Like many people in the world, your opinion of the Middle East is likely formed from news reports and movies, both of which usually portray the region as one riddled with war and conflict. Some people even think the Middle East is a single country.
For those not familiar with the Middle East, it’s not a country but rather a region consisting of 14 countries – Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Syria. Many of these countries are very peaceful and safe to visit. The locals are also genuinely welcoming and are respectful to tourists.
Being a big region, most of the countries in the Middle East have nothing to do with each other’s issues. So, the fact that a country in the Middle East is currently experiencing a crisis doesn’t mean other countries aren’t safe to travel to. It’s wise to avoid those countries that are extremely dangerous and visit only safe and peaceful countries.
Below, I’ll rank the seven most peaceful countries in the Middle East using the Global Peace Index (GPI) which is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. The numbers don’t lie and you’ll find the most peaceful Middle Eastern countries below. But first, why visit the Middle East?
Why Visit The Middle East?
From surreal landscapes to delicious delicacies and exceptional beaches, there are many reasons to visit the Middle East. The region also has many rich, diverse, and interesting cultures. History buffs will feel like they are in paradise thanks to the historical monuments and architecture of the area.
Shopping in the Middle East is a completely different experience. If you live in a Western country, you are probably used to buying stuff from the Internet. But in the Middle East, it’s all about buzzing markets filled with shoppers, haggling and bantering with traders to get a good deal.
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.
Ranking Middle Eastern Countries Based on Global Peace Index
As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be using the Global Peace Index (GPI) to rank the safest and most peaceful Middle Eastern countries. For those not familiar with GPI, it’s the world’s leading and most trusted measure of global peacefulness. GPI is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) which measures the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness. The GPI ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their levels of peacefulness.
Based on the 2022 GPI ranking by the IEP, below are the winners when it comes to peace and safety in the Middle East.
Global Peace Index score: 1.533
Qatar is the top-ranked Middle Eastern country in the 2022 GPI ranking. The country also ranked 23rd in the world (out of 163 countries ranked) which is no easy feat.
If you have any doubt about the peacefulness of Qatar, perhaps the fact that the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is ongoing as at the time of writing this article, is held in Qatar will convince you. Make no mistake, the world cup is arguably the biggest event in Sports eclipsing the Olympic Games and other notable sporting events.
Qatar is a classic story of ‘grass to grace’ as the former small fishing and trading country is now the richest in the world thanks to enormous revenue from oil and gas. The country now boasts of incredible architecture, skyscrapers, waterfront line cafes, and restaurants in addition to natural beauty.
Crime rate is very low in Qatar and violent crimes against foreigners are very rare. Pickpocketing, bag snatching, and mugging are also very rare. Despite this, I’ll still advise you to observe normal safety precautions when visiting the country.
Your major concern in Qatar is the extreme temperature as well as haze, sandstorms, dust storms, and thunderstorms.
Global Peace Index score: 1.739
Second safest country in the Middle East and 39th in the world, Kuwait isn’t as popular as some of its other neighbors in the region. Promising intriguing and natural wonders coupled with architectural diversity and an intriguing and authentic Arab culture, people that travel to Kuwait always find a reason to go back.
Crime rates are fairly low in Kuwait and it’s highly unlikely that a foreigner will be robbed, harmed, or attacked. So, you don’t have much to worry about in Kuwait.
Driving standards are extremely poor in the country and it’s advisable you don’t rent a car. Always book a taxi in advance and use a reputable taxi company and hailing taxis can be potentially dangerous, especially for solo female travelers.
The major concern in Kuwait is its history of terrorist attacks. But hopefully, the situation will get better in the coming years.
Global Peace Index score: 1.849
Home to the popular archaeological site of Petra, UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Wonders of the World, Jordan is a country that promises unique adventures and delicious delicacies. The country doesn’t see as much visitors as some other countries in the Middle East and there is a general relaxed and laid-back vibe there.
Chances are you’ve seen warnings about potential terrorist attacks in Jordan if you researched the country. However, the situation isn’t as dire as you may be led to believe. The government has responded to terrorism risks by increasing police and military presence all over the country. This has an effect on petty crime which is now low in the country. You just need to use your head and observe normal safety precautions.
Protests may happen regularly in the country and it’s advisable you avoid them. While many are peaceful, things may take a turn for the worse and you don’t want to be caught in the middle of a violent protest.
United Arab Emirates
Global Peace Index score: 1.865
A federation made up of seven Emirates, the United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. Thanks to petroleum and natural gas wealth, the UAE is littered with towering glass skyscrapers, beach resorts, impressive hotels, shopping malls, and all kinds of mind-blowing attractions. The landscape of the country is also impressive.
Crime rates are low and safety isn’t a concern for tourists. You only need to observe normal safety precautions. While petty crime is low, note that it can occur in crowded areas, just like in any other part of the world.
Scams are also rare in the UAE thanks to the wealth of the nation and the good standard of living that many citizens enjoy. Your biggest worry here is the extreme high temperatures and natural disasters like sand storms and thunderstorms. Follow local media whenever you are in the UAE to learn of any recent natural disasters.
Global Peace Index score: 1.889
A vibrant cultural heritage, pristine landscape, and nature adventures. These are some of the things you can enjoy in Oman. Most of the fun in the oldest independent state in the Arab world are outdoors. So, if you are an outdoorsy type, you’ll enjoy Oman immensely.
Oman is a very safe country and locals are very friendly. Crime rates are low as the punishment for many offenses are very severe and this acts as a strong deterrent against crimes. Even solo female travelers can go to Oman without fearing for their safety. The country has a conservative culture and as long as you respect their culture, you are fine.
Global Peace Index score: 2.085
Bahrain is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Snorkeling is a popular activity here due to the crystal clear waters and beautiful underwater world featuring pearls and oysters. Nature is also stunning and the country boasts countless amazing hotels and resorts.
Crime rate is generally low in the country although petty theft and burglaries can occur. The roads of Bahrain are filled with reckless drivers and it’s advisable you don’t rent a car or drive after dark if you do.
The country is also safe for solo female travelers and all anyone traveling to Bahrain has to do is observe normal safety precautions while minding the cultural differences. Book taxis in advance and only from reputable companies.
Global Peace Index score: 2.288
Just like many Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia boasts numerous historic and religious monuments, wonderful architecture, and sandy beaches. Tourism in Saudi Arabia is mostly religious. However, there’s been an increase in leisure tourism over the past few years.
Pickpocketing tends to be more rampant during pilgrimages and people traveling to the country during this time should exercise increased safety precautions. The biggest concern here of travelers is to respect the way of life of the Saudis. Disrespecting the country’s moral code can result in harsh punishment depending on the code violated.
LGBT or anything related to it is illegal in the country. So, if you are a member of the LGBT community, I strongly recommend you skip Saudi Arabia. Other than that, the other major concern in the country is reckless drivers. So, you should be careful when picking your drivers and always make sure you are wearing safety belts.