Middle East & North Africa
Explore the ancient worlds of the Egyptians, Persians, and the Trojans, as well as the far-flung provinces of the Roman Empire and enigmatic civilisation of the Kushites in the cradle of civilisation that is the Middle East and North Africa. Walk in the footsteps of Greek heroes Achilles and Hector at Troy, the great Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II in Luxor, Darius in Persepolis and Alexander the Great in Siwa. Discover vast, unyielding deserts, towering minarets, underground cities, and marketplaces that have barely changed since before the common era. Mystery and adventure are what awaits in this part of the world. So, what are you waiting for? (Queue Indiana Jones theme song)
Invaders, Traders & Pyramid Builders
Prepare yourself, for an immersive Egyptological expedition that defies imagination, in quest of the unknown, the elaborate and the off-limits in the land of the pharaohs. Thanks to special government permission, access the Valley of the Kings at night, participate in an active archaeological dig and stand in the Sphinx enclosure at Giza right between the paws of the ancient stone beast. Explore the opulent tomb of Nefertari, in the Valley of the Queens, and the immense tomb of Seti I, both recently the subject of years of ongoing renovations. Discover the extensive subterranean labyrinths of the Step-Pyramid of King Djoser and the Serapeum, the tomb of the Apis Bull at Saqqara and venture into the deserts of middle Egypt to explore the tombs of the Amarna period at Beni Hassan and Akhenaten’s lost city in the desert.
In addition to the unreal Egyptological experiences on offer, journey into the Fayoum Oasis to discover the whale fossils in the desert, wander the streets of the village of Tunis; considered one of the most beautiful villages in Egypt and discover Egyptian cuisine and medieval architecture with a food walk through old Islamic Cairo
Stay in a traditional B&B in Cairo, a desert lodge in the Fayoum, Nubian Inn in Aswan and traditional and historic hotels throughout.
Lost Cities & Bedouin Tents
Discover a land brimming with archaeological treasures and lost cities on this epic adventure through the sandy, barren and beautiful landscapes of Jordan. Marvel at the vastness of the site of Jerash in the country’s north and safari into the east to explore Jordan’s remote desert castles. Spend a day tending a flock of sheep with a local shepherd and another floating in the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth. Go on Safari for Oryzx at Azraq, see the intriguing Madaba Map and view the expanse of Jordan from the top of Mt Nebo.
We feel no trip to Jordan would be complete without a trip to the ‘lost city of Petra’ and don’t worry we give you plenty of free time to explore the site on your own. So, don your Indiana Jones hat, jump on a horse and ride down through the Siq and explore for yourself – follow us! We know the way!
Accommodation on this trip is a real stand-out! Stay at some of Jordan’s best eco-lodges, a resort on the Dead Sea, cabins in Ajloun and traditional boutique family run establishments throughout.
Journey to the Confluence
Venture beyond Lake Nasser into the far reaches of Sudan on this pioneering journey into the forgotten kingdom of Nubia. Visit the deserted archaeological site of Meroë with its tepee shaped pyramids and discover the holy mountain of Gebel Barkal. Cross the Nile to marvel at the enigmatic Temple of Soleb, built by an Egyptian pharaoh for the people of Nubia to worship him as a god. Get to know the warm and friendly people of Sudan both by checking out village life in Wawa and in the chaotic metropolis of Khartoum at the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile rivers.
Begin the journey in Aswan, Egypt by climbing aboard the Lake Nasser Ferry and stay in a range of unique accommodation from permanent tented camps at archaeological sites to homestays in small villages. Best of all, enjoy a land full of wonders and share it with no one except your fellow trip mates – cue the Indiana Jones theme song!
Magic Carpet Ride
All aboard the Trans-Iranian Railway! Beginning in Sari, near the shores of the Caspian Sea, travel all the way to Bandar Imam Khomeni on the Persian Gulf. We start our trip in Mashhad, assisting a local family with the saffron harvest and a visit to the spectacular Imam Reza holy shrine. We will visit the towns of Neyshabur and Damghan, with an opportunity to visit the strange calcium terraces of Badab Soort along the way. Taking a break from the train in the capital Tehran we will visit the so-called ‘Den of Espionage’ and the spectacular Golestan Palace before re-joining the train to the small city of Qom and onto the remote towns of Arak, Ahvaz and IMA, where we will visit an ancient Ziggurat. At the end of our rail journey, we will travel to Shiraz to visit the ‘pink mosque’ and Shapouri Pavilion.
This trip stays in unique accommodation such as eco-lodges and guest houses as well as some locally owned and operated traditional hotels. Marvel at the spectacular scenery out your window as it goes by, with the majority of this trip on the tracks, and savour traditional treats and a slower pace with stops at unique restaurants, coffee shops and for local snacks while sightseeing.
Grand Egyptian Odyssey
Travel in the style of the pharaohs on this odyssey to discover Egypt’s hidden wonders. Explore the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, a place which after hundreds of years of excavations is still yielding valuable discoveries. Visit the subterranean chambers of the step pyramid, previously off limits to visitors, the tomb of the Apis bull and the ‘Bent’ and ‘Red’ pyramids of nearby Dahshour. Explore Siwa Oasis, situated in the middle of the Sahara and venture into middle Egypt to the site of Amarna and the ancient city of Akhenaten in the desert. Explore the west bank at Luxor with an exclusive visit to the tomb of Ay and the Valley of the Monkeys as well as visits to two of the most spectacular of Egypt’s royal tombs, the tomb of Nefertari and the tomb of Seti I. No matter how many times you’ve visited the land of the pharaohs (or even if this is your first time) you will surely find something undiscovered that is sure to impress.
No roughing it at all on this trip! Come back after a hard day’s adventuring to either a unique and historical 5-star hotel, a friendly luxury B&B, beautiful desert lodges or an opulent Nile cruise boat.
Hell’s Hottest Heart
Venture into one of the most inhospitable places in the world on this adventure to end all adventures! Set up camp in the hottest desert on Earth to explore its strange formations, hardy flora and fauna and experience the warm hearts of the people who reside in this harsh environment. Visit the oasis towns of Garmeh and Mesr and discover the ancient citadel of Bam, the largest adobe building in the world. Explore the ancient Zoroastrian religion in the cities of Yazd and Kerman, with visits to so-called ‘Towers of Silence’ and temples of fire, as well as discover magical Isfahan and the small, but beautiful city of Kashan. Call in at some of Iran’s most spectacular villages including the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh, Kharanaq with its vibrating minaret and the strange dug out village of Meymand.
Spend four nights camping under a sky filled with stars, stay in a desert castle (yes you read that right), a traditional house, guesthouses, quirky hostels and local hotels, as well as mingle with the local people on the overnight train from Tehran to Kerman.
Quest of the Shahs
Follow in the footsteps of Iran’s great Shahs and explore some of its most opulent cities while staying in former palaces, lavish caravanserais and old mansions. Discover the Zoroastrian city of Yazd with a visit to the enigmatic ‘Towers of Silence’ and fire temple, traverse the streets of the ‘half of the world’ and visit the Armenian quarter of Isfahan, and wander through the old mansions of Iran’s most wealthy in Kashan. Gaze in wonder at the ancient city of Persepolis, pay your respects at the tombs of Persia’s ‘Great Kings’ at Tall e-Takht and see a genuine Persian Ziggurat at the Sialk archaeological hills.
Catch a ferry to the island of Qeshm to safari through the ‘Valley of the Stars’ and then onto Kish Island to visit the Kariz underground city. Leave the cities behind and stop over in the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh and the village of Varzaneh to gain an insight into village life in this fascinating part of the world.
A Sandpit Far, Far Away
Not so long ago in a sandpit, far, far away, in the heart of Tunisia, a group of travellers journeyed to the sites of epic battles and Jedi mind tricks and sought droids they were apparently not looking for….
It’s easy to see how the scenery in Tunisia was so stimulating to Hollywood in making the beloved films – the otherworldly landscapes, intriguing archaeological sites and curious desert dwellings found here are like nothing else on Earth and instantly transport you to another galaxy.
Discover the sites, sets and locations used in the epic movie franchise on this amazing adventure which will reveal a vivid world both real and fantastical. Journey beyond the screen and step into a land of arid landscapes, troglodyte castles and desert oases, and encounter scenes straight from the lives of great heroes – from the space port where the iconic pod races took place, to the legendary birthplace of Athena and the ruins of the great city of Carthage.
While this trip may be a pilgrimage to the iconic sites of the Star Wars universe, you’ll discover Tunisia a country more colourful and storied than even in George Lucas’s wildest imagination, and revel in the opportunity to bring your very own adventure to life.
Western Village Explorer
Enter a cultural lost world on this expedition to discover Iran’s undisturbed and unique villages. Starting out from Isfahan, the ‘half of the world’, journey to the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh, a village nestled in the mountains and famed for its colourful appearance. Walk along the roof tops of the traditional terraced villages of Masuleh and Palangan. Take a boat ride along the Caspian Coast to see the colourful houses of Bandar Anzali, walk along the shores of the red Urmia Lake and spot local bird life on the lake of Naqadeh at sunset. Explore Mazichal the ‘village in the clouds’ frozen in time without electricity or modern conveniences and marvel how life here has not changed for centuries.
Stay in traditional family run homestays, hotels and eco-lodges in throughout for a local experience in Iran you will never forget. Sample home cooked meals in small villages and experience the warm hospitality of the Iranian people as well as take the opportunity to have dinner in a real Silk Road caravanserai in Isfahan.
Eastern Village Explorer
Experience a world of undisturbed culture with this trip to visit Iran’s villages each of which is more unique than the last. From Makhunik a village of ancient subterranean dwellings often called ‘Iran’s Liliput’ to the desert oasis of Garmeh, an expedition into undiscovered worlds awaits you. Meet the people of these villages lost in time and make local connections which will stay with you your entire life.
In addition to Iran’s villages, we will spend a night camping with the desert nomads of Kahkaran and also explore the hottest place on Earth the Lut Desert (although this trip is in April, so it won’t be too hot!)
Explore the Zoroastrian religion of Yazd with a visit to its fire temple and mysterious ‘Towers of Silence’ and complete your experience in beautiful Isfahan, the jewel of Iranian cities.
Stay in traditional family run homestays, hotels and eco-lodges in throughout. Eat like a local as you take a street food walk through Tehran, sample home cooked meals in small villages and eat food cooked over the campfire by nomad hosts.
Riches of the Ottomans
Join our sultans caravan as we journey the along road less travelled in Eastern Turkey. Walk in the footsteps of the generals of Alexander the Great in in Antioch, visit the largest mosaic museum in the world and view stunning vistas of Mt. Ararat from the shores of Lake Van. Visit the enigmatic sites of Gobekli Tepe, a neolithic wonder of engineering, the beehive houses of Harran and the sunken city of Halfeti in the extreme southeast. Explore the caves and underground cities of Cappadocia and see a different side of this magical place in the old Greek village of Mustafapasa. Discover some of remote Turkey’s ancient past at the Roman castle of Zerzevan at which the mysterious religion of Mithraism was practiced.
Along the way stay in a beautiful cave hotel in Cappadocia, a traditional stone hotel in Gaziantep, a former mansion in Kars and in a museum hotel in Antakya. Eat in some of eastern Turkey’s best restaurants and take a tasting tour of the food capital of Turkey, Gaziantep.
Persian Village Explorer
Experience the warm hospitality of Iran, make new friends and experience the magic of Persia on a very local level. Starting out from Tehran, journey to some of Iran’s most unique and diverse villages, including the ‘Red Village’ of Abyaneh, Garmeh, a real-life desert oasis and Kharanaq with its vibrating minaret. Explore the Zoroastrian religion of Yazd with a visit to its fire temple and mysterious ‘Towers of Silence’, walk along the shores of the red Urmia Lake and spot local bird life on the lake of Naqadeh at sunset.
Spend the night with the nomads of Kahkaran, camp out in the desert near Garmeh, sleep in caves in Kandovan and stay in traditional family run homestays, hotels and eco-lodges in throughout. Eat like a local as you take a street food walk through Tehran, sample home cooked meals in small villages and try the amazing saffron ice cream of Isfahan – trust us you’ll be going back for more!
Embark, in style, on an adventure to the crossroads of humanity, on this trip to discover wonders past and present in the land of Lebanon. Explore the trading centres of Byblos and Tyre, used by the mysterious Phoenician peoples to ship goods all over the ancient Mediterranean world. Wander through the streets of one of the most epic archaeological wonders ever discovered at the site of Baalbek and gaze in awe at the huge temples of Jupiter, king of the Gods, and Bacchus, god of wine. Take some time out for the finer things in life with visits with vineyards to taste some of Lebanon’s famous wine, eat in some of the countries best restaurants and even learn to cook a traditional Lebanese meal.
Walk among the Cedar trees in the Kadisha Valley, visit the beautiful Beiteddine Palace and learn all about Lebanese handicraft making at Bkerzay.
This trip is all of the adventure with none of the inconvenience! Stay in beautiful boutique and historic hotels throughout, experience a stay in a working monastery in the Kadisha Valley and relax in an eco-retreat near Shouf.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran
Located on one side of Isfahan’s main square (conveniently next to the market), the Lotfollah Mosque welcomes travellers to explore its dark narrow galleries and to marvel at its intricately decorated main prayer hall and golden dome. A masterpiece of Persian architecture, it was built during the Safavid Empire in the 17th century. Be sure to sit outside and admire the exterior which displays the characteristic blue tiles and ‘gazelle’s foot’ design over the doorway. Sitting outside is a great way to make new local friends, the friendly locals will often strike up a conversation, asking you what brings you to Isfahan ‘Centre of the World.’
Medinet Habu, Luxor, Egypt
The Giza Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple these are the places we all think of when we think of Egypt, right? Well not so much at Inverted Atlas. Medinet Habu is located on the West Bank at Luxor, roughly in the same area as the Valley of the Kings – where there is SO much more to see than just the tombs of the Kings. Medinet Habu is the funerary temple of pharaoh Ramses III, all Egyptian kings had a temple to carry on their cult after they died in addition to a tomb. This funerary temple is different however, (of course it is – it’s what we’re about!) Ramses III lived in a time where Egypt was constantly besieged by a group of raiders called the Sea Peoples and must have envisaged the battle continuing long into his afterlife, so instead of building a traditional temple, he built himself a military fort to last for all eternity.
Pamukkale Calcium Terraces, Turkey
Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish the Pamukkale terraces are a natural formation of limestone caused by warm water flowing over the site. The terraces have been drawing weary travelers to their thermal springs since the time of classical antiquity. The archaeological site of the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis of which Pamukkale is part, was founded in the 7th century BC, but established as a spa city in the 2nd century BC. While we prefer the terraces and exploring the ancient city, another major feature of the site is Cleopatra’s bath. Once an ancient temple built around a thermal pool, the temple collapsed into the pool during an earthquake. It is now possible to swim among the lintels and columns, although for a hefty price.
Frequently asked questions about the Middle East & North Africa
Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa such as Morocco, Tunisia, Oman and Israel offer a visa on arrival for many nationalities.
Countries where you are likely to need a visa in advance are Iran, Algeria, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey which offers an e-visa to many nationalities. Saudi Arabia also offers a tourist e-visa to many nationalities.
Egypt offers a visa on arrival for many nationalities, however the process is so convoluted we would recommend you get a visa from your local embassy prior to departure.
Please note if you are on an itinerary which includes Israel you should ask the officials not to stamp your passport. If there is any evidence you have been to Israel you will not be allowed into some countries in this region including (but not limited to) Sudan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan and Iran.
For all visas we recommend you approach your local consulate for requirements for your nationality.
It is not uncommon to feel somewhat harassed by local people asking for tips or ‘baksheesh’ especially in countries such as Egypt and Morocco. You should never feel pressured to give money to people if you don’t think a service has been rendered or the service has not been up to standard.
For services that are not included you should tip around 10% for good service. Sometimes a local person will provide a service (often with out being asked!) this could amount to carrying your luggage, pointing out an interesting feature in a temple or even something as simple as giving you directions if you are lost.
In countries in this regions, most notably Egypt and Morocco, a person who you may think is just being helpful or hospitable is doing so for ‘baksheesh’. It is important to note that you a well within your rights to refuse these services if you do not want to give baksheesh, but if you do allow someone to carry your bag in Egypt you should offer them some money. This would be a small amount and your trip leader will be able to guide you as to how much you should give.
Tips are included for providers whose services are included in your trip itinerary. If someone from an included service asks you for baksheesh you should direct them to the trip leader or local guide who will take care of this on the groups behalf.
For all countries in this region you should bring some US Dollars, Euros or Pound Stirling to change into local currency.
Credit Cards are widely accepted and ATM’s are also reliable – with the exception of Sudan, Iran and Algeria where ATM’s frequently only work with local cards.
You should check with your local provider if coverage is provided in the countries on your itinerary prior to departure. Make sure you are also aware of their international roaming charges.
In places like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, Oman, Tunisia and Israel local SIM cards are fairly easy to obtain, the easiest place is usually at the airport on arrival.
Getting a local SIM in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria can be quite difficult to achieve. You will have to go into a store, show your passport and visa and it is highly unlikely that anyone in the store will speak English. Activating SIM cards in these countries is also quite difficult if you can get through the debacle of purchasing one. Instructions are all in the local language, as is the voice on the end of the support line.
If you intend to use a local SIM card while on your trip, you should ensure that your phone is unlocked prior to departure.
Places in North Africa & the Middle East with decent internet and WiFi services include Turkey, Oman, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Morocco, Tunisia and Sudan have patchy but somewhat reliable WiFi.
Algeria and surprisingly Egypt can say they have WiFi. That’s about it. In most places it’s hardly usable and especially in Egypt, which is probably the worst you will ever encounter.
Toilets – All hotels in the Middle East & North Africa have clean, upright western toilets. Public toilets you encounter will likely be of the eastern squat variety. Unscedualed toilet breaks and public toilets in remote areas will be of the squat variety or at worst a hole in the ground and will likely be quite dirty.
Pharmacies – Pharmacies are readily available in major cities and large towns, although it is unlikely that the pharmacist will speak English. If you require medication from a pharmacy, please let your tour leader know as far in advance as possible. They will be able to arrange your local guide to go with you to collect what you need, or the local guide may be able to pick up what you require on your behalf.
Hospitals – Hospitals in large cities are generally of a good standard. We ask that if you are feeling unwell that you let your tour leader know as soon as possible and consider their advice when it comes to hospital admission. Tour Leaders have the discretion to remove someone from the trip if they feel that continuing would endanger their health.
Please ensure you purchase adequate travel insurance that includes repatriation to your home country in the event of a medical emergency.
For all medication please carry a note from your GP detailing what medication you are on and why you are taking it to show to officials should you be asked.
Absolutely not. Please do not even brush your teeth with the water. Most hotels provide complimentary bottled water for this purpose.
Drinking the water is likely to result in hospitalisation.
In Turkey the water is clean, however, different chemicals are used during the purification process so it could still cause a mild stomach upset. We would still recommend drinking bottled water in this instance.
Middle Eastern and North African food consists of a lot of grilled meats and vegetables.
Rice and cous cous are also common.
People from these cultures tend to eat large meals. It is not uncommon for a meal ordered in a restaurant to automatically come with soup and salad – which are both a sizeable meal on their own.
In most places dietary requirements can be accommodated as long as these are disclosed at the time of booking.
Your trip leader may not be able to accommodate any dietary requirements that have not been disclosed in advance.
We will do our best to accommodate dietary requirements in Sudan and Algeria, although we cannot guarantee restaurants here will be able to provide a variety of meals for vegetarian, vegan or gluten free diets. We would recommend you bring some snack food from home if possible if you are planning to undertake a trip to either of these countries.
Most countries in the Middle East & North Africa are Islamic countries and as such quite conservative. While not forbidden in most countries, women should consider whether short shorts or mid drift tops are culturally sensitive. If visiting a mosque women will be required to cover their hair and in many instances wear a long skirt and cover their arms. Men may be required to wear long trousers. Your trip leader will let you know when these items will be required, however please ensure you bring these with you on your trip.
In Iran and Sudan women must wear a head scarf, cover their arms and wear either a long dress (floor length) or loose fitting trousers with a long sleeve khaftan of at least mid thigh length. This is the law in Iran and Sudan. If you arrive with out these items you will not be permitted to join the trip and you could be arrested. Men must wear long trousers.
The situation in Saudi Arabia is fairly similar to Iran and Sudan, however some cities may be slightly more relaxed. Please come prepared to dress conservatively (as above) your trip leader will let you know of any places where the dress code may be less restrictive.