luxe hotels, upscale dining, and shopping that will make your credit card cry. But, there are also plenty of deals to be had. Marrakech has hundreds of riads, many of which can be booked for under $50 a night. If you avoid trendy restaurants food is very cheap. Stick with vendors where lots of Moroccans are eating to get the best deals. Buy a combination ticket for the Marrakech Museum, Bahia Palace, and Medrassa Ben Youssef to see all three and save. More budget hacks? Check out this post on Marrakech on a Budget.
Do you want to see Tel Aviv like a local? The Tel Aviv Greeter program is the way to go. Greeters are people who live in Tel Aviv and volunteer to take people around their city. You indicate what your interests are, and the program matches you with a person that best fits your needs. Best of all, this program is totally free and guides are not permitted to take tips from guests. You’ll want to submit your request at least two to three weeks before your visit but no more than two months before.
The capital of Qatar, Doha has a reputation as one of the oil-rich Arabian Gulf states. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value here. A visit to the Museum of Islamic Art is a must when you are in Doha. Entrance is free and free guided tours are offered regularly. The museum also holds art-focused workshops for adults and children. Keep in mind that when you visit Qatar you should dress modestly and be aware of local norms and customs. Many places will not allow you to enter if you are dressed inappropriately.
To see Cairo without the haze of car exhaust and grinding traffic, hop on a felucca. These boats will make you think you’ve stepped back in time while you admire the view of Cairo. Bring your own food on board and have a picnic while you float down the Nile. You’ll need to negotiate the price for the ride, depending on length of time and how good you are at haggling. The price starts at 20 Egyptian pounds.
There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t have an image of Jerusalem already in his or her head. When you visit this city, you’ll find history everywhere. Walk the Mount of Olives or visit the church of St. John the Baptist. A walk to the old Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem is also a must. Few people make it here, and the Armenian History Museum is a unique look into this group and its unique history and artwork.
These five Middle Eastern and North African destinations have plenty to see, do, and eat while still keeping your expenses in check. Don’t pass them up!
This post is a part of Hipmunk’s Destination Unknown series where I’ll be sharing a location each month which has unknown destinations worth visiting!
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