Exploring North Africa and the Middle East by Water

A wonderfully warm part of the world, North Africa and the Middle East region isn’t just about trekking to the desert or exploring the modern marvels that are many of the cities around the Persian Gulf. Instead, many seafarers opt to visit this part of the world by water, enjoying the tranquillity of the open water while also being able to take in the heat and overall splendour of this unique part of the world.

Most people fly into the likes of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to attend the region’s most popular tourist attractions, but most of these lavish nations boast some wonderful ports. Whether you want to set sail on your own boat or go all-in on an exuberant cruise, the sights en route and the final destinations are well worth the trip.

If you’re clear on the dos and don’ts of anchoring boats, and should you fancy a trip to North Africa and the Middle East, depending on your preference of water travel, these are some true gems to mark on your map.

Cruising the Suez Canal

The headline-catching, artificial stretch separates the continents of Africa and Asia and is one of the most important trading routes in the world. A good 120-miles long, while a trip down the Suez Canal on your private vessel seems unlikely at best, tourism brands have spotted the appeal of traveling down the waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

Now canal-side cities like Ismailia and Port Said have faded, somewhat, but are well worth a look for their modern cultural significance in Egyptian history. Still, a cruise along the Suez Canal will often set eyes to the Nile Delta, Sinai Peninsula, the coasts of Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, and Djibouti before rounding the Gulf of Aden. Most Suez cruises set off from the Mediterranean and culminate in the UAE, offering a cornucopia of sights to see from three different continents.

An ancient gem in the Persian Gulf

While the more outlandish nations of the Middle East often come to mind when thinking of visiting the region, the island state of Bahrain certainly presents an ideal place to make port and explore. Coming in by boat, there isn’t a better place to come to Bahrain than via Ancient Harbour in Qal’at al-Bahrain. Now, what was once the capital of Dilmun has been listed as a heritage site by UNESCO.

With nearby palm groves, Ancient Harbour was an essential trading port for the ancient Dilmun, with it found to be loaded with antiquities in the 1950s. Now, it stands with a museum on the water, showcasing the ancient artifacts uncovered here. Bahrain Fort, as it’s also known, is just the start of the fun things to explore if you make port in Bahrain, with baby camel feeding, handcrafted décor, the farmer’s market, and even the Formula One Grand Prix – if you’re lucky enough to go on race weekend – being worth the trip.

Making port in the most extravagant of the Emirates

Of course, the biggest attraction of the Middle East and North Africa region right now is the United Arab Emirates. While the capital, Abu Dhabi, is certainly an exciting place to visit, and the Port of Mina Zayed is great to explore as such an expansive commercial harbour, Dubai is where most tourists find themselves. This is simply because they’ve crafted the area to be very catering to tourists and boast world-beating spectacles.

One such spectacle is that of Mina Rashid. The colossal cruise terminal is now a seafront destination, with fun not just ending once you step on land. While there is a casino cruise that makes port in Dubai, the 100 percent internet penetration rate of the emirate allows for people to get the real casino experience through live dealer games. Playable on mobile, live dealer casino games are available here. They see a human croupier streamed to the player’s device in real-time, allowing for immerse, authentic casino table gaming. This adoption of both physical and digital gaming makes the area something of an anomaly in the region.

Of course, casino gaming is just one facet of the common tourist experience, via cruise or when arriving in a private vessel. While there are tremendous feats of architecture to marvel at, such as the Dubai Mall, Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, and Burj Khalifa, as well as intriguing heritage sites, you’d be remiss not to try the local cuisine. Avoid the more tourist restaurant spots and get your hands on some fouga deyay, luqaimat, shuwaa, or dates.

A trip to the Middle East and North Africa by water is an unforgettable experience, with so much variety to explore around the region.