In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all sitting inside for long hours, waiting for life to return to some sort of normal. Meanwhile, the clampdown on international travel and the evacuation of public spaces for anything but the basic activities of survival are turning Spring into a dismal season.
But this will pass. Travel photographers will venture forth again. And while we have so much time on our hands with so little to do — why not plan?
We’ve put together a list of the best places to photograph in the Middle East. Hopefully, this will jumpstart your daydreams and get you thinking about the future again. Because there will be a future.
And besides, planning now for the journey will save you time and stress. And once the lockdowns are over, the number of travelers could well take time to rebound. Perhaps Summer or Fall will be a perfect time for travel photography.
Wadi Rum — Jordan
Wadi Rum is one of the most photogenic valleys in all the Middle East. The color and shape of the sandstone and granite features, sculpted by the hand of water over millions of years, make it a joy to photograph at any experience level. You’ll want to close up your aperture to get the most out of the deep blue sky, red stone, and cutting shadows — but there is no shortage of vistas worth snapping.
If you are handy with a drone, Wadi Rum also has incredible petroglyphs cut into the stone, evidence of the more than 12,000 years humans have inhabited this majestic place.
Jerash Ruins — Jordan
The city of Jerash has long been populated by human civilizations, with the earliest going back to 7500 BCE. But visitors are most interested in the lengthy stays of ancient Greek and Roman people. The Romans were successful there until an earthquake in 749, which destroyed many of the buildings.
As archaeologists have worked to uncover the ancient ruins under the modern city, they’ve found a diverse, well preserved legacy of Greek, Roman, and Islamic rule. Sometimes called the “Pompeii of the East,” it attracts historical photographers from around the world with its amazing sights.
Petra — Jordan
The famous Nabatean city of Petra has been immortalized in countless films and photographs, but you must see it to believe it. The Al-Khazneh is its calling card: a fantastic façade carved directly out of the bluff. Originally created as a crypt, it is now a center of world tourism and archaeological study.
The travel photographer is drawn to the ornate features of the architecture, the tremendous cultural heritage of the site, and the captivating story. It is also the perfect place to visit in the Fall once the lockdowns ease up, with average high temperatures downshifting to 76 degrees with little to no rain by October. Perfect for outdoor shooting.
Old City Jerusalem — Israel
When you think of the great cultural legacies in the world, the first thing that comes to mind is Jerusalem. It is home to the holiest sites in all three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And all of those sites exist inside the walls of the Old City. A little under one square kilometer, all of Jerusalem lived inside its walls until 1860.
For the intrepid travel photographer, there is no end to angles you can take when shooting. You might capture the grace of worship at the Western Wall or the Dome of the Rock, the contemporary multicultural city living over ancient ground, the scars of the fallout of the Six Day’s War, or the archaeological excavations of Hellenistic and Byzantine ruins. Everywhere you turn, there is a story to be told with your frame.
City of David/Wadi Hilweh — Israel
Considered to be the Bronze and Iron Age center of Jerusalem, the City of David tells both the history of the land and the modern history of Isreal. With Palestinians and Jews living side by side, it’s streets contain both hope and tension.
For historical photographers, the Canaanite structures are glimpses into a Biblical time, quite literally. The complicated web of long history make the City of David a great place to bring your camera.
Cappadocia (Goreme National) — Turkey
Cappadocia a landscape photographer’s dream. The rich mineral content in the rock creates bands of vibrant color, while the strange erosion patterns lead to the charming “fairy chimney” formations. To heighten the drama, point the camera to one of the many temples and houses carved directly into the rock.
With its relative closeness to Western Europe, the area is built to accommodate visitors. While Cappadocia’s famous hot air balloon season might be nearing its end by the time you arrive, there is no shortage of underground hotels and historical tours.
Hopefully, reading about these amazing places encourages you to plan your next adventure. In these difficult times, it is easy to forget that we have a future ahead. Our first responsibility right now is to the health of ourselves and our communities, but this pandemic will not last forever.
You will pick up that camera again, board a plane, see the beauty in this world, and capture that beauty to share with others. So what better way to spend your time at home then planning the ultimate Middle East photography trip?