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Like to travel off the beaten track? A trip to the Middle East could be for you and now is a great time to go! Check out Editor Melissa’s travel pics and this extract from Lonely Planet!

Few places in the world can match the Middle East’s roll-call of ancient ruins, landscapes of rare beauty and extraordinary cities whose personalities seem to spring from the tales of The Thousand and One nights. More than that, the unforgettable travel moments that the Middle East has to offer are almost as diverse as the stunning backdrops in which to enjoy them.

You’ll never forget the wide-eyed wonder of that first time you dip below the surface of the Red Sea and discover an underwater world of dazzling colour and otherworldly coral. Or the feelings of well-being as you sit by the feet of the Middle East’s last storyteller in Damascus and he weaves an intricate web of fact and fable worthy of Sheherezade. Or the spiritual stirrings in your soul the first time you hear the haunting call to prayer carried by the wind through the lanes of old Jerusalem.

Many travellers fall irretrievably in love with the region in its cities. Cairo is known as ‘the mother of the world’; it is a clamorous cultural hub for the Middle East, not to mention the home of the Pyramids of Giza. There’s also something special about Damascus with its compelling claim to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city (at least four other cities, all in the Middle East, make a similar claim); it is a place where the layers of history infuse every aspect of daily life.

The Middle East is one of history’s grand epics in the making. Once the cradle of civilisation, now a region where modern human history is daily being written upon the stones of the past, the Middle East is where the lines between history’s story and the magic of the travel experience are forever being blurred.

This is an edited extract form Middle East 6th Edition, by Anthony Ham © Lonely Planet Publications, 2009, $43.99

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