The 10 must see natural wonders of the Middle East
In the centre of Egypt, at the northern end of the Farafra Depression is the White Desert National Park, encompassing some 300 square kilometres (116 square miles) of protected land. The bizarre landscape is one of white and cream coloured sand, as well as large white chalk rock formations created through wind and sand erosion over thousands of years. It is one of the most unique landscapes in Egypt.
10. White Desert
Countries: Saudi Arabia/Yemen/Oman
Covering an area of some 650,000 square kilometres (250,000 square miles) the Rub Al Khali is the largest continuous desert in the world, encompassing southern Saudi Arabia, as well as northern Oman and Yemen. Known as the Empty Quarter, this enormous desert is 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) long and over 500 kilometres (310 miles) wide. With huge sand dunes reaching up to 250 metres (800 ft) high it truly is a land of spectacular scenery.
9. Rub Al Khali
In the far north of Oman on the small split of land separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates is the Musandam Peninsula. The coastline is famed for resembling glacier carved coastlines in polar regions, though in this case the coast has been shaped by the movement of the Earth's crust. The Arabian plate pushing under the Eurasian plate means the Musandam Peninsula is slowly sinking, the in rushing sea creates fjords allowing some to call it 'Norway of the Middle East'.
8. Musandam Peninsula
Off the southern coast of Iran in the Strait Of Hormuz is the 1,491 square kilometre (576 square mile) Qeshm Island, Iran's largest island. Home to the worlds largest salt cave, the Namakdan Cave, surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Persian Gulf, Qeshm is a place of strange land formations where great eroded canyons have been carved from the arid rock. This most unusual landscape in a place where not many westerners are able to tread is a natural marvel seldom seen by even the most well travelled.
7. Qeshm Island
Directly south of the Lebanese city of Tripoli in the Lebanon Mountains is one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the planet, the Baatara Gorge Falls. With a single 100 metre (330 ft) drop the water plunges behind three natural bridges and then falls a further 240 metres (790 ft) into the chasm below.
6. Baatara Gorge Waterfall
In the north east of Iraq in the turbulent Kurdistan region of the country is the incredible and relatively unknown site of the Rawandiz Canyon. Set within striking arid scenery the huge gaping valley has been carved over centuries by the waters of the Rawandiz River. Referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East, those visitors that do venture into the remote landscape of Kurdistan will be met with one of the finest views in the world.
5. Rawandiz Canyon
Lying within the Jordan Rift Valley, bordering Jordan to the east and Israel & Palestine to the west, sitting 430 metres (1,412 ft) below sea level the Dead Sea has the lowest land elevation on Earth and is the saltiest body of water in the world. Attracting visitors from across the globe, the Dead Sea is revered for its therapeutic qualities and by those who simply wish to feel the unusual sensation of floating on its surface.
4. Dead Sea
In the extreme south of Jordan, covering an area of some 720 square kilometres (278 square miles), the Wadi Rum, meaning 'Sand Valley', is the largest wadi in the world. Also known as the Valley Of The Moon, the area consists of red sandstone and steep granite rocks among a vast open landscape of picture perfect scenery. At the southern end of the valley sits the Jabal Umm Ad Dami, at 1,840 metres (6,040 ft) above sea level it is the highest point in the country, and from its peak it is possible to see both the Red Sea and the Saudi Arabian border. This amazing desert landscape of narrow gorges, natural arches and towering cliffs also holds petroglyphs and archaeological remains testifying to 12,000 years of human occupation. For this the entire Wadi Rum has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Wadi Rum
In the almost exact centre of Turkey, within the historical region of Cappadocia is Göreme National Park, encompassing an area of incredibly unique geological and cultural features. Millions of years ago the rocks in the region eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillared and minaret like forms, where the soft volcanic rocks were later carved into houses, churches and monasteries by the people that chose to live there. The complex contains a large number of rock carved churches and chapels, some with superb frescoes inside dating back to the 9th century. One of the favourite ways to view this incredible landscape is by taking a hot air balloon tour. In the early morning when hundreds of these balloons float over this amazing terrain it creates one of the most iconic scenes anywhere in the world. Göreme National Park & The Rock Sites Of Cappadocia is among the most wondrous sites on our planet and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Göreme National Park
In the Arabian sea some 380 kilometres (240 miles) south of mainland Yemen is the island of Socrota, one of the most unique places on our planet. From its narrow coastal plains to its high mountain plateaus this small tropical desert island is one of the most biodiversity rich and distinct islands in the world, due mainly to its high number of plant and animal species that are found nowhere else. Described by visitors as one of Earth's most alien looking landscapes, regarded as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, the island of Socrota is a site of global significance and has been declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site of enormous Universal importance.