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Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks. If you’re looking for thrills, you can float above the desert dunes in a hot air balloon, climb aboard a high-speed ride at IMG Worlds of Adventure or skydive over the Palm Jumeirah.
Stunning coral reefs and turquoise waters perfect for windsurfing have made Hurghada, on Egypt's Red Sea Coast, a busy resort town. Within easy reach of the stunning Giftun Islands and the Eastern Arabian Desert, Hurghada has seen enormous amounts of development in the past decade—and yes, it does seem overrun with tourists at times. But it’s a relatively easy beach escape for Europeans, and some of the world's best diving and snorkeling sites are just offshore. Walk or catch a cab to explore the old quarter, El Dahar.
A youthful, modern metropolis with a diverse population, Tel Aviv dates back to only 1909. Clubs, bars, a thriving arts community, gay life and beaches attract artists, musicians and young professionals to Tel Aviv's more secular scene. Its UNESCO-designated Bauhaus architecture has won the city the moniker "The White City". Walk, drive or take cabs between the cultural exhibition pavilions of Haaretz Museum, historic Independence Hall Museum, bustling Carmel Market and Old Jaffa's boardwalk.
Looking for a great beach destination? The Red Sea’s warm water is great for swimming, and there are miles of great beaches in Sharm El Sheikh for working on your tan, but if you’re a diver, look no further. We’re talking enormous schools of fish and tons of excellent dive sites. Sure, it’s easier to get here if you live in Europe, but even if you’re farther afield, it’s worth the trek. (Editor's note: Our list was compiled before political unrest prompted many countries to issue travel warnings for Egypt. If you're currently planning a trip to Egypt, please consider the risks and monitor your government's travel alerts.)
Few places inspire such passion as Jerusalem. Its significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims endures. The Israeli capital's major sites include the Old City, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, and the Dome of the Rock, the world's third-holiest Islamic shrine. The Old City is easily explored on foot. Away from the religious sights, jazz clubs, hip restaurants, arthouse cinemas and edgy theatre entertain Jerusalem's 725,000 inhabitants and constant stream of visitors.
Cairo has lot to live up to: the Jewel of the Orient, the City of the Thousand Minarets and the Melting Pot of Ancient and Modern Egyptian Civilizations are just a few of its titles. To take in some of the Egyptian capital's magnitude, visit the Antiquities Museum, which houses King Tut's earthly goods, see the massive Citadel and Khan Al-Khalili bazaar. Leave driving to the locals and travel by taxi, or book a car and driver. Transfer to a camel at the pyramids and brave the gaze of the Sphinx.
Atmospheric backstreets paint a very different picture to first impressions of Abu Dhabi. The often slick and modern capital of the U.A.E. presents a fascinating mixture of tradition and progression. Tracing its rich history back to around 3000 B.C., Abu Dhabi maintains a more distinctly Arabian ambiance than glitzy Dubai. Taxis are a safe, reliable way to get around sites such as The Corniche Park, the White Fort, the Heritage Village, which offers glimpses into Bedouin life, and the Women's Craft Centre.
The shining jewel of Qatar, Doha is a multicultural city, home to most of the country's population as well as expatriate communities from a range of origins. Shopping abounds in the city's plentiful malls, while the Corniche impresses visitors with picturesque architecture and dazzling views of the harbor. Doha boasts myriad cultural facilities, including the futuristic Education City and the National Museum. Having hosted the 2006 Asian Games, the city is home to many sports complexes as well.
Charming Eilat is one of Israel’s most popular resort cities. Nestled at the Northern tip of the Red Sea, Eilat’s warm, clear waters are a huge draw for divers, while the reefs of Coral Beach Nature Reserve are perfect for snorkelers. Above sea level, the ancient copper mines of Timna National Park are begging to be explored, as are the shops, bars and restaurants of the seaside promenade.