The Middle East and North Africa is a perfect place to practice mindful travel. Not only is it a beautiful part of the world that will awe you with its rich history, cultures, and natural wonders. It also offers the opportunity to deeply learn and unlearn and to reckon with all that we think we know. The Middle East and North Africa region has been unfairly covered in the media and maligned for many years. Those of us who practice mindful travel are committed to scratching beneath the surface. This allows us to learn the real stories of the places we visit. As mindful travelers, we seek to connect with real people, hear their stories, and be in awe of all we learn.
Yoga retreats abroad provide an opportunity to not just have a unique vacation, but to learn and process the entire travel experience. Yoga retreats like mine include cultural trips and excursions led by local people to support local communities. We seek to learn from our new friends, to give back in meaningful ways, and to be committed to caring for our bodies and minds. In doing this, we process and integrate in a deeper way and commit to living the teachings of yoga off the mat and into the world around us.
Some of you might be thinking “Ok cool, but why the Middle East?” Read on or learn more about my background and retreats here.
Why Middle East Travel?
- Natural Beauty: The Middle East and North Africa is a beautiful part of the world that is full of many ancient treasures and natural wonders. If your Middle East travel bucket list isn’t already full of these places, add them now… Wadi Rum, Mount Sinai, the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, the Red Sea, the Nile River, the Dead Sea, Socotra, the Qadisha Valley, and Wadi Ghul… just to name a few!
- Culturally Rich: The Middle East is a melting pot of many civilizations dating back thousands of years. The region is home to many diverse traditions, religions, languages, and artistic output. It is home to world heritage sites like Carthage, the Pyramids of Giza, Petra, Baalbek, the Dome of the Rock, the Fez medina, and more.
- Immensely Hospitable: The people in the Middle East and North Africa are famous for their hospitality and kindness to foreigners. In Islam, it is believed that guests are gifts sent from God and are treated with immense kindness. Experiencing this warmth alone is enough reason to book a Middle East vacation with opportunities for real cultural immersion.
- Growth Zone: Beyond all the amazing sites, cultural tours, and unique travel experiences, it is also an opportunity to step outside of our comfort zone and expand our minds. The Middle East is not portrayed kindly in the media, but there is so much more to the story. If you are curious to learn the real story and experience an under-appreciated part of the world yourself, now is your chance. Go on, book your Middle East tour or retreat asap….yalla!
Need more reasons? Check out this article from Vogue, extolling the virtues of Middle East travel.
Best Middle Eastern Countries to Visit
Obviously, I want to be cheeky here and say all of them. However, here are some good places to start. Beyond this short list, Middle East travel is your oyster.
- Morocco is a pretty easy place to travel since there is a fantastic infrastructure for tourism. Many Moroccans speak French and English fluently as well, making it easier to communicate than in some other places. Morocco truly has it all from gorgeous mountains and beaches to the striking Sahara Desert. There is a wealth of culture, art, and history to explore as well as some of the most flavorful and delicious cuisines. Morocco has a lot to offer and is a great place to start.
- Jordan is also a fairly accessible destination with some gorgeous natural wonders. In Jordan, you can book a cultural trip and learn more about the Nabateans, Bedouins, and Palestinians. Here, you will visit places like Petra, Wadi Rum, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea, as well as abundant Roman ruins. You can eat shawarma, falafel, hummus, and knafa to your heart’s delight. You can even listen to bagpipers, and sleep in a bubble tent under the desert sky!
- Turkey is home to a diverse range of people, cultures, and traditions. Each region of Turkey is unique, fascinating, and totally worth exploring. In Istanbul, you can learn about Ottoman and Byzantine history. Further south, you can chill out on the beach or take a cruise in a gulet. Or, you can venture to the east and eat world-famous ice cream and baklava while visiting ancient archaeological sites. The potential for cultural immersion and cultural appreciation in Turkey is amazing. It truly is a melting pot in all senses of the phrase!
- Oman is home to frankincense trees, gorgeous beaches, a vast desert, as well as kind and warm people. Its great natural beauty and diversity will give you a sense of awe and inspiration. Here on the Arabian Peninsula, you can learn about the many cultures of East Africa, ancient Arabia, and southwest Asia. The cuisine here is influenced by all three regions and is full of delicious flavors and world-famous spices.
Middle East Vacations
Taking your own Middle East tour is a wonderful way to spend your vacation. However, if you aren’t comfortable heading out on your own quite yet, consider joining a small group tour. Even better, join me on one of my Middle East and North Africa Yoga and Culture Retreats! During my yoga retreats abroad, we incorporate gentle yoga and mindfulness sessions to soothe the body and mind. Furthermore, we build community with like-hearted people who are similarly curious about cultural travel and social impact trips.
There is so much to see and do in this beautiful corner of the world, why not share it with a group of supportive, new friends? Discover the diverse geography, savor the amazing food, and leave feeling inspired and settled in your body and mind.
Travel with a purpose by learning about the rich cultures of the region and supporting local people. Join cultural tours led by local guides who can share a deeper understanding of history, art, people, and social issues. Practice reciprocity by giving back and making a positive social impact on local communities. Be willing to learn deeply about a place and challenge any existing beliefs you might have.
Middle East Yoga Retreats
Yoga retreats abroad are always an amazing way to connect with a new place in a deeper way. Thoughtfully designed yoga practices along with the support of a group allow for space to process the overall travel experience. Together, we can explore what it means to travel mindfully and to live the teachings of yoga off our mats and out into the world around us.
If you are interested in learning more, check out my upcoming yoga retreats (Morocco in October 2022 or Turkey in May 2023) or reach out to me with any questions! Otherwise, happy Middle East travels!