Unrest in the Middle East brought a dip in tourism as uneasy travelers looked to other vacation destinations to spend their travel dollars. Following the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, the region's travel dipped upwards of 8 percent as reported by the U.N. World Tourism Organization. Where lines once swelled around the pyramids, the year 2011 meant bookings and visitors to area attractions dwindled. However, Middle Eastern tourism has surpassed comeback status and is trending in areas from Jordan to Egypt and beyond, with reports of double-digit growth of an 11.2 percent increase in travel bookings.
Kish Island, 12 miles off the coast of Iran, is a former private resort that boasts a wealth of luxurious accommodations, excellent shopping and awe-inspiring beaches. Spending a day here probably won’t feel like enough, but any more than that could break the bank.
Experience a big-city hotel stay that doesn’t feel like your typical urban visit at Chicago’s Claridge House, nestled in the sought-after Gold Coast neighborhood. The hotel’s sophisticated décor and serene residential ambience foster the atmosphere of an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolis.
Start your day in Isfahan at Messo Qali Café. It has a great atmosphere and includes outdoor seating. The café is vegetarian friendly and the food is cheap. Budget $15 for a good breakfast. After breakfast, visit the Chehel Sotoun, an elegant 17th-century pavilion and garden. The name means 40 pillars and is only about $6 to enter.