The Middle East may not be on the top of everyone’s list of cruise destinations, and for those who want to loll about and sip drinks on a sandy beach, the Middle East would be a poor choice. It may have sand, and it’s certainly got plenty of sun, but this is not the place for Western-style sunbathing.
Rather, the region is a culturally rich destination that amply rewards those savvy travelers who do make the trip. Chockablock with historic sites, the Middle East, of course, is home to the geographic starting points for Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and over the centuries, the Middle East has provided a stage for some of history’s most dramatic and significant moments.
For these and other reasons, Middle Eastern itineraries deserve the consideration of any experienced traveler who hasn’t sampled this region of vast deserts and fertile river valleys.
I am grateful to have cruised this region despite the threat of pirates and civil unrest. This week Silver Spirit emerged safely from the Gulf of Aden to cruise the Red Sea, where we visited Safaga, Egypt, gateway to the temples along the Nile River; Aqaba, Jordan, with access to Petra; and Sharm el-Sheikh, where Silversea offered shore excursions to Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai.
It is an exciting time to call on ports in the Middle East, particularly following the recent revolution in Egypt. Though there appeared to be no threat, we were escorted by armed guards on motorcoach tours to Luxor and elsewhere in Egypt (not so in Jordan).
Yesterday, as Silver Spirit was docked in Sharm el-Sheikh, a passenger noted that on her visit to the city center, she noticed that the hospital was surrounded by armed guards. Inside the hospital, a toppled head of state: former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The ex-president was hospitalized on April 12 after suffering a heart attack during questioning by prosecutors, one day before the top prosecutor ordered to detain Mubarak and his two sons for 15 days. History in the making.