The natural wonders of the Middle East are so much more than endless miles of desert punctured by the odd lush oasis. This part of the world throws up some rather stunning natural attractions, making for some surprising diversity in the landscape. Here are some spectacular natural wonders of the Middle East.
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Jeita Grotto, Lebanon
The Jeita Grotto is one of the amazing natural wonders of the Middle East located in the small country, The Lebanon. North of the capital Beirut, in the Nahr al-Kalb valley, the Jeita Grotto is two interconnected caves of limestone. Archaeology has shown that the caves were inhabited in prehistoric times but remained undiscovered in modern history until 1836. Originally the lower cave was only accessible by boat, but the grotto has been made a tourist attraction with the addition of a tunnel and walkways – even so, access is still limited to avoid damage. The grotto is home to largest known stalactite in the world, measuring an incredible 27 feet long.
The Kaluts, Iran
The Kaluts of Iran are just one of those natural wonders of the Middle East that you can imagine as being inspiration for science fiction landscapes. With an “other world” look about them, the Kaluts are a series of eroded walls and towers sticking out of the Dasht-e Lut (desert) in the province of Kerman, running for a distance of more than 120 miles north to south. This is the lowest and hottest place in Iran, standing at just 56m above sea level where temperatures reach 65 degrees C (149 F) in the shade! The formations have been created over millennia by water, wind and soil erosion.
Socotra Island, Yemen
This very weird and isolated island is not only one of the truly incredible natural wonders of the Middle East but of the world. Once used as a trading base, the island is mentioned in ancient texts such as Greek Tablets and in the Travels of Marco Polo. One of a small archipelago of just 4 islands in the Indian Ocean, Socotra in the Yemen is so isolated that an amazing third of its plant life is found nowhere else on Earth. The Dragon Tree and the Bottle Tree, both pictured above, are among the most striking species. The island also boasts some fabulous beaches.
The Dead Sea, Jordan and Israel
The Dead Sea is probably the most famous of the natural attractions of the Middle East. The curative powers of the mineral rich waters have been known for centuries and today there are many spas and wellness resorts on its shores. The Dead Sea is so named because nothing can live in it. It sits between Jordan, Israel and the West Bank and is the lowest land elevation on earth, lying 1,388 feet below sea level. The fact that people can float unsupported in it, is because the water has 33.7% salinity. The high oxygen content in the air and the mild climate adds to the therapeutic nature of the Dead Sea.
Rub ’al Khali, Arabian Peninsula
One of the largest natural wonders of the Middle East is also its richest. The Rub ‘al Khali is the biggest sand desert in the world and it stretches for 250,00 square miles, covering parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates - one-third of the Arabian Peninsula. The distinctive red/orange dunes reach over 800 feet in places, and thanks to the searing heat and lack of water, there is minimal wildlife. What makes it special to the Middle East, however, is that it is one of the most oil-rich sites in the world.
Al-Hasa Oasis, Saudi Arabia
There needs to be something to counterbalance all that desert and those sand dunes and it comes in the form of Al-Hasa oasis. The largest natural oasis in all of Asia, Al-Hasa is just over 40 miles from the coast of the Arabian Gulf. Covering 30,000 acres, the oasis is fed by more than 60 Artesian springs, providing water to the million people who call the area home as well as irrigating the incredible 3 million date palms.
Bu Tinah Island, Abu Dhabi
Bu Tinah Island is one of the ecologically significant natural wonders of the Middle East, so much so that it is not open to visitors. It is a small collection of shoals and coral reefs lying within the UNESCO designated Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. The reason that it is so significant and important in climate change research is that the coral reefs here, off the coast of Abu Dhabi, are flourishing despite conditions that would easily kill off reefs in other parts of the world. The archipelago is home to endangered and rare wildlife, including the Hawksbill turtle, and the densest population of dugongs on Earth.
Musandam Fjords, Oman
The Musandam Fjords of Oman have the same geographical features of their namesakes in Norway but are totally dissimilar in other ways thanks to the different climates. Where Norway’s fjords are lush and green, carpeted with coniferous forest, the Musandam Fjords are dry and barren. This doesn’t make the sandy, rugged mountains of this remote peninsula that plunge 6000+ feet into crystal clear waters any less spectacular.
I have been totally captivated by these natural wonders of the Middle East. What about you?
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