To many people, the Middle East is a country and not one with a very good reputation. After all, the international media isn’t exactly kind to the Middle East and seems to love reporting and sometimes exaggerating the disasters and conflicts that happen there. Weather-wise, there never seems to be a good time to visit because it looks invariably impossibly hot and dry all year long.
But you see, the Middle East isn’t a single country. Instead, it refers to the countries that are around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and extends into the Arabian Peninsula. 14 countries make up the Middle East and they include Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Syria.
These countries differ massively from each other. However, they all have a rich history, beautiful landscapes, delicious cuisines, and varied cultures that make them wonderful travel destinations. The region also boasts beautiful deserts and idyllic beaches. An outdoor enthusiast will have a blast exploring the landscape of the Middle East while taking special incredible pictures along the way.
It’s worth mentioning that the Middle East is the birthplace of three of the most popular regions – Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. So, you can see your exploration across the region as some kind of pilgrimage if you are feeling a bit spiritual.
Below, you’ll find a month-by-month guide on when to visit the Middle East.
The Middle East, Month by Month
January to February
This is usually the coolest time of the month for several countries in the Middle East. Since the region has desert landscapes and very warm weather, the weather in January and February is enjoyable for most visitors and even locals.
However, in countries like Israel or Jordan, snow and rain is frequent during this period, something that plummets the temperature. As a result, travelers tend to avoid Jordan, Israel, and Turkey in the cold months of January and February.
March temperatures can vary widely across the Middle East. However, the weather is still comfortable in most parts of the region despite the overall weather being hot and sunny. Travelers will need to pack sunscreen and light clothes. The March weather is great for relaxing at the beaches and exploring the outdoors.
April to May
This is one of the best times to visit the Middle East as the overall temperature in the region is comfortable. Wildflowers and vegetation in general start to bloom during this time. Despite the temperatures, which is usually in. the high thirties, classified as ‘comfortable’, it can still be a bit overwhelming for people not used to the heat. So, travelers will do themselves a lot of favor to pack sunscreen and dress light.
June to August
Temperatures start to rise in June and August from the high thirties and exceed the forty mark (up to 41°C at midday). Most people visiting the Middle East during this period tend to stay at seaside resorts and relax under the shade. Seawater is also refreshingly warm during this period, especially late in the afternoon and swimming is one of the most popular things to do at resorts. Those used to the sun can also catch a tan at the beaches.
Most of the popular destinations in the Middle East see fewer tourists between June and August. So, it may be a good idea to visit the region during this time if you want to beat the crowd. You’ll have to be able to deal with the heat though.
Temperatures start to drop in September although it can still be very hot. Israel and Turkey have some pleasant weather during the month. You can comfortably explore the region and soak up the sun in September although you shouldn’t forget your trusty sunscreen.
Easily one of the better months to visit the Middle East. The average daily temperature is around 34°C and the weather is great for relaxing on the beach and soaking up some sunshine for a tan. Also, the sea is very mild and perfect for all kinds of water sports from water skiing to scuba diving and snorkeling.
This is one of the coolest months of the year as temperatures is at low, hovering around 30°C. You can soak up the sun as much as you like without getting too hot or uncomfortable. You may have to deal with an influx of visitors during this time due to the pleasant weather. It can get cool and chilly in countries like Israel and Turkey. Rain and snow may even fall in the aforementioned countries in November.
The Middle East’s December weather is similar to its November weather. Temperatures cool off slightly and the weather is perfect for enjoying the outdoors or exploring the cities. Beach lovers can also soak up some good ol’ sunshine without feeling too uncomfortable.
Verdict: When Is The Best Time To Visit The Middle East
From the month-by-month breakdown above, it’s clear that the best time to visit the Middle East is between March to April (Spring) and November to December (Autumn).
March to April not only has agreeable temperatures but the flowers and vegetation are blooming during this period making it perfect to explore the natural beauty of the Middle East.
November to December is another good time to visit most countries in the Middle East except Dubai. The overall temperature across the region is agreeable during this period.
Best Time For Festivals And Events In The Middle East
Several festivals and events take place in the Middle East and many people travel there to experience the energy and magic of these events. Some of these festivals are organized to celebrate a new season, some are organized in honor of art, music, and even food.
Easter – (In March or April)
Commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, Israel and Jordan see an influx of Christians that travel to celebrate Easter in those countries.
Abu Simbel Sun Festival (February 22 and October 22)
The Abu Simbel Sun Festival is a cultural event celebrated twice every year in Egypt. The central chamber of the temple of Ramses II is illuminated by the sun on the days of the festival. The clever architecture ensures that the inner chamber of the temple perfectly aligns with the sun on the two days of the festival. Locals and international visitors alike converge at the temple before sunrise to witness the festival.
Dubai Shopping Festival (December to January)
Dubai Shopping Festival is an annual event organized by Dubai’s Department of Tourism. The event, which takes place for a month, involves malls and several other shopping destinations offering unbeatable deals, raffle draws, and other memorable activities. You’ll find out how much shopping is at this festival. Celebrities also join in the fun from time to time making the event more appealing to both locals and international visitors.
Qatar International Food Festival
This one is for the foodies or those who appreciate good food. The ten-day food festival takes place at different places across Qatar with an abundance of local and international cuisines on display. Try different food and enjoy the richness of all that is on offer.
The Awafi festival takes place in the northernmost emirate of the United Arab Emirates and involves residents gathering at the sandy dunes of Ras al-Khaimah in spring. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the cultural heritage and identity of the Ras al-Khaimah people. From theatrical performances to local art workshops, dune buggy races, and several other cultural attractions, there are several fun things to do during the festival.
Visiting The Middle East During Ramadan
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Ramadan is the ninth and holy month of the Islamic calendar. A common misconception is that the Middle East, especially the countries where Islam is predominant, is off-limits during Ramadan. However, this is not so. A visit to the Middle East during Ramadan gives you a unique insight into the change in the people’s lifestyle during the holy month.
There are a number of etiquettes to observe during Ramadan in the Middle East. For one, you shouldn’t eat or drink in public. If you are a non-Muslim, you are not expected to fast but you shouldn’t eat or drink in public during fasting hours.
Women are also expected to dress moderately and cover up. At sunset, the Muslims break their fast and you see a whole new side of the people as they band together to feast and break their fast. Restaurants also offer special deals during this time.
The Middle East is a fascinating part of the world and is worth seeing at any part of the year. But it is true that you are more likely to enjoy your trip if you avoid the extremely high temperatures of the summer by choosing spring or autumn instead, or even winter depending on the country you intend to visit. The Middle East is also a culturally very rich region and many of its cultural events and festivals make great extra reasons to travel there.