Forget about Palm Jumeirah, the Middle East is packed with natural islands that are both beautiful and filled with interesting things to see. Here are our 5 recommended picks:
1) Arwad Island (Syria)
Surrounded by the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the fishing town of Arwad lies 3 km from Tartus, Syria’s second largest port. It has a rich history dating back to 2000 B.C., and continues to be active today, being Syria’s only inhabited island. Its most popular attraction is the Fortress of Arwad, which was built atop Canaanite ruins, and which now functions as an open museum.
2) Failaka Island (Kuwait)
Located in the northern part of the Persian Gulf, 20 km off the coast of Kuwait City, Failaka Island is packed with interesting remnants of ancient civilizations, including the Dilmun and Kassite civilizations. Even Alexander the Great had a presence on the humble Kuwaiti island.
3) Palm Island (Lebanon)
Palm Island is one of three islands that constitute the Palm Islands Nature Reserve. Located 5.5 km off Tripoli, Palm Island, also known as Araneb (Rabbits) Island from the great number of rabbits that were grown on the island in the 20th century, was declared a protected area by UNESCO, as it is home to endangered loggerhead turtles and rare monk seals, as well as a nesting ground for migratory birds.
4) Pharaoh’s Island (Egypt)
The beautiful island with a cool name is also the site of Saladin’s Citadel. The picturesque island was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its universal cultural value. It is said that, when Lawrence of Arabia was denied access to the island in 1914, he built a makeshift raft for himself and swam to the island with the help of a Bedouin guide.
5) Socotra Island (Yemen)
Lying 240 km off the Horn of Africa, Yemen’s Socotra Island was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008 for its unique biodiversity. The island has nearly 700 plants that can be found nowhere else in the world, as it is one of the most isolated landforms in the planet, and is described as the most alien-looking place on Earth.