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Chapter 11 Geography and Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa.


* The Islamic religion dominates the entire region.

* The region is the hearth of early civilization aid tree major religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

* Population concentrations reflect water availability.

* The region is one of the driest areas of the world, but is strategically and social conflict in the region affects the region and the world.

* Political and social conflict it the region affects the region and the world.


* Pilgrimages associated with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are important to tourism.

* International tourism is concentrated in a few countries of the region.

* With their distinctive landscapes, the cities of the region attract regional and international tourists.

* Travel within the region is often difficult.

* Historical and archeological sites of ancient cultures are major tourist attractions.


Islamic capitals Petra and Jerash (Jordan) Jerusalem Holy land sites Cairo, the Great Pyramids, and the Sphinx (Egypt) Luxor, Egypt Abu Simbel (Egypt) Istanbul (Turkey) Ismir Central Anatolia Damascus Tunis and Coastal resorts (Tunisia) Algiers Casablanca, Tangier, and Marrakesh (Morocco)


Arabian Plateau







Cultural Heath


Desert Pavement


Friday Mosque




Islamic Cities

Islamic Fundamentalist

Islamic Law

Islamic World




Lake Kinnereth




Middle Fast






Riverine Basins

Sahara Desert



Souk (Suq)




Tourism to the Middle East and North Africa increased slowly in the last decade. In the 1990s, visitors to North Africa and the Middle East represented only about 5.7 percent of total global international arrivals, but North Africa alone accounts for nearly 35 percent of all tourism to the entire continent of Africa. Tourism is very important to specific areas and countries of the Middle East, but specific destinations have changed in the last few decades as a result of political problems in the Middle East and North Africa. Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, for instance, have declined as tourist centers because of the conflict in their countries.

The region is dominated by the Islamic religion. (Islam refers to the religion; a Muslim is a believer in Islam.) Most countries (other than Israel, Iran, and Turkey) are part of the Arab realm. Most of the Arab countries in the region have joined an Arab Tourism Union (ATU) to promote and develop local tourism. The chief emphasis has been on developing a Pan- Arab integrated tourism market, with hopes for increasing the flow of tourism traffic between the Arab nations. To date they have met with little success in developing a Pan-Arab integrated tourism market. In some of these countries, European and American tourists are not encouraged and are often faced with restrictions that curtail movement and curiosity. There has been a wave of anti-Western sentiment accompanied by a movement to revive Islamic traditions in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Algeria, and Iran. In addition, there have been Islamic fundamentalist movements in Tunisia and Egypt, creating concern among potential visitors. Some of the wealthier countries that export petroleum, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Dhubai, are not interested in Western tourists, because they do not need the income from tourism. Dhubai has a large duty-free airport and acts as a hub for travel through the region and eastern Africa, but these Arab states are concerned that tourism will affect their population's attitudes toward alcohol and lead to adoption of Western dress, behavior, and values, which they feel are decadent.

The importance of Islam to this region makes it possible to identify specific tourist types in the Islamic World. The first characteristic is attraction to cities. Muslims enjoy visiting the cities of their region and the world for both pilgrimages and business purposes. The traditional Islamic cities offer attractions, such as the mosques where daily prayers are to be offered, the baths, and the bazaars. The business capitals of the Islamic world such as Damascus, Syria; Beirut, Lebanon; and Cairo, Egypt, are the centers of trade and commerce carried out under Islamic law. Muslims also visit cities for burial pilgrimages. It is the desire of many Muslims to be buried in a sacred place. Holy pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem involve several million Muslim visitors a year. Residents of the region are attracted to water because of its coolness and the rest it offers to desert-tired eyes. Muslims are not attracted to the sandy beach as are Western tourists, but visit for the water itself. Tourists in this area also make summer visits to the mountains in search of relief from the heat of the cities. A final form of tourism within the region is family-related tourism. Family members visit relatives abroad or return home from foreign residences (Ritter, 1975).


The Middle East and North Africa, Figures 11-1a and 11-1b, is a widely misunderstood region. In much of the Western world the term the Middle East evokes images of oil-rich sheiks, conflicts between Arab and Arab or Arab and Israeli, terrorist groups, and nomadic Bedouins crossing the Sahara Desert in camel caravans. Popular stereotypes of the region are misleading, and even efforts to define the region have problems of agreement. Most of the area is dry, with precipitation totals under twenty inches per year and in many places less than ten inches per year. Culturally, North Africa and the Middle East are considered a single region by geographers and many others because of the influence of the Islamic religion. The Middle East is the hearth of the Islamic religion. At least 80 percent of the people of the region, including North Africa, are Muslim. Areas suitable for human occupancy are widely scattered, and most of the lands of North Africa and the Middle East have high population densities only in more favorable sites associated with water. Thus for most of the region, the population density of individual countries is low.

Population is concentrated in riverine or oasis locations, and the vast majority of the people have little to do with nomadism, camels, or the Sahara Desert. The view of the region as the home of wealthy Arab sheiks engaging in conspicuous consumption from their oil wealth is equally erroneous. Not only is the oil wealth concentrated in only a few countries, but within them a significant portion of that wealth is being channeled into development efforts to benefit a broader segment of the population. Even the aridity of the area is modified by elevation and increased precipitation in the highlands. The idea that the Sahara is entirely sand is another error, since most of it is covered by a rocky gravel surface known as desert pavement rather than sand.

The importance of the region to the world centers on its vast reserves of oil and oil-related wealth; its role as cultural hearth for the world's major religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the importance of the area historically as a cradle of civilization; and its present strategic location and repeated conflicts that threaten to draw other regions of the world into global war.



Landform Characteristics

The landforms of the Middle East and North Africa, Figure 11-2, influence the local climatic conditions and affect the availability of the lifeblood of the region--water.

There are three general landform regions:

1. The generally level terrain associated with deserts in North Africa and the plateaus of Arabia, Iran, and Turkey.

2. The mountain ranges in northwest Africa (the Atlas), and those surrounding the plateaus of Iran and Turkey (Zagros and Taurus), and on the west of the Arabian Plateau.

3. The riverine basins of the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris, and smaller streams.

Critical differences exist between these regions based on the presence or absence of water. Population is concentrated along the rivers, in the highlands, or near highlands where moisture is available. The mountains of North Africa and the Middle East are the primary geographical factor affecting the distribution of water and, consequently, the population. In northwest Africa, the Atlas Mountains provide an orographic barrier, and the water from the mountains is the lifeblood of the agricultural areas of this region. The Nile, one of the most important rivers in the world, starts south of the North African region in mountains that provide it with water. The Nile River valley is home to more than 60 million people, and over 90 percent of Egypt's population lives along the river. The Nile provides water for irrigation, for drinking, for transportation (including for tourism), for the fishing industry, and for the hydroelectricity upon which industry is based. In addition to providing water and electricity, the High Aswan Dam on the Nile, which was completed in the early 1970s, is a tourist attraction.


In Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, the Taurus, Zagros, and other mountain ranges reach elevations of over 18,000 feet. These mountains are the source of streams and rivers that provide water for a host of small rivers and for the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as well. The Tigris and Euphrates were the early cradle of civilization, and Iran (Persia) and Iraq (Mesopotamia) have been battling over Shatt-al-Arab, the mouth of these important waterways, since the seventeenth century. Like the Nile, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and smaller streams such as the Jordan River provide life to the arid regions through which they flow.


The Middle East and North Africa are not as arid as commonly assumed, but in general, the region does have a dry climate. The predominant climatic type is desert or steppe, with precipitation totals of ten inches or less per year. The driest portions are the Sahara and the great deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Important areas of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Jordan have Mediterranean climates. Precipitation totals of fifteen to thirty-five inches make farming more profitable in these areas, particularly fall-planted crops such as barley and wheat, which utilize the winter rainfall.

The temperatures of the Middle East and North Africa are almost uniformly high during the summer months. The highest average daily temperatures during the summer nearly always exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit and in Libya and Egypt and the lowlands of the Persian Gulf often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


Of interest to tourism is the organization of life in the region. There are three distinctive lifestyles: city, village, and nomadic. For tourists and residents, the cityscape is dominated by narrow streets, the mosque, and the bazaar. The mosque is the focal point of the city and its neighborhoods, for Muhammad revealed that the faithful Muslim must bow in prayer five times daily while facing Mecca (Figure 11-3). Fridays are the sabbath, and the great mosques are referred to as Friday Mosques. Each section of the bazaar specializes in one category of goods, making shopping easier than the maze of winding narrow passageways might suggest to the uninitiated visitor. Closest to the mosque are the merchants selling articles necessary for worship, then those skilled artisans working with silver or gold. Farthest from the mosque are textiles and goods associated with food preparation, which are least compatible with the worship service of the mosque.


Streets remained narrow because the Koran (the words of Allah to the prophet Muhammad) did not provide for public space greater than that needed for a laden camel to pass. The construction of buildings in the Islamic city provides the individual with security and privacy. Islamic architecture is interior-oriented rather than exterior-oriented, with a central court bounded by the rooms of the home and no windows in the exterior walls. Each quarter of the city was set apart for different groups, separated by walls and strong gates for protection.

Early Islamic cities became great learning centers where scholars were responsible for many scientific advancements. Today, these large cities, such as Baghdad, Amman, and Cairo, are the homes of both the very wealthy and the very poor. Contrasts between the rich and poor abound in city life. Problems of sanitation, water supply, unsafe housing, and access to adequate food contribute to a low standard of living among the urban poor. Cairo's sewage and water system, for example, was built to serve 3 million people, and today its population is in excess of 11 million people. In spite of the dichotomy between rich and poor, the Islamic city is a magnet to tourists and a haven to its residents. The myriad architectural attractions, fascinating street scenes, and tantalizing glimpses into the Islamic lifestyle make the great Islamic cities a unique tourist attraction.

The second lifestyle (which tourists generally only glimpse) is found in the villages. The villagers focus on agriculture--wheat, dates, barley, and other small grains and vegetables for local and national consumption. The location of villages depends upon water. The villages are composed of houses of various sizes and amenities depending upon social and economic level, the mosque, the market or bazaar (Figure 11-4), and the fields surrounding the village. The village lifestyle is more traditional than the lifestyle in the cities. The pace of life reflects centuries of evolution of a social and political milieu that provided for the needs of each village member. The contrast with the city is apparent to even a casual visitor. For the tourist who has braved the traffic-congested streets of a city, such as Cairo, the villages in the region offer an opportunity to pause and reflect on the relative progress brought by the industrial revolution. Nearly one-half of the people of this region live in villages, and even city residents return frequently to family homes in the village.


The third major lifestyle is found among the nomads. The nomads account for only 5 to 10 percent of the population of the region, and national boundaries and politics are pressuring them to become sedentary. The nomads use a part of the environment not used by villagers, herding their animals throughout the region. They provide meat, cheese, leather products, and animals for the village and city dwellers. It has become increasingly popular with tourists to visit a Bedouin tent. They observe and learn of the lifestyle of the nomad and feel the trip to the region is more complete having had such fleeting contact with the local peoples.


World attention is focused upon this region of the world both because of the political situation and its potential. The political situation changed the tourist map of the region. Lebanon's ongoing civil war destroyed its formerly important tourist industry. The continuing stress between Iran and Iraq, Iraq and Kuwait, the Gulf War, the Israeli-Arab dispute, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and difficulties between the moderate and radical Arab states combined to inhibit tourism in many areas of the region. Government decrees against Western lifestyles (as in Iran) and minimizing Western tourists in Saudi Arabia and Yemen reduced tourist activity. In spite of this, the historical importance of the region as a cradle of Western civilization continues to attract visitors, Figures 11-5a and 11-5b.

The major tourist countries of the Middle East today are Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. Syria's tourism dipped significantly in the early 1990s, then recovered. Historically, other countries of the region such as Iraq and Lebanon have been major international tourist centers. If the political situation should stabilize, they could conceivably become important again. Jordan's tourism was hurt by the Gulf War of 1990-1991. However, in 1995 Jordan and Israel signed an accord opening their borders. The impact was almost immediate as tourism arrivals nearly doubled in 1995 and continued to grow until renewed conflict erupted in the region in 2000. In the Spring of 2002 the area became politically unstable due to the movement of Israeli troops into the West Bank and a number of suicide bombings by the Palestinians. This combined with the threat of an attack on Iraq by President Bush increasing unrest in the area had a serious impact on tourism to the region. If and when the political situation stabilizes tourism should return, but it would be difficult to predict the length of time needed to return to the earlier number of visitors. Libya's current government would be a major handicap to tourism from the United States even if the region were more politically stable. The region continues to be plagued by war, terrorism, and religious fanaticism. In recent publications, the World Tourism Organization did not even include Lebanon because tourism as we know it today was virtually nonexistent there in 1990. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf issue visas only for visitors there on business, travelers in transit, or (in the case of Saudi Arabia) for Muslims on pilgrimage to the holy sites of Islam.





Capital: Cairo

Government: Republic

Size: 386,650 square miles (slightly smaller than Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas combined)

Language: Arabic, English, French

Ethnic Division: Egyptian, Bedouin, Arab, Nubian

Religion: 94% Sunni Muslim, 6% Coptic Christian

Tourist Season: Year-round

Peak Tourist Season: No significant tourist peak

Currency: Egyptian pound

Population: 69.8 million (2001)

Entry: Visas and passport are required. If arriving by air,
tourists can obtain visas at the airport. It is best to obtain visas
prior to travel. Arrival and departure taxes are collected. Currency
exchange requirements exist.

Transportation: International flights from North America via
western Europe connect Cairo with North America. Overland
buses travel between Israel and Egypt. There is good domestic
air service from Cairo to major cities. Rail service along the
Nile connects Cairo to major tourist centers at Alexandria,
Luxor, and Aswan. Public transportation in Cairo is best by

Health: Concern should be taken for yellow fever, malaria,
and cholera. Typhoid, tetanus, polio, meningitis, and hepatitis
immunizations are recommended by the State Department.
Care should be taken not to drink tap water and eat fruits and
vegetables that can be peeled.

Shopping: Common items include cotton and linen, gold
and silver jewelry, local crafts such as copperware, wood carvings,
leather goods, Nubian basketwork, and camel saddles. A
cartouche with the visitor's name is also a popular souvenir.


Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the second
most populous on the African continent. The Egyptians are
homogeneous (90 percent), with Mediterranean (Egyptians) and
Arab influences in the North. There are some Nubians of northern
Sudan in the South and minorities of Bedouin, Greeks, Italians,
and Syro-Lebanese. Arabic is the official language in Egypt
with English and French used in business and education. Over 90
percent of all Egyptians belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. There
is a fairly large number of Coptic Christians (over five million).

Cultural Hints:

* A warm, friendly handshake is a common greeting.

* Men only shake hands with a woman if she extends her

* Personal space between men is very close.

* The right hand only is used for eating.

* Do not offer the left hand or offer food with the left hand.

* Do not show or point sole of foot to another person.

* Pointing at a person is impolite.

* Tipping (Baksheesh) is important for personal services.
Carry a lot of small change.

* Eating and foods:

Eat finger food only with the right hand.

It is considered impolite to eat everything on your plate.

Tips should be provided for all.

Typical foods include rice, bread, fish, lamb, chicken, turkey,
tomatoes, yogurt, cucumbers, and stuffed vegetables.

Physical Characteristics

Egypt is a desert country bisected by the Nile Valley and its delta. The climate is hot and dry in the summers and winters are moderate.

Tourism Characteristics

In the 1990s, Egypt had serious economic problems because of a sharp drop in oil prices, resulting in fewer Egyptians working abroad in other oil-producing countries. Also, there was a decline in tourism caused by a fear of terrorism and political conditions resulting from the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. In the early 1990s, there have been a number of attacks on tourists, however, the political situation stabilizes quickly each time and tourists begin to return. The country's tourism is somewhat constrained because of the high cost of travel from the main tourist-generating countries of the United States and western Europe.

Egypt's moderate stance toward Israel has created a shift in its tourist market (Figure 11-6). Egypt has had a history of tolerance between its religious factions of Muslims and Coptic Christians. The bulk of Egypt's tourists in 1975 were from other Arab countries, accounting for 62 percent of the accommodation nights recorded. This dropped considerably following Egypt's treaty with Israel in 1978. However, the increased ease of travel between Egypt, Jordan, and Israel and the increased emphasis on tourism arrivals caused Egypt to experience rapid growth from 1978 to 1985. Arabs represent about 30 percent of the market today, with Sudan and Saudi Arabia the two dominant market countries in the region. Arrivals from western Europe (led by Italy and Germany) accounted for over 16 percent of the arrivals. There were about 200,000 visitors from the United States in 1999. This shift from a regional to a worldwide emphasis has reduced the length of stay. In the 1950s, the length of stay was for almost one month. Today it is approximately six days. A visit to the pyramids and either a cruise up the Nile River or a quick trip to Luxor or the Aswan Dam can be completed easily in a week or less. Arab visitors still stay longer than do those from industrialized countries, however. Most of the visitors from the industrialized countries include Egypt in a two-or three-country visit as part of a regional visit. Egypt is working with Jordan to create a two-center visit that is attractive to Arab visitors.


Tourism demand is year-round, with Arab visitors preferring the summer, the Europeans and North Americans preferring the winter, and the central Europeans and Russians preferring the spring and autumn.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Four regions and the Nile cruises comprise Egypt's major attractions. Nile cruises between Luxor and the Aswan Dam, or Cairo to Luxor and then on the Aswan reservoir (Lake Nassar) are the most popular, especially for North American and West European visitors.

Three regions are more important than the fourth. They are Cairo and the surrounding area, Luxor, and Aswan. Cairo, Egypt's capital, is the political and cultural center of much of the Arab world, although it has lost some political leverage because of its treaty with Israel. In Cairo, the two major attractions are the Egyptian Museum (one of the world's great museums, featuring a collection of ancient artifacts, including mummies, art objects, the King Tut collection, and other historical relics) and the Khan Khalili Bazaar (an enormous marketplace where visitors can purchase almost anything they desire, particularly a variety of gold and silver works, embroidered clothing, leather, and other handicrafts). In the old city there are a number of Christian churches and monuments illustrating the influence of the Coptic Christians. The city also offers the Arab culture and a host of mosques set in the landscape of a major Arab city.

Near Cairo, the famous Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, Figure 11-7, are a must for travelers. The most famous of the group is the Great Pyramid built by King Cheops (IV Dynasty) around 2650 B.C. It is composed of almost 2.5 million blocks of stone. Near the Pyramid of Cheops are three small pyramids dedicated to either his wives or family members. Pictures do not do justice to their impressive nature.

Also near Cairo are Memphis and Sakara. Memphis is the oldest capital of Egypt, built by King Menes. The statue of Ramses II is the most beautiful representation of him in Egypt. The Step Pyramid of King Zoser at Sakara near Cairo is the oldest stone building in the world, dating from before 2500 B.C. It lies on a desert plateau southwest of Cairo.

The second region is Luxor and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens upstream on the Nile. With the magnificent temples of Luxor and Karnak, Luxor (or Thebes as it was known in ancient time) was the summer palace of the Pharaohs. At Luxor is the famed Temple of Luxor. It was built by two pharaohs--Amenhotep III and Ramses II. The second temple at Luxor, Karnak, is one of the impressive archaeological sites in the Middle East and North Africa. A visit starts with a walk through the Avenue of the Rams, representing Amun, a symbol of fertility and growth. It has one of the best sound and light shows in the world. The temple was a major setting for the movie Death on the Nile. The Valley of the Dead, across the Nile from Luxor, is the ancient burial place for the historic leaders of Egypt, including King Tut. The tombs are multi-chamber works of art, and several, including those of Ramses VI, Serti, Armenophis, and King Tutankamen can be visited.


Farther up the Nile near Aswan were the two funerary temples built by Ramses II for himself and his queen. They have been removed from an area now covered by Lake Nasser and have been restored at Abu Simbel on a height overlooking the lake (Figure 11-8).

The fourth important region is Alexandria and the surrounding area, which receives fewer visitors. Alexandria is a Mediterranean resort and port city that was founded by Alexander the Great and was an important post for the Romans. The Greco-Roman ruins today combine with the superb sand beaches along the coast to attract visitors to Alexandria. Many Mediterranean cruise ships use Alexandria as a port of call.

Egypt has been developing holiday villages along the Mediterranean and Red Sea. The combination of dramatic mountain scenery and the clear blue waters of the Red Sea combine to provide a rich resource for tourism development in this area. With the traditional attractions of the Nile cruise and the archaeological ruins, Egypt feels its beach tourism has the potential to increase the number of visitors by providing a more diversified tourism destination. If political calm can be achieved in the region, Egypt's location and many attractions should assist the country in becoming an important tourist center.



Physical Characteristics

Israel is a combination of coastal plains, desert, and mountains. The climate is temperate, but hot and dry in the deserts.

Tourism Characteristics

Israel, the Holy Land of three religions--Islam, Christianity, and Judaism--is an important world tourist center. Tourism increased annually until terrorist events in 1985 and early 1986 and civil unrest in 1987-1988 resulted in a major decline. Tourism has leveled out at just over 2 million visitors a year. In 1999, foreign tourism was the largest export income source for Israel, totaling 3 billion dollars. The United States is the largest source area for international tourists to Israel, accounting for 500,000 visitors a year in the late 1990s.

The government recognizes the importance of tourism and has assisted in the development of hotels and other segments of the tourist infrastructure. It has developed a central electronic reservation system for hotels and encouraged the development of more hotel rooms. It works actively to promote tourism and since 1986 has organized a vigorous campaign to regain previous visitor levels from the United States and Europe. In September 1992 Israel joined with Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus to promote travel from the United States to these four countries. Although Israel receives fewer total tourists than Egypt, Israel receives more from countries outside of the region. Its average length of stay of some 21 days is one of the highest in the world. This is due to the nature of the tourists. The United States is the leading source of tourists to Israel, accounting for 23.2 percent of the total, 75 percent of whom are American Jews (Figure 11-9). Table 11-1 illustrates potential markets for travel to Israel. Many have family ties and have a tendency to stay longer in the region. The European countries account for over 57 percent of total tourists to Israel, with the United Kingdom and France the leading contributors. The importance of religion other than Judaism cannot be overlooked. Both Christian and Islamic faiths have important religious sites in Israel. In 1999, even a few pilgrims from Iraq and Libya visited holy sites in Jerusalem.


Capital: Jerusalem

Government: Parliamentary democracy

Size: 7,850 square miles (about the same as New Jersey)

Language: Hebrew, Arabic, English

Ethnic Division: 82% Jewish, 18% minorities, mostly Arabic

Religion: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Druze

Tourist Season: March through October

Peak Tourist Season: March through July and December

Currency: Israeli shekel (ILS)

Population: 6.4 million (2001)

Entry: Visas are issued on arrival for stays of less than 3
months. Passports are required. Travelers wishing to visit
Arab countries should have their visas inserted on removable
paper rather than placed into a passport. Some Arab countries
will not admit visitors with the Israeli visa in their passport.
Airport departure tax is collected. Visitors need proof of sufficient
funds and return or onward transportation.

Transportation: International airlines connect Israel with
regularly scheduled services to North America, Europe, and
parts of Africa and Asia. Israel has a good nationwide bus service.
Public transportation in cities is reasonable and provides
good service.

Health: Tap water is potable and immunization is only required
when coming from infected areas of the world.

Shopping: Common items include locally made sportswear,
jewelry, beachwear, copper and glass, ceramics, leather, suede,
carved olive wood, religious ornaments, and handicrafts.


There are three broad Jewish groupings: the Ashkenazim, or
Jews who came to Israel from Europe, North and South America,
South Africa, and Australia; the Sephardim, who trace their origin
to Spain and Portugal; and the Eastern or Oriental Jews, who
descend from ancient communities in Islamic countries. The
Ashkenazim have generally dominated religion and politics in Israel.
The 4.47 million population includes about 200,000 Israeli
settlers in the West Bank of Jordan occupied by Israel, the Gaza
Strip, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem. Seventeen percent
of Israel's citizens are Israeli Arabs and members of the Druze and
Circassian ethnic groups. The remainder (83 percent) is Jewish.
In the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are nearly 2 million
Palestinian Arabs.

Hebrew is the official language of Israel. Arabic is taught
in the public schools and is also an official language. English
is understood widely and is used in commerce. In the West
Bank and Gaza Strip the Palestinian Arabs speak Arabic. A
large percentage also speak English or French. Of the Palestinian
Arabs, about 92 percent are Muslims (mostly Sunni)
while the rest are Christian (Greek Orthodox or Roman
Catholic). Stores and shops in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza
Strip are closed on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, depending
upon the owner's religion.

Cultural Hints:

* A warm, friendly handshake is a common greeting.

* "Shalom" (peace) is a usual greeting in Israel.

* "Salaam alaikum" (Peace be upon you) is a usual greeting
by Palestinians.

* Both Israelis and Palestinians have close personal space.

* Pointing at a person with the index finger is rude.

* Israelis understand most common hand signs.

* Men need to wear a skullcap (kipah) when visiting Jewish
religious sites.

* In Palestinian areas it is impolite to point the bottom of the
shoe at another person.

* In Palestinian areas it is impolite to pass objects or shake
hands with the left hand.

* Eating and foods:

There is a variety of food in the region because of the great
cultural diversity. Some typical foods are falafel (pocket
bread filled with beans, lamb, or chicken); stuffed grape
leaves; spiced rice; kebab (meat and vegetables on a
skewer); gefilte fish; vegetable salad, mixed with olive
oil, lemon juice, and spices; and fruit and eggs. Israelis
do not mix dairy products and meat during meals because
of their religion; therefore, breakfasts will be meatless
with lots of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products.


Tourism Destinations and Attractions

The principal attraction of Israel is religion, centering around the old city of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with holy sites located throughout the country. Jerusalem, Figure 11-10, offers much of the religious significance for all three major religions. The Dome of the Rock is second only to Mecca as a sacred site for Muslims (Figure 11-11). It is the spot where the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have ascended into Heaven. It is also the site of Solomon's temple. Near the Western Wall is the Wailing Wall, which is important to Jews. Jews call the wall the Kotel Ha'naaravu (the Western Wall). The name "Wailing Wall" was applied to it as Jews came here to pray and bewail the destruction of the Temple, the Exile, and the hard fate of the Jewish people. Men and women pray at different sections of the Wall in accordance with Orthodox Jewish customs. Sites associated with Christ, such as Golgotha where Christ was crucified, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa (the last path Christ walked), the room of the Last Supper, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and so on, attract Christians. Some areas of Jerusalem are closed to traffic on the Jewish Sabbath. Also, modern Jerusalem has a beautiful Israel Museum containing the Dead Sea Scrolls, the famous Chagall windows, and the Museum of the Holocaust. Old Jerusalem, surrounded by a wall, has Arab, Christian, and Jewish quarters and markets. It is only a short trip to Bethlehem to visit the site of Christ's birth and Rachel's tomb.


North of Jerusalem is the Sea of Galilee, which is called Lake Kinnereth by Israelis. Surrounding the sea are a number of holy sites, such as the Mount of Beatitudes and Capernaum. It is difficult to travel anywhere in Israel without coming in contact with sites of significant meaning for some segment of the three great religions. For example, the Dead Sea and Negev area, two other major centers of attraction, are associated with locations from Biblical times: Masada, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Beersheba, and Sodom. Masada is famous because of a long siege by the Romans that ended in the deaths of all the Jewish defenders. Now Air Force pilots fly over from time to time to emphasize Masada's symbolic importance to Israel today.

The Dead Sea provides a unique experience of swimming and floating. Negev is also a resort and garden center for the region. Israel shares the Gulf of Aquaba with Jordan. Elat on the Gulf is a well-developed beach resort that provides some excellent water recreation in the clear water of the Gulf of Aquaba. Many Europeans are attracted to the modern cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv and the nearby coastal resorts. Near Tel Aviv is the ancient city of Jaffa. The Israeli government and other private organizations are conducting excavation projects throughout the country. These areas are becoming important attractions for visitors.

The occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are predominantly Arab and contain many of the region's religious sites. Continued unrest in the West Bank has created some problems for the traveler desiring to visit those sites. In 1993 an agreement was signed leading to self-rule in Gaza and Jericho. The impact of terrorism on tourism in the future remains to be seen.

Table 11-1 World Jewish Population

Region             Jewish Population

Africa                     300,000
Asia                     3,900,000
Europe                   1,500,000
Latin America            1,000,000
North America            7,900,000
Oceania                    100,000
Eurasia                  3,100,000
World                   17,800,000

Source: Adapted from The Universal Almanac, 1996.


Physical Characteristics

Jordan is a country of rocky deserts, mountains, and rolling plains. The dominant topographic feature is the great north-south Jordan Rift Valley, which is an extension of the African Rift Valley. The climate is Mediterranean with a rainy season from November to March.

Tourism Characteristics

Jordan has benefitted from the relative calm along its border with Israel over the past few years, but like Israel and Egypt it has been hurt by the political conflicts and border changes in the area. During 1991 the Gulf War reduced its tourism to almost zero. However, in 1992 and 1993 tourists began to return to Jordan. The border agreement between Jordan and Israel helped Jordan increase its tourism. By 1999 Israel provided the second largest number of tourists to Jordan (Figure 11-12). The United States also contributes a significant amount of tourists to Jordan. Jordan's tourism was crippled by the loss of the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem to Israel following the 1967 war with Israel. Jordan benefits from tourists crossing the border into Israel. Jordan serves as a transit country for visitors to Israel due to some favorable airfares. Along with Israel and Egypt, Jordan is also part of a regional destination area. Jordan is bordered by Syria on the north, Iraq and Saudi Arabia on the east, Saudi Arabia on the south, and the occupied West Bank on the west. The transit nature of Jordan serves two markets: tourists going to Israel and Islamic pilgrims from countries such as Turkey who visit the holy places in Saudi Arabia by land. The major rail line between Turkey and Saudi Arabia traverses Jordan, making such linkages possible.



Capital: Amman

Official Name: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Size: 35,135 square miles (slightly smaller than Indiana)

Language: Arabic, English

Ethnic Division: Arab, with minorities of Circassians, Armenians, and Kurds

Religion: 92% Sunni Muslim, 8% Christian

Tourist Season: June through December

Peak Tourist Season: June through August

Currency: Jordan dinar (JOD)

Population: 5.2 million (2001)

Entry: Visa is required and can be obtained on entry. Passports
are required.

Transportation: Amman is serviced by a number of Middle
Eastern and European airlines from North America, Europe,
and Cairo. Road transportation between major cities is good.
Within cities taxis are most used by tourists, although there is
bus service.

Health: Avoid tap water, uncooked vegetables and unpasteurized
milk products. Drink only boiled or bottled water.

Shopping: Common items include gold and silver jewelry
and local crafts such as wood carvings, leather goods, Nubian
basketwork, and camel saddles.


Jordanians are Arabic. There are a few communities of Circassians,
Armenians, and Kurds. The largest minority today is some
1.5 million Palestinian Arabs, which includes some 850,000 registered
refugees. Most Palestinians living in Jordan are citizens.
About one-fourth of the Arabs are of Bedouin descent; however,
less than 5 percent are currently nomadic. Many of the Bedouins
still live in tents. Arab is the official language of Jordan, but
English is widely spoken among the educated. Approximately 90
percent of the population is Sunni Muslim. The Jordanians are
good-natured, friendly, and hospitable. While appointments are
important, Jordanians may be late as time is not as important in
Jordan. Some Palestinians, although having Jordanian citizenship,
consider themselves Palestinians first and support the establishment
of a Palestinian homeland.

Cultural Hints:

* A warm, friendly handshake is a common greeting.

* "Salaam alaikum" (peace be with you) is also common.

* Avoid touching members of the opposite sex in mosques
and on the street.

* Avoid excessive admiration of any object owned by hosts.

* It is an honor to be invited into a home.

* Excessive praise for children is considered bad luck.

* Do not offer the left hand or pass and accept objects with
the left hand.

* Do not point sole of foot or shoe at another person.

* Good posture is important.

* Eating and foods:

It is polite to leave small portions of food on your plate.
Eat with the right hand, never the left.
Refuse offers of additional food for at least two times, then
accept on the third offer if you wish more.

Coffee is important. If not wanted tip the cup back and

Eighty-five percent of visitors to Jordan are Arabic, and have far less economic impact on the country than the Western visitors to Israel do there. Low expenditures reflect the fact that relatively few of Jordan's visitors are true leisure travelers. The largest number of Arab visitors are from Saudi Arabia.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

The major attractions of Jordan are archaeological relics, such as the city of Petra ("The Rose City"); desert castles; Kavak, a citadel built by the crusaders; Jerash, a preserved Roman Colonial city; Amman, the capital; Roman ruins; and the country's many museums. Petra, a Nabataean capital, is carved into solid rock (Figure 11-13). It is considered one of the wonders of the world. It can only be reached by walking or by riding donkeys or horses down a canyon, which is the more popular method. It even has a hotel at the bottom of the canyon. Jerash includes well-preserved examples of Greco-Roman architecture, including a Triumphal Arch, the Temple of Artemis, the Street of Columns, and an amphitheater. Madaba, which dates back to the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 B.C.), is mentioned in the Bible as a Moabite town.


Amman has an archaeological museum that emphasizes the life of Nabataean Muslims and other artifacts of the region. Also, there is a fine Roman amphitheater cut out of a hillside in Amman. Jordan has a beach resort with excellent beaches at 'Aqaba at the head of the Gulf of 'Aqaba.


Physical Characteristics

Lebanon consists of a coastal plain, a mountain range, the Bekaa Valley, and a mountainous region to the east. The climate is Mediterranean, mild to cool with wet winters and hot, dry summers.

Tourism Characteristics

Lebanon has been decimated by conflict in the last 10 to 20 years. At one time, it was a major destination and a financial center with outstanding connectivity, sometimes called the "Switzerland of the Middle East." It had very good accommodations and other tourist facilities. It is trying to rebuild its economy, and it is recommended for travelers from the West to use caution.


Capital: Beirut

Government: Republic

Size: 4,015 square miles (smaller than Connecticut)

Language: Arabic, French, Armenian, English

Ethnic Division: 95% Arab, 4% Armenian, 1% other

Religion: 70% Muslim and Druze, 30% Christian

Tourist Season: Year-round

Currency: Lebanese pound

Population: 4.3 million (2001)

The Department of State has determined that the situation in
Lebanon is now reasonably safe for Americans. American citizens
can now use a United States passport to travel to or
through Lebanon.

Shopping: Common items include gold and silver jewelry,
leather goods, and wood carvings.


Nearly 93 percent of the population is Arabic, and about 7 percent
are Armenians, who live mostly in Beirut. The major religious
groups are Muslim and Christians. Shiite Muslims make
up the single largest religious group. Many Christian sects are
represented in Lebanon, including Maronite, Greek Orthodox,
Greek Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, and
Protestant. The Druze, a group derived from Shiite Islam, constitute
another significant minority. Arabic is the official language.
French and English are widely understood. The Armenian
minority also speak Armenian, and some speak Turkish.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Beirut, the capital, has good beaches and caves to explore from the sea. A day's trip from Beirut are the Biblical Cedars of Lebanon, from which the cedar for King Solomon's Temple came. South along the coast are the Biblical cities of Sidon and Tyre, which remain centers of conflict and unrest. Tripoli is an ancient Phoenician city. It has a crusader castle overlooking the city. As in other Middle Eastern countries, mosques are common throughout Lebanon.



Capital: Damascus

Government: Republic

Size: 115,738 square miles (about the same as North Dakota)

Language: Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French, and English

Ethnic Division: 90.3% Arab, 9.7% Kurds, Armenians, and other

Religion: 74% Sunni Muslim, 16% Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects

Tourist Season: July through December

Peak Tourist Season: July

Currency: Syrian pound (SYL)

Population: 17.1 million (2001)

Entry: Visas and passports are required.

Transportation: International air service available through
Europe and Middle East countries. Travel between cities can
be arranged with taxis or buses.

Health: Water is not potable and care should be taken of local
dairy products. Sanitation is poor and travelers should
guard against endemic diseases.

Shopping: Common items include silk brocades, carved
wood objects, glassware, brass ware, copper work, pottery,
gold, silver, and handwoven rugs.


Syrians are of Semitic stock and about 90 percent of the population
is Arab. Muslim (Sunnis) constitute the majority (74 percent).
The Alawites represent about 16 percent, and Christians
represent approximately 10 percent of the population. Arabic is
the official language, and English and French are spoken by some
of the educated.

Cultural Hints:

* A friendly handshake is a common greeting.

* Do not point at other people.

* Do not point the sole of the foot at another person.

* Items are passed with the right hand, never the left.

* Do not offer the left hand to another person.

* Eating and foods:

Eat with the right hand.
Syrians generally refuse an invitation for more food twice
and accept the third offer.

Alcohol and pork are taboo.
Typical foods include chickpeas, eggplant, meats, breads,
and beans.

Physical Characteristics

Syria is mostly desert with a narrow coastal plain and mountains in the west. The climate is characterized by hot and dry summers and a mild, rainy winter.

Tourism Characteristics

Although Syria officially encourages tourism and has a national tourist office to promote the development of an infrastructure, the current political problems have decreased the volume of tourism from Western nations. Its close ties to Iran provide Syria with oil, but result in few tourists from the West. The Islamic countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran provide the majority of visitors to Syria. Of the Arab states that promote tourism, Syria has the shortest length of stay, indicating a somewhat transit character to their tourist trade. Syria has little trade from the United States. However, if the political situation were to change, it would offer a number of attractions of interest to North Americans.


Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Syria has a number of interesting places to visit, such as the Arab citadel of Aleppo with its mosque and museum; the ruins of ancient Tadmor at Palmyra; desert palaces, such as the Krak des Chevaliers, one of the best-preserved Crusader castles in the Middle East; and the Convent of Saint Takla, the oldest convent in the world, where Aramaic is still spoken (Figure 11-14). The capital, Damascus, is an Arab city with a rich history (Figure 11-15). The House of Ananias, the Tomb of Saladin, St. Paul's Church, and the Street Straight in Damascus are all referred to in the Bible. Souks (marketplaces) full of copper inlays, brass, wood, and spices provide important handicraft items for the visitor. Roman ruins and a typical Arab bazaar are additional attractions.



Physical Characteristics

Turkey is mostly mountainous with a central plateau and a narrow coastal plain. The climate is hot and dry in the summers, with mild, wet winters. It is somewhat harsher in the interior.

Tourism Characteristics

Tourism has been an important element of Turkey's development plans. As such, the government has emphasized the development of the tourism industry, stressing the importance of income generated by tourists.

Capital: Ankara
Government: Republican parliamentary democracy
Size: 487,863 square miles (about three times as large as California)
Language: Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic
Ethnic Division: 80% Turkish, 20% Kurd, 3% other
Religion: 98% Muslim (mostly Sunni), 2% other (Christian and Jewish)
Tourist Season: May through October
Peak Tourist Season: July through September
Currency: Turkish lira (TUL)
Population: 66.3 million (2001)


Entry: Visa is not required for stays up to 3 months. Passports
are required. Currency declaration is necessary for large

Transportation: International air carriers connect Istanbul,
Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, and Dalaman to North America and
Europe. Turkey has rail and intercity bus service to many
points in Europe. Domestic air, rail, and road transportation
are available. However, driving at night should be avoided because
of many poorly lit vehicles on the roads.

Health: Bottled or boiled water should be used at all times.
Fruits and vegetables should be cleaned and peeled before

Shopping: Common items include jewelry, ornaments, copper,
brass, silver, meerschaum pipes, daggers, ceramics and
pottery, animal skins, rugs, and carpets.


Nearly 80 percent of the population are Turks, with a sizeable minority
of Kurds. Although 98 percent of the population is Muslim
(Sunni), Turkey is officially secular. Turkish is the official language
of the country. It is related to the Uralic-Altaic languages
spoken in Asia. The Kurdish minority speaks Kurdish. English is
somewhat popular, and in major cities many understand it.

The legendary Mustafa Kemal, a Turkish World War I hero
later known as "Ataturk" or "father of the Turks," founded the
republic of Turkey in 1923 after the collapse of the 600-yearold
Ottoman Empire.

Cultural Hints:

* A handshake is a common greeting.

* Many Turks remove their shoes when entering a home.

* Showing the sole of your shoe or pointing is an insult.

* Do not eat or smoke on the street.

* It is an insult to pass an item with the left hand.

* The hand clenched in a fist with the thumb between the
index and middle finger is a rude gesture.

* Do not cross your arms over your chest when talking with

* Remove shoes when entering a Turkish mosque.

* Before taking pictures ask for permission.

* Eating and foods:

Some restaurants include a service charge. If so, tip 5 percent.
If not, tip 15 percent.

Typical food includes seafood, Turkish coffee, tea, cheese,
bread, soup, shish kebabs (chunks of lamb on a skewer),
vegetables prepared in olive oil, rice, baklava (syrup-dipped
pastry), and milk pudding.

Turkey's location makes it a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Balkan country. Its long (for the region) history of relative political stability encourages the growth of tourism. Tourism in Turkey tripled between 1986 and 1999. Germany, the United Kingdom, and the former USSR (mostly from the Muslim southern republics) are the leading generators of tourists to Turkey, but the United States accounts for only a small percentage of the visitors (Figure 11-16). Cruises are an important element in the tourist industry, with approximately 25 percent of all arrivals coming by ship. Still, the average of 9.5 days per visitor is impressive, indicating Turkey is a destination country. Americans constitute the largest single source of visitors from cruise ships on day trips from Greek islands close to the Turkish coast.


Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Turkey's tourist regions can be divided into four areas. They are Istanbul and the Northwest, Izmir and the West, Central Anatolia, and the Black Sea and the East.

Istanbul and the Northwest

Istanbul's location on the Bosphorus has long been a geographical and cultural crossroads, and the cultural landscape expresses that interaction. Constantine's St. Sophia, the "Blue" mosque of Sultan Ahmet, the Suleymaniye mosque, and the city walls from the Byzantine era are but a fraction of the many mosques and minarets. The Topkapi Palace (the home of the Ottoman sultans) is well worth a visit. In addition, museums, palaces, and narrow streets crowded with shops and people bring to life the old history of Istanbul.

Throughout northwest Turkey, there are resorts on the Black Sea and other evidence of the history of the region with mosques, famous battle sites such as Gallipoli, the Ottoman capital Bursa, and Greco-Roman ruins.

Izmir and the West

This area has one of the most-unspoiled and least-developed coastlines in the Mediterranean, with sandy bays, islands, and fishing ports. St. Paul preached in the area, and many sites he visited have become attractions. Greek and Roman ruins (including the birthplace of Herodotus); one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world, the great tomb of King Mausolus; rock fortresses; caravan routes; spectacular waterfalls; and assorted ruins dot the landscape in this region. At Ephesus, some 50 miles from Izmir, is the site of an ancient city that dates back to 4000 B.C. and contains the Temple of Diana, another of the ancient seven wonders of the world, and the statue of the Mother Goddess of Earth. Nearby is the Basilica of St. John, which is believed to contain the tomb of St. John. The region also contains an early Turkish citadel, the beautiful Mosque of Isa Bey, and the ruins of the Greek cities of Troy and Aphrodisia.

Central Anatolia

This is a region of spectacular snow-capped mountains forming a backdrop for the coastal plain with its great castles and scenic towns and cities. The region centers on Ankara, a modern city. Old Ankara features the Citadel. However, the most important structure is the Mausoleum of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, which is built on the highest hill and is visible from throughout the city. The Ethnographical Museum houses exhibits of Turkish history, folklore, and art. Around Ankara, there are a number of other ruins with remains of the Hittites and the Phrygian capital of Gordion, where Alexander the Great cut the famous Gordion Knot that gave him the key to Asia. The Valley of Goreme is a unique area where human activity has blended unobtrusively into the landscape.

The Black Sea and the East

To date, this is the least-developed region of Turkey. The region offers miles upon miles of deserted sandy beaches, charming fishing villages, cities with bazaars, and remains of former civilizations--Greek, Hittite, Roman, and Seljuk.


Physical Characteristics

Iran consists of a rugged mountainous rim surrounding a high interior basin. The basin is composed of desert plains and two smaller mountain ranges. There are three relatively small plains near the Caspian Sea, along the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and in the southwest (the Plain of Khuzistan). Iran's climate is quite variable with seasonal changes. Most of Iran experiences long, hot, dry summers. In the winter, temperatures are low in the north.

Tourism Characteristics

The combination of the Islamic revolution and the war with Iraq has left Iran with little tourism from outside of the region. Iran has little contact with the West. Eighty percent of its tourists come from the neighboring Islamic countries of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Pilgrimages to Iran's holy cities of Isfahan and Qom and the sites and museums of the once-great Persian empire, such as Shiraz, Persepolis, and Tehran, are Iran's most important and unique attractions. Tehran provides a contrast between the modern styles and the ancient Muslim buildings. The Shahyad Monument, which was built in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, is an impressive structure. The old and historical character can be observed at the Golestan Palace, the Decorative Arts Museum, the National Arts Museum, and the Sepahsalar Mosque. Near Tehran is Rey, considered to have been one of the great ancient cities.


Capital: Tehran

Government: Islamic republic

Size: 636,296 square miles (slightly larger than Alaska)

Language: Farsi, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic

Ethnic Division: Persians, Azeri Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, and others

Religion: 89% Shi'a Muslim, 10% Sunni Muslim, with minorities of Christians and Jews

Tourist Season: April to mid-June and mid-September to mid-November

Currency: Rial

Population: 66.1 million (2001)

Travel to Iran is not recommended by the United States State
Department. A visa and passport are required. (The Algerian
Embassy represents Iran in the United States.) Travelers are
expected to conform to Islamic law.


Just over 50 percent of the population are ethnic Persians. Other
groups include Azerbaijanis (25 percent), Kurds (9 percent), Gilakis
and Mazandaranis (8 percent), Lurs (2 percent), and a number
of other groups. The official language is Persian (Farsi), but
there are many languages and dialects representing the various
ethnic groups. Turkic, Kurdish, Luri, and Arabic are the major
other languages. The state religion is Shiite Islam. It is an Islamic
Republic, in which women are expected to be covered from wrist
to ankle, veils and hair covering are mandatory, and makeup is
frowned upon. Enforcement of these and other strict Islamic
prohibitions on alcohol, Western movies, and pork is by young men
or women who stop offenders on the streets. They may lecture,
warn, or arrest those breaking these rules.

Isfahan was once the capital city of Persia. It has many decorated mosques, regal palaces and gardens, old bridges, and a busy bazaar. Shiraz, which was also once the capital of Persia, includes the New Mosque, one of Iran's largest; the tombs of the lyric poets, located in typical Persian gardens; the Mashidi-I Jumeh Attiq; and the Eram and the Khalili Gardens.

Darius the Great founded Persepolis in 521 B.C. It contains the tombs of Xerxes, Darius, Cyrus, and Artaxerxes. The ruins of Pawargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great, and the ruins of Naqshe Rustam are nearby.


Physical Characteristics

Iraq consists primarily of the plains of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, with mountains in the north and northeast. The climate is desert, hot, with very dry summers and cold winters. Most of the rainfall occurs from December through April.

Tourism Characteristics

Iraq concentrates its program for the promotion and development of tourism in its own region. As a result, there are few European and American visitors. Tourists from Europe and the United States accounted for only 10 percent of the total visitors to Iraq before the Gulf War of 1990-1991. The countries around Iraq are its major source region, with Arab countries contributing 80 percent of Iraq's total tourists. The total number of tourists was slightly more than 700,000 in 1990 but dropped to 50,000 in 1999 as a result of the Gulf War and the subsequent United Nations embargo on Iraq. Until the region stabilizes, the tourism industry in Iraq will not contribute to its economy.


Capital: Baghdad

Government: Ruling Council

Size: 167,924 square miles (about the size of California)

Language: Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian

Ethnic Division: 75% Arab, 15-20% Kurd

Religion: 60% Shi'a Muslim, 35% Sunni Muslim, 5% Christian

Tourist Season: September to January and April to June

Currency: Iraqi dinar (IRD)

Population: 23.6 million (2001)

Since 1991 U.S. passports are not valid for travel to or through


Iraq's two largest ethnic groups are Arabs and Kurds. Other
groups are Assyrians, Turkomans, Iranians, Lurs, and Armenians.
Most Iraqi Muslims are members of the Shiite sect, but there
is a large Sunni population as well. Small communities of Christians,
Jews, Bahais', Mandaeans, and Yezidis exist. Most Kurds are
Sunni Muslims, but differ in language, dress, and customs from
Iraqis. Iraq, known as Mesopotamia, was the site of flourishing
ancient civilizations, including the Sumerian, Babylonian, and
Parthian. Muslims conquered Iraq in the seventh century A.D. In
the eighth century, the Abassaid caliphate established its capital
at Baghdad, which became a famous center of learning and the
arts. By 1838, Baghdad had become a frontier outpost of the Ottoman
Empire. Iraq became a British mandated territory at the
end of World War I. In 1932 it was declared independent and
ruled by the Hasemite family, who also ruled Jordan.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions Iraq has a number of monuments and remnants of such early civilizations as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Sumerians, and Akkadians. Many of the artifacts from these civilizations are in the National Museum in Baghdad. Baghdad also has Tell Harmal, a walled city dating back to Hammurabi; palaces; mosques; minarets; and bazaars. Baghdad is home to one of the world's oldest universities, the Mustansiriyah, founded in 1234 A.D. Some early important landmarks are the Abbasid Palace, the Minaret in Suq al- Ghazil, the Arms Museum, Bab al-Wastani, the Sheik'Abdul Qadir al-Gailani Mosque, and Zubaida's Tomb. One of the holy pilgrimage places for Shiite Moslems is the Mosque of Kadhimain near Baghdad. Also in the region is a large palace built by Sassanian Persians in the fourth century A.D. (Ctesiphon), with its still-standing arch that is the longest single-span nonreinforced brick arch in the world.

A number of ancient city ruins are added attractions in Iraq. Hatra with the Temple of the Sun; Babylon, Khorsabad, a capital built by Sargon II who ruled Assyria from 721 to 705 B.C., with a palace and the Temple of Sebiti; the site of Jarmo, one of the most ancient cities in the world; Nimrud, with extremely thick walls and massive gateways; Nineveh, ruled by three ancient kings; and Samarra with the great Friday Mosque and the ruins of Beit al-Kalifa, a maze of terraces, artificial lakes, gardens, and pavilions. One of the better cities to visit of the many ancient cities is Mosul. It has over 100 mosques and numerous Christian churches.

Iraq has a number of holy shrines such as Karbala, which is one of the holiest cities in the world for Shiite Muslims, and Najaf, where Ali (the early leader of Shiite Muslims) is entombed. Ur, the home of Abraham, is important for Christians and is one of the earliest cities of the world.

The ruins of Babylon (including the Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) are near Baghdad. They have been rebuilt by the Iraqi government. In addition to the Hanging Gardens, Procession Street, Ishtar Gate, the South Palace, and the Tower of Babel (now being restored) were all in Babylon.



Capital: Kabul

Government: Democratic republic

Size: 260,000 square miles (about the size of Texas)

Language: Dari (Afghan, Persian), Pushtu

Ethnic Division: Pukhtun/Pushtun (Pathan), Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Aimaq, Turkoman, Baluch, Nuristani

Religion: 84% Sunni Muslim, 15% Shiite Muslim

Tourist Season: Spring and Fall

Currency: Afghani (AFG)

Population: 21.8 million (2001)

Travel to Afghanistan is not advised. Visas are required and
must be approved in Afghanistan. Passports are required.
Travel is risky because of the political situation.


Afghanistan is ethnically and linguistically mixed. The Pukhtun
(40 percent), Tajik, Uzbek, Turkoman, Hazar, and Aimaq ethnic
groups make up the bulk of the Afghan population. Dari (Afghan
Persian) is spoken by a third of the population, and Pushtu is
spoken by about half. Turkoman and Uzbeki are spoken widely
in the north. There are more than 70 other languages and dialects
throughout the country. Afghanistan is a Muslim country. Eight
percent of the population are Sunni, and the remainder are Shiite.
Islamic practice pervades all aspects of life, and Islamic religious
tradition and law provide the principal means for
controlling conduct and settling legal disputes.

Physical Characteristics

Afghanistan is a mountainous country with small fertile valleys. The climate is dry with cold winters and hot summers.

Tourism Characteristics

Afghanistan has only a token tourism industry due to civil war, invasion by the United States, 2001, and a poor infrastructure with only a few hotels of poor quality. Government data indicate there are approximately 10,000 visitors per year, generating approximately $2 million a year in income.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Two cities, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif (an ancient city of the kingdom of Bactria), and the hidden valley of Bamian (with relics from prehistoric times and one of the largest Buddhas in the world) dominate the limited tourist attractions. Herat is the home of a mosque that is considered by some to be one of the greatest in the world. It was built in the twelfth century and has been restored several times. Afghanistan is the gateway to the Khyber Pass with its magnificent scenery.


The countries of the Arabian Peninsula limit tourism to business travel and Islamic religious pilgrims. Two of the most important Islamic sites are Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Today, Saudi Arabia limits the number of pilgrims in order to maintain control over the territory. The countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen comprise the area.


North African countries have gone through the process of being discovered by Europeans seeking the warm coastal beaches of the Mediterranean. The three most visited countries are Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, Figure 11-17. The physical attraction of the beaches in a Mediterranean climate combined with the lure of a culture much different from Europe's intrigues many Europeans. In addition, French is used widely as a lingua franca. The tourist is much more comfortable, therefore, than would be the case with a completely foreign tongue. Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria cater to Europeans and have developed resort centers, allowing the tourists to escape the puritanical milieu of Islam while still being able to enjoy the cultural landscape. Libya, however, does nothing to attract Western tourists. Strict enforcement of Islam's dietary and social restrictions makes most visitors from the Western industrial world uncomfortable in Libya.


The Sahara Desert and its oases, common to all countries of North Africa, are also becoming major tourist attractions. The Sahara provides contact with what Europeans and other Westerners might consider to be exotic cultural experiences. A number of ancient and modern ruins left by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, and French serve to augment the modern attractions.



Capital: Rabat

Government: Constitutional monarchy

Size: 279,094 square miles (about the same size as Texas)

Language: Arabic, French, and Berber

Ethnic Division: 99.1% Arab-Berber, 0.7% non-Moroccan, 0.2% Jewish

Religion: 98.7% Muslim, 1.1% Christian, 0.2% Jewish

Tourist Season: February through September

Peak Tourist Season: July and August

Currency: Dirham (MDH)

Population: 29.2 million (2001)

Entry: Visas are not required for visits up to 3 months. Passports
are required.

Transportation: International air carriers provide access to
North America, Europe, North Africa, and Africa. Ferry services
via Tangier and Ceula, Morocco, to Algeciras and Malaga,
Spain, provide access from Europe. There are good air and rail
connections between major cities.

Health: Water in urban areas is clean, but do not drink water
in rural areas. Eat only carefully prepared fruits and vegetables.

Shopping: Common items include copper ware, tooled
leather, silver, gold, pottery, camel saddles, and other handicraft


Morocco is the oldest kingdom in the Muslim world, having been
independent since the arrival of Moulay Idriss, a grandson of the
prophet Mohammed in the eighth century. The two major groups
(99 percent) are Arab and Berber or mixed Arab-Berber. The official
language is Arabic. French is a second language particularly
in government and commerce. In the northern zone Spanish is
spoken. In rural areas any of three Berber vernaculars are spoken.
The earlier-known settlers of Morocco were the Berbers, believed
to have come from southwestern Asia. After a succession of invasions
the Arabs invaded in the seventh century and brought Islam
to Morocco. Islam is the country's official religion. Most
Moroccans are Sunni Muslims.

Cultural Hints:

* A handshake with foreigners is a common greeting.

* Close contact, such as kissing cheeks, is common among
close friends.

* Do not show the sole of your shoe or point it at someone.

* Take shoes off to enter a mosque.

* Do not offer the left hand to another person.

* Eating and foods:

Finger food is common, but only eat with the right hand.
The host will bring water for guests to wash their hands.
Restaurants often include service charge. If not, tip 15 percent.

Typical food includes lamb, beef, chicken, meat stew, vegetables,
milk, and dates. Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcoholic
beverages. Couscous is the national dish. It is
generally composed of wheat (semolina) steamed over a
stew of lamb or chicken accompanied with vegetables and
garbanzo beans. It is traditionally eaten with the fingers.

Physical Characteristics

Morocco is mountainous, but with extensive coastal plains. The climate is mild along the coasts, but hot and dry in the interior.

Tourism Characteristics

Morocco (and Tunisia) compare favorably with Israel and Egypt in terms of tourism industry. Tourism is the second largest foreign exchange earner after phosphates. The importance the government places on tourism is reflected in the creation of a Ministry of Tourism in 1985. Morocco has been one of the most politically stable countries in North Africa, which should allow the industry to continue to develop. Its relatively large number of visitors reflects five factors:

1. Cruise ships call at the ports of Casablanca and Tangier. Morocco thus benefits from the large Atlantic ports of Europe.

2. Morocco is close to Spain, and encourages tourists in coastal resort areas in southern Spain to participate in one- to three-day trips to Morocco. Its close proximity to Europe and its excellent beaches make it a major attraction for sun-sea-sand participants in Europe. This proximity effect is very important to tourism in Morocco. Also, this is the principal path for visitors from the United States.

3. The opening of the Algerian and Moroccan border and reestablishment of air service to restore communications between the two countries. Algerians have flocked across the border to visit family and friends and to shop.

4. Morocco has an excellent network of roads and railroads linking the major cities and tourist destination regions with both ports and cities with international airports.

5. The relative inexpensiveness of travel to and through Morocco makes it attractive to tourists. Morocco has benefitted from the devaluation of its currency (the dirham), and the increase in hotel prices in Spain in the past few years contributes to the existing favorable price structure in the country.

The combination of location, attractions, and relatively low price have led to a rather extended length of stay of eleven days, by far the highest of all countries in North Africa. In part, this reflects visits by Moroccans living overseas. Of the more than 3.8 million annual visitors, many are Moroccan residents working abroad. The major market area is Europe, with four countries (France, Slovenia, Italy, and Germany) accounting for one-third of all international visitors other than Moroccan residents returning home (Figure 11-18). The United States accounts for slightly less than 3 percent of visitors to Morocco. While seasonality is not a problem, the low season is in the winter months. Part of the winter visitors are the wealthy wintering in Morocco. Europeans prefer visiting in April and in the fall, with the exception of the Spanish, who follow the traditional patterns of June and August.


Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Cultural and political landscapes compete with the sun-sea-sand of coastal resorts in attracting visitors. Morocco's attractions can be divided into seven regions: Tangier and the surrounding area; Agodir with its beach resorts; Marrakesh; Casablanca; the Imperial cities; Ouarzazate (the "Hollywood" of Morocco); and Tarfaya and its beach resorts.

The capital, Tangier, and the surrounding beach resorts of Restinga-Smir, M'Diq, Al Hoceima, Nadord, Saidia, and Asilah are an obvious attraction. Tangier once was considered a pearl, but has lost much of its attraction for tourists. It is still a destination for day trips from Spain.

Agadir, the "Miami Beach" of Morocco, has all the trappings of a major coastal resort attraction and a third of all Moroccan bed nights. Agadir is also a base for tours to the Atlas Mountains. At the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, the famous trade center Marrakesh is one of four Imperial cities. It has many musicians, magicians, snake charmers, storytellers, and markets that immerse visitors in the Moroccan culture. The souk (suq) amid covered alleyways displays traditional handicrafts. To escape the heat of the desert, the Agdal Garden was created in the twelfth century. The garden stretches over an area of some 1,000 acres. It has several pools surrounded by fruit trees (Figure 11-19).

Casablanca, the major cruise port in Morocco, has the best-developed market for tourists. The old native quarter with the Great Mosque is impressive. A number of beautiful public buildings such as the Courthouse, Town Hall, Post Office, and Bank of Morocco, which is designed in neo-Moorish style, surround the United Nations Square.


The Imperial cities, Rabat, Marrakesh, Fez, and Meknes, constitute an important attraction in their own right. Fez is the oldest and is both a cultural and religious center of the country. Important attractions are the Karaouine Mosque, Mesbahia Medersa (an old school that is remarkable for its traditional architecture), and Souk. Rabat, the political capital, is also an ancient city with a Kasbah, the Tower of Hassan, the Dar es Salaam Summer Palace, and the Royal Palace. Also of interest are the minaret Tour Hassan, the Mohammed V Mausoleum (an outstanding example of Moroccan architecture), and the Oudaias with its traditional garden, the museum of handicrafts, and antique Moorish cafe.

Meknes was built in the seventeenth century to rival Paris. It has a most impressive 25-mile girdle of defensive ramparts. Other important sites are Moulay Ismail's magnificent tomb; the monumental gates of Bab Mansour, Bab Berdain, and Bab Djema En Nouar; and the Dar Jamai Palace, now the Museum of Moroccan Arts. Just outside of Meknes are the historically important town of Moulay Idriss and the splendid 2,000-year-old Roman ruins at Volubilis. A tour of all four Imperial cities is one of the most popular tourist activities in Morocco. The least-developed region for tourists is centered on the film capital of Ouarzazate, near the Algerian border. From Ouarzazate, tourists can visit Berber villages, desert oases, and the Dades valley (the "Grand Canyon" of North Africa). The coastal desert region near Tarfaya has many virgin white beaches. This area still requires considerable development, but it does have some luxury hotels developed by Club Med.



Capital: Tunis

Government: Republic

Size: 63,170 square miles (about the same as Missouri)

Language: Arabic, French

Ethnic Division: 98% Arab, 1% European

Religion: 98% Muslim, 1% Christian, 1% Jewish

Tourist Season: Year-round

Peak Tourist Season: July and August

Currency: Tunisian dinar (TUD)

Population: 9.7 million (2001)

Entry: Visas are not required for stays up to 4 months. Passports
are required.

Transportation: International Air service is good through
Europe and other North African countries. Tunisia has a good
network of roads and domestic air transport between cities.
Railroads service the northern and coastal areas. Public transportation
is good. There is an excellent light rail system.

Shopping: Common items include blankets, rugs, pottery,
copper, silver, leather goods, carved wooden items, brass, ceramics,
lace, and embroidery.

Caution: There have been a number of killings of village people
by the Islamic fundamentalists.


Some 98 percent of the population is Arab. There are small minorities
of European descent. Arabic is the official language, and
French is widely used. Many Tunisians also speak some English.
Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslim. The majority are
Sunni Muslims. In recent years there has been a movement toward
Islamic fundamentalism. This has created social unrest and
government controls. Tunisia has been undergoing a transition
from a one-man dictatorship to a much more open society.
Tunisia considers itself a Westernized country, and Western
clothing is common in both urban and rural areas.

Cultural Hints:

* A handshake is the most common form of greeting.

* Good friends brush each other's cheeks and kiss the air on

* Personal warmth is characteristic of all greetings.

* A toss or movement of the head backward means no.

* Take off your shoes when entering a mosque.

* Do not point or show the sole of the foot to another person.

* To beckon hold the palm down and wave all fingers toward
the body.

* Do not use the index finger to point at objects or people.

* Eating and foods:

Family style or a common plate is customary.
Tips are usually included in the bill.
"Hamdullah" (thanks to God) means it was a good meal.
Wash hands before and after meals.

Typical foods include fish, lamb, fruits, chicken, tomatoes,
potatoes, onions, olives, oil, and peppers. Alcohol and
pork are forbidden by Islam. Couscous is Tunisia's national
dish. It is made of steamed and spiced semolina
and topped with vegetables and meats.

Physical Characteristics

Tunisia is composed of a hot, dry central plain, the Sahara Desert, and mountains in the north.

Tourism Characteristics

Tunisia has a growing tourist industry. Tourism development is a major goal of the government's economic development plans. It is the largest earner of foreign exchange. The only cloud on the horizon that may affect tourism is the growing militancy among many of its Muslims. Tunisia is one of the most modern Arab countries and draws visitors mostly from its neighbors and Europe, principally France and Germany (Figure 11-20). The United States accounts for less than 1 percent of the tourist trade to Tunisia. The lack of tourists from the United States and the high number from Europe reflect the type of attractions offered.


For the Europeans, Tunisia is mainly a sun-sea-sand center. It has 750 miles of coastline on the Mediterranean, with a number of modern hotels from Tunis to Hammamet on down the coast to Sousse, Sfax, and Djerba. The hotels are some of the best in Africa, and the beaches are wide, sandy, and attractive. United States travelers can find similar amenities available much closer to home. The beaches attract the Europeans, who come by package tours from Germany, Netherlands, France, Britain, and Italy. Europeans account for more than 60 percent of the total visitors to Tunisia. The average length of stay is 8.4 days with an average expenditure of $338 per visitor, which fits well within a week's package from Western Europe.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

As indicated, the principal attraction is the beautiful Mediterranean setting with wide, sandy, attractive beaches. The historical cultural landscape reflects a variety of groups: Berbers, Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, and the French. The culture of the area offers opportunities for excursions into the Sahara that are different enough from the Mediterranean resorts in Spain, France, and Italy to attract those seeking experiences other than sea-sun-sand. The first Club Med vacation village was founded in Tunisia.

Tunis, the capital, is an attractive city with broad boulevards and the ruins of Carthage, which was founded by the Phoenicians and conquered by the Romans, nearby. With its bright homes with iron balconies and sky-blue doors, Sidi Bon Said is popular with artists. Sousse, some 70 miles from Tunis, has extensive Christian catacombs (Figure 11-21). Near Sousse, Monastir is a picturesque walled city; and Kairouan, one of the most Holy Cities of Islam, has the Grand Mosque of Sidi Okba, which dates back to the eleventh century.




Capital: Algiers

Government: Republic

Size: 918,497 square miles (about one-third the size of the United States)

Language: Arabic, Berber, French

Ethnic Division: Arabs and Berbers

Religion: 99% Sunni Muslim

Tourist Season: Year-round

Peak Tourist Season: March through October

Currency: Algerian dinar (ALD)

Population: 31.0 million (2001)

Entry: Visas are required for visits up to 90 days. Passports are
required. Visitors will not be admitted if they have visas in
their passport from Israel. Visitors need proof of onward or
round-trip transportation. Currency declaration is required
and exchanges recorded.

Transportation: International airlines provide access to Algeria
from Europe and other North African countries. Algeria
has good intercity transportation by air, rail, and road to its
northern cities, and good connections between Algeria,
Tunisia, and Morocco.

Health: Typhoid, tetanus, polio, and cholera vaccinations are
recommended. Water should be boiled or bottled water purchased.
Peel or cook all fruits and vegetables.

Shopping: The souks have a multitude of things to buy. Common
items include Moorish-style jewelry, leather slippers and
handbags, baskets, toys, brass trays, chiseled copperware, tapestries,
antiques, silver-inlay daggers, and woven rugs.

Caution: Muslim fundamentalists have killed villagers.


About 83 percent of the population is Arabic and 16 percent are
native Berber. There is a very small European minority. Most of
the population (91 percent) lives along the Mediterranean.
Nearly all are Sunni Muslim. Arabic is the official language.
French is commonly used along the coastal areas for business
and among the older generation.

Cultural Hints:

* A light handshake and sometimes an embrace are common
forms of greeting.

* Do not use the index finger to point at objects or people.

* Use the right hand to hand objects, shake, and eat.

* Sit properly without slouching.

* Do not show the sole of shoe or point it at someone.

* Personal space is close.

* Long, direct eye contact is important (among men).

* Ask permission to take pictures.

* Do not hold hands or express affection in public with a
person of the opposite gender.

* Tilting the head backward means no.

* Eating and foods:

Do not touch food with your left hand.

Leaving some food on the plate is a compliment to host.

Typical food includes lamb, chicken, stews, pasta, vegetables,
and fruits. Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcoholic

Physical Characteristics

The Mediterranean coast is a narrow plain. Behind the coastal plain is a mountainous and high plain region. The southern portion is desert. The climate is hot and dry with some rain along the coastal areas.

Tourism Characteristics

Algeria differs from Morocco and Tunisia in that its tourist sector is entirely state controlled, with the exception of a few small businesses that supply the industry with consumer goods. While Algeria has a host of rich natural attractions for tourism--expansive beaches on the Mediterranean, mountains, and archaeological sites of Roman, Berber, Arab, and French cultures--its tourism industry is small. In the last half of the nineteenth century, Algeria was the major destination for the wealthy from Britain. From then until 1984 the government did little to promote tourism. Although it began implementing plans and programs in 1984, the government has been slow to respond to tourism potential. The country has been negatively affected by the events of the Middle East, as the Palestinian Liberation Organization headquarters was moved to Algeria in the 1980s. The number of visitors to Algeria in the 1990s averaged less than 1 million a year, in part because of the actions of Islamic fundamentalists. Visitors stay only a short time, and individual tourist expenditures are the smallest for the North African region. Outside of North Africa itself, France is the major market region, reflecting former colonial ties. Most tourists are from other Arabic countries of North Africa.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

Algeria offers the tourist a variety of scenery. It has broad beaches, rocky coves, scenic mountains, cascading waters, and desert sand dunes. In the mountains, there are picturesque fortified villages, such as Constantine (which sits on a precipitous rock overlooking a deep canyon). In addition, Algeria has Roman ruins, such as at Timgad, with an impressive number of villas, and temples and arches, such as at Djemila. The government has tried to stress the craft industry, and has also utilized the unique Moorish architecture in structures built for the tourist industry. The capital, Algiers, is a beautiful city on the blue Mediterranean. The medina is most interesting, with narrow winding lanes full of craftspeople and shops. The Kasbah on a hill is full of a variety of cultures such as Berbers, Arabs, and Kabyles. Some important buildings are the Franchet-d' Esperey Museum, a fortress, and the Stephane Gsell Museum, containing Roman, Islamic, and Berber archaeology. The Greco-Roman city Cherchell and the Notre Dame d'Afrique are nearby. Constantine has a Biblical history, and the Palace of Almond Bey was the home of a harem of three hundred women.


Physical Characteristics

Libya is mostly a barren flat plain and plateau country. The climate is warm and temperate along the coast and hot and dry in the interior desert.

Tourism Characteristics

Libya's tourist industry is at present small and is dominated by other Arab countries, which account for approximately 80 percent of the total visitors to Libya. The average length of stay and income generated as a result of tourism is the smallest in North Africa. The current political situation in Libya is a major deterrent to travel. During the 1980s Libya's tourism industry remained stagnant at about 100,000 visitors a year. In the 1990s, it declined in total number of visitors.


Capital: Tripoli

Government: Republic

Size: 1,099,713 square miles (larger than Alaska)

Language: Arabic, Italian, English

Ethnic Division: 97% Berber and Arab

Religion: 97% Sunni Muslim

Tourist Season: Year-round

Currency: Dinars

Population: 5.2 million (2001)

Travel to Libya by Americans is restricted by the United States
government. A U.S. passport is not valid for travel into or
through Libya without validation by the Department of State.


Libyans are primarily a mixture of Arabs and Berbers. Small tribal
groups, Tebou and Touareg, are nomadic or seminomadic in
southern Libya. There are a number of foreign workers, such as
Egyptians, Turks, Pakistanis, Indians, Sudanese, Moroccans,
South Koreans, and Europeans. Many foreign workers are employed
in the oil fields, but many left in 1993 after atrocities by
Islamic fundamentalists. Libya has a small population and a large
land area. More than half of the population is concentrated in the
two largest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi.

Tourist Destinations and Attractions

There are numerous beaches in the 1,242 miles of Mediterranean coast. The major cities, such as Tripoli and Benghazi, have modern hotels. Libya also has a number of archaeological sites from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic cultures. The traditional Islamic culture is very much in evidence, with women enveloped in veils and the social, legal, and political system based on the Koran. Tripoli, the capital, is an attractive city located on the Mediterranean. The Old City with its narrow, winding streets, the Hammam (bathhouse) of Sidi Dargut, the Mosque of Shaib el Ain, the House of Ali Pasha Karamanli, and the Roman Arch of Marcus Aurelius are major sightseeing areas of the city. Leptis Magna, some 75 miles from Tripoli, was at one time an important Roman city. Along the coast are many picturesque villages, beaches, and coves for swimming and sightseeing.


1. What are the six characteristics of Islamic tourism?

2. Why are North Africa and the Middle East considered a distinct region by geographers?

3. Describe the three most common characteristics of the topography of the area.

4. Why is the Middle East one of the most culturally complex regions of the world?

5. Describe the three major cultural groups of the Middle East and North Africa.

6. Discuss the three patterns for organization of life in the Middle East and North Africa.

7. What are the major tourist countries of the Middle East and North Africa? Why?

8. If tourists are thinking about visiting Egypt and Israel, explain why they should also visit Jordan.

9. Why is Jerusalem important to Arab travelers?

10. Which country of North Africa has the most-developed tourist industry? Why?


1. If the Middle East became politically stable and had open borders, which country would have the largest number of tourists ten years later? Why?

2. Which country in North Africa would benefit the most from political stability and open borders? Why?

3. If a truly independent Palestine country was created, what would you expect its tourist market to be? Explain your answer.

4. Would you recommend that the Persian Gulf countries welcome tourists freely and openly? Why? Why not?

5. Other than Israel and Egypt, which country of the Middle East and North Africa would be most interesting for Americans to visit? Why?


An excellent site for tourism information and links.

Through Visitors' Eyes

Syria: A Showcase of Antiquities

by Eloise Larson

Archaeological Wonderland

In our opinion, Syria is second only to Egypt in abundant, diverse, and well-preserved archaeological sites of interest to the tourist.

Damascus, the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, has many historic places of interest: the covered sulks, massive Omayyed Mosque, the Mausoleum of Saladin, Al-Azem Palace, the Chapel of Ananias, and the remains of the Roman temple of Jupiter--as well as the new palace of President Assad.

Shops in the old Christian quarter delight the eye with local handicrafts and shimmering brocades of famous Damascene textiles. They sell for $75 per meter.

Palmyra lies northeast of Damascus across the stony Syrian Desert. For centuries this oasis of palm and olive groves sheltered camel caravans en route from the Persian Gulf and the Orient Silk Road to Aleppo and the Mediterranean world.

The ruins of this second-century-A.D. city have been extensively excavated and restored to reflect its former wealth and grandeur. Its ancient monuments, built in the Roman style, include the Great Colonnade, the huge temple of Baal, the Monumental Arch and the agora, theater, and tetrapylon.

In the Valley of the Tombs to the west, five-story, stone-tower tombs dot the barren landscape. Like an ageless sentinel, a seventeenth-century medieval Arab fortress crests a lonely hilltop in the distance. As a unit, it was a setting of rare beauty under intense blue skies--a photographer's delight.

Syria's hundreds of tells cloak the remains of ancient cities that reached their zenith during Biblical times. Excavations at the tells of Mari, near the Iraqi border, and Ebla, south of Aleppo, brought to light the remains of third-millennium-B.C. city states.

Their palace libraries have yielded thousands of cuneiform tablets, greatly enriching scholarly knowledge of those early eras. Some of Ebla's tablets contained the world's earliest bilingual dictionary of Eblaite and Sumerian words. Examples of these clay tablets can be seen in Syria's excellent museums.

For my husband, Del, our visit to Ebla was the highlight of the entire tour. Beehive-shaped houses are disappearing in Syria, but we were fortunate to see some near Ebla. Plastered outside with brown mud, they resemble eggs sitting on end in a carton.

Ghost Cities

Greek lieutenants of Alexander the Great's army founded the walled cities of Doura Europus, Apamea, and Raqqa, introducing Hellenistic architecture to the Middle East. Now the partially uncovered ruins reflect additions by succeeding cultures, as well.

The martyriums at Rassafeh and Qalaat Simeon (Basilica of St. Simeon) were important pilgrimage sites for Christians around the fifth century A.D. during Byzantine times. The majestic ruins of St. Simeon's basilica surround a huge boulder, all that remains of the famous 50-foot pillar atop which St. Simeon lived and preached for 40 years.

The numerous dead Byzantine stone cities near Aleppo are relatively well preserved, but their decline started about 1,200 years ago with the coming of Islamic rule. Today the ruins are deserted save for Gypsies and their flocks of goats.


In Aleppo, our room in the Amir Palace Hotel overlooked the massive Citadel, which rests on top of a natural tell in the middle of the city. Built in the thirteenth century, this medieval fortress is the best remaining example of true Arab citadel architecture.

The city of Aleppo vies with Damascus in its ancient beginnings. The city's monotone earth color makes the brown, stone buildings look like square crystals rising from the surrounding soil. For centuries it was a major commercial center on the great camel caravan routes; at one time it had 18 miles of vaulted souks.

Today this labyrinth of narrow alleys, open stalls, former caravansaries, old mosques, etc., still covers about five acres. Shops are grouped according to the goods they sell and bargaining is expected.

Phoenician Legacy

Continuing west from Aleppo, we drove through the Orontes River valley. This is the most fertile valley in Syria, and little wonder, for erosion has denuded the hillsides and deposited the soil on the valley floor below. The city of Latakia, on the balmy Mediterranean coast, is surrounded by orchards of bananas, oranges, and lemons and fields of Latakia tobacco.

Nearby are the extensive excavations of the ancient Phoenician city of Ugarit. During its golden age, in about the sixteenth to thirteenth centuries B.C., it became an important center of trade and learning. Its royal palace, built of stone, was one of the most imposing and famous buildings in the Middle East, covering over 21/2 acres.

In the palace library a clay tablet was found containing what is considered to be the world's first consonantal alphabet from which all of today's alphabets are derived.

Crusader Castles

Next we visited one of the most imposing medieval fortresses in Syria, Marqab Castle. Used by the Arabs and Crusaders, it rests atop a steep mountain, overlooking Syria's coastal region. Made of black basalt, it is dark and foreboding with a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.

Even more impressive was the Crak des Chevallers, mightiest of the Crusader castles and headquarters of the Hospitallers--the Knights of St. John. Crowning its hilltop summit like a huge stone dreadnought, it commanded a vital pass that linked inland Syria with the sea.

It is the world's best-preserved example of crusader architecture and contains a fascinating maze of vaulted rooms, corridors, intricate defense mechanisms, turrets with spiral staircases, courtyards, gates, moats, and parapets to explore.

Untapped Treasures

At Hama the view from our room was spellbinding; huge, centuries-old wooden waterwheels (novias) cast their perfect reflections in the still water of the Orontes River in ever-changing light--a sight we shall never forget. No longer used, they sit idle as electrical pumps irrigate the local gardens.

We found the old Byzantine church at Maaloula, with its pagan altar and beautiful icons, and the Seidnaya Monastery, built by Emperor Justinian, very interesting.

Witnessing a Greek Orthodox baptism at Seidnaya provided an unexpected insight into the culture of Syria's Christians as well. The proud family had the ceremony videotaped for future reference. Our travel adventure ended with a day trip to Bosra, near the Jordanian border, to see the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in existence. An Arab citadel built around the theater protected it for centuries.

It is surprising to enter a fortress and find a freestanding open-air, 15,000-seat theater inside. The raised stage is backed by Corinthian columns and still is used for performances today.

Syria's treasures of antiquity seems without end. If it were situated elsewhere in the world, it would surely be a prime tourist attraction.

Source: International Travel News, October 1992, pp. 43-46.



After an Israeli kosher breakfast (some may choose
an early morning swim), we will visit the ancient site of Dor,
where some of the cedars of Lebanon for Solomon's Temple were
delivered by the Phoenician king Hyrum of Tyre. Today Kibbutz
Nachsholim is the headquarters of the Underwater Archaeological
Excavation Society of Israel and houses a unique museum, which we
will visit. We will travel to the modern port city of Haifa. In
Haifa, our bus will climb up Mount Carmel to Kaiser's Watch. From
Kaiser's Watch--where the surrender of the Ottoman Empire was given
to British general Allenby in 1917--we will be able to view the
World Headquarters of the Baha'i faith, the port of Haifa, and the
distant ancient port of Akko/ Ptolemais. Traveling up the spine of
Mount Carmel, we will pass the Haifa University campus, pass
through the Druze communities, and arrive at the traditional site
of Elijah's contest with the priests of Baal, Muhraka. Our travels
will then take us to the Solomonic chariot city of Megiddo. The
valley that stretches around this hill fortress takes its name from
this strong citadel, Armageddon, where prophecy indicates one of
the last great battles will be fought. Crossing this valley, also
known by the names of Jezreel and Esdraelon, we will pass through
the Nazareth hill country. We will arrive in Nazareth and visit the
ancient well, the Church of the Annunciation, the old Jewish
synagogue, and the precipice where Jesus was rejected by his own
townspeople. Passing north over the Nazareth hills we will pass
Sephoris, capital of the Galilee in Jesus's time; Kfar Cana,
traditional site of the wedding feast where Mary asked Jesus to
supply wine; and Gath-Hefer, birthplace of Jonah. The Horns of
Hittin will loom before us as we approach Nebi Shueib, which is the
tomb of Jethro according to Druze tradition.


Following an Israeli kosher breakfast, we will go to
the En Gev dock to board a private boat made as a replica of the
ancient fishing vessels of the early Apostles' days. As we cross to
the western shore of the Sea of Galilee near Kibbutz Nof Ginnosar,
our minds will reflect on the many miracles and events recounted in
the scriptures that relate to this region. Next we travel north and
east around the sea to Capernaum. We will visit the remains of this
city Jesus called "mine own city." After sitting in the ancient
synagogue, we will leave for a traditional Christian location
called the "Primacy of the Rock," where the Apostle Peter was
instructed by the resurrected Christ. Further up the hill is our
next point of study, the traditional Mount of Beatitudes. Traveling
along the western shores, we will pass Kinneret, which acted as a
tolling city in Old Testament times along the Via Maris. Today at
its base are the large pumping stations that supply water in the
far southern deserts of the Negev. Traveling toward Tiberias, we
will pass the town of Mary Magdalene, Magdala. To our right is the
plain of Gennesaret. We will travel below Arbel to Tiberias. In
Tiberias we will watch the multimedia presentation of the "Galilee


We will have our last kosher Israeli breakfast as we depart En Gev and
the Galilee this day. We will head south along the shores of this
famous sea and stop for a few minutes at the Jordan River, to put
our hands in the water and recall some of the significant events
that have occurred in and near this river. The bus will travel
further south to Beit Shean, where we'll see the biblical and
Byzantine ruins. Beit Shean was known as ancient Scythopolis. It
was here that King Saul and his sons were hung on the city walls.
The rebuilding of the Roman-Byzantine city surrounding the ancient
acropolis is one of the most spectacular archaeological
reconstructions in the country. We then turn south through the
Jordan Valley on the border between Israel and Jordan. The Dome of
Gilead and lands of the Joseph tribes will stretch before us as we
recall the journeys of Israel and the Patriarchs. As we approach
the end of the Jordan River near the Dead Sea, we will come to what
archaeologists call the oldest continuously inhabited city in the
world, ancient Jericho. Here are the sites of Elisha's Spring near
what are believed to be the walls that tumbled down before Joshua's
forces. Here, too, are the sycamore trees, recalling Jesus's stay
with the publican Zachaeus, and Herod's winter palace at New
Testament Jericho. Jericho today is one of the new autonomous
cities of the Palestinian Authority. We will dine on fruits for
lunch, after which we will follow the Old Roman Way through the
Judean Wilderness that Jesus walked with his disciples. Like him,
we will go on to Bethany (home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus) to
begin our walk over the Mount of Olives for our first view of


Breakfast will be followed by departure to the Panoramic Park on Jebel
Mukkaber where an unusual view of Jerusalem may be seen looking
from the south toward the three major valleys (the Kidron, the
Tyropoeon, and the Hinnom or Gehinna) that shape the hills of
ancient Jerusalem. From here we will proceed to West Jerusalem and
the famous Model City at the Holy Land West Hotel. We will also
visit the nearby museum of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem. Following
this sobering experience, we will transfer to the maior downtown
business area on Ben Yehudah Street for lunch and shopping. In the
afternoon we will bus to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the
Nativity and Shepherd's Fields. We will end our day by returning to
the Holy Land East Hotel for dinner and overnight. Some will want
to shop in the area around the hotel (Bagdadi' s, Jimmy's, Omar's,


Our day will begin with a 6:00 A.M. breakfast before our early
departure to the Dead Sea (leaving early helps us to avoid the summer
heat and possibly the "hamsheen," "sharav," or east wind that comes
this time of the year). We will travel directly to Masada, visiting
this Hasmonean-Herodian fortress. We will experience the tragedy and
triumphs of biblical and post-biblical events through the physical
remains and the discussions we have at this significant location.
Next we will go to the shores of the Dead Sea near Ein Gedi, where
stories of David and Samson will be reviewed, and those who so
desire will float in this mineral-rich lake. We will hike the
nature trails, see some of the biblical fauna and flora, and eat
our sack lunches. Our next stop will be at the site of the Essene
community of Qumran, where many of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
In the early afternoon we will return to the hotel.


Following breakfast we will take a bus transfer to the
Old City and enter it through Dung Gate. We will visit the Ophel
Archaeological Gardens and continue to the Western (Wailing) Wall.
Then we will ascend the path to the el-Aksa Mosque and Dome of the
Rock, called by many the Holy Mount, where the temples of Solomon,
Zerubabel, and Herod stood. Today it is the most sacred site to
Jews, the third most sacred site to Moslems (next to Mecca and
Medina), and the place of the final resurrection to many
Christians. After the visit here, we will proceed up the Western
Hill to the Jewish Quarter and visit the Cardo, the Holy Sepulchre,
the Christian Quarter, and Jaffa Gate. Following a lunch of
falafels or shwarmas, we will transfer to West Jerusalem and the
Israeli National Museum and Shrine of the Book. Our visit will
include what has been termed "the greatest archaeological find of
the twentieth century"--the Dead Sea (Judean Desert) Scrolls. We
will also visit the archaeological wing of the large museum to see
artifacts that date to, and may have been used by, biblical
personalities. As we leave the museum, we will stop for a view of
the Israeli parliament building, the Knesset, and the national
symbol donated by the British, the Menorah.



After breakfast our bus will proceed to Mount Zion, site of the
traditional Tomb of King David and of the Last Supper or Cennacle
(Upper Room), and where the early Church of the Apostles was located.
This visit begins our studies of the last week of the Christian
messiah's ministry, which culminated in the Atonement. After a visit
to the Church of the Dormition, we will proceed to Gethsemane and the
Church of All Nations. We will then return to Mount Zion and the
traditional house of Caiaphas (known as St. Peter en Gallicantu) to
review the trials of Jesus by the high priests. We will transfer by bus
for lunch in the Jaffa Gate area in order to see the Jaffa Gate Museum.
En route we will drive through the very crowded section of orthodox
Judaism called Mea Sha'arim to watch the community's preparations
for the "Shabbat" or Sabbath. En route to the places of Jesus' s
judgment, we will visit another location of miracles, at St. Anne's
Church, the site of the Pools of Bethesda. From here we will walk
to Pilate's headquarters and the Hall of Judgment, which some say
is located at the Antonia Fortress. We will stand on a portion of
the pavement (Gabbatha) at the Sisters of Zion Convent. From the
Antonia Fortress we will walk through the Old City streets to the
Damascus Gate and then out of the city walls to the Garden Tomb.



Again our day will begin early with a 6:30 A.M. breakfast in order
that we may return soon and avoid some of the heat of the afternoon
sun. After breakfast we will board our motor coach and travel south
past Rachel's Tomb and Bethlehem to Solomon's Pools. We will continue
going south on the Patriarch's Way past the area of Tekoa, hometown
of the prophet Amos, and stop on the outskirts of Hebron at a
pottery and glass-blowing factory. We will proceed west from the
Hill Country of Judah to the valleys of Shephelah, where many of
the Old and New Testament events occurred. We will visit the Bell
Caves and the Sidonian-Idumean city of Maresha (the Herodian family
came from here). Below the hometown of Micah, we will do some
spelunking (time permitting) and then proceed to Midras and the
first century A.D. "rolling stone tomb" for pictures. Next is the
Valley of Elah, where David met the mighty Philistine, Goliath. We,
too, will use a sling to try our luck at hitting a target. The next
valley we enter is Sorek, where Samson (Zorah) and Delilah (Timnah)
were born. We will stop for a recounting of the stories from the
book of Judges at the ancient tel of Beth Shemesh, where the Ark of
the Covenant was delivered from the Philistines. The final valley
in our travels will be the Aijalon, where Joshua commanded the sun
and moon to stand still for the children of Israel. Passing the
Beth Horon, we will pass watchtowers that will remind us of ancient
and modern parables and prophecies. If possible, we will stop at
one and read some of these scriptures before proceeding to Nebi
Samwil (traditional burial site of the prophet Samuel and place
where Solomon prayed for wisdom) on the northern outskirts of
Jerusalem. From here we can see nearly all of the Benjamin Plateau;
here geographically 67 percent of Old Testament history occurred.
Our return to Jerusalem will culminate the day's events with dinner
and an overnight rest before the flight home.

Table 11-1 World Jewish Population

Region             Jewish Population

Africa                     300,000
Asia                     3,900,000
Europe                   1,500,000
Latin America            1,000,000
North America            7,900,000
Oceania                    100,000
Eurasia                  3,100,000
World                   17,800,000

Source: Adapted from The Universal Almanac, 1996.
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Publication:Geography of Travel & Tourism, 4th ed.
Geographic Code:60NOR
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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