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Petra

City Tours to Take at NightIf you tend to stay away from cheesy double decker bus tours while on vacation, well…we can’t blame you. Often, the only real way to get to know a city is to just walk it, unguided, and let the adventure unfold as you go. But there’s something irresistible about surrendering to a nighttime tour: cruising down busy avenues, letting yourself be dazzled by marquee lights as they whiz by, and getting a birds-eye view of a city just as its restaurants, bars, and nightclubs begin to come alive. Just remember to put down the camera once in a while; for posterity sake, you won’t want to let the whole evening go by with your face behind a lens!

Though not as well known as its neighbor to the south, the city of Sharjah in the UAE has managed to carve out a reputation independent of Dubai and Abu Dhabi – for starters, it is a burgeoning art destination, with over 15 museums to its name, and even has its own observatory wheel. Now, thanks to a brand new night tour, visitors can now be guided through the city’s most dazzling features after the sun goes down. The Buhaira Corniche, Al Qasba (a prominent theater and exhibition space), Mega Mall, the Central Souk, and Al Noor Mosque (a destination in its own right) are just a few of the spots accessed on the new tour, which runs from 8pm to 11pm every night. $25.75 per person; for more information, click here. Read more

Petra, JordanVenture down a narrow gorge between two cliffs towering at 263 feet high and you’ll encounter the Lost City of Petra, Jordan. Petra was mostly unknown to the western world until it was “discovered” in 1812 by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss traveler. The Nabataeans settled within the rose-colored rocks over 2,000 years ago and the architectural detail of the tombs, temples, sacrificial alters, and obelisks survived for travelers today to marvel at. Though the Nabataeans were conquered by the Romans around 100 AD, the city remained a junction on the silk and spice trade routes, that linked China and India to Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. Featured as a backdrop for Hollywood’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade like other beautifully preserved temples, the combination of outstanding architectural achievement and the vibrant color of the red mountains made this must-visit place one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Read more

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I have been to Jordan twice, and both trips were memorable experiences filled with natural wonders. The highlights for first-time travelers include Wadi Rum, Petra, and the Dead Sea. The beautiful red, desert sands of Wadi Rum are impressive, and one cannot help but think of Lawrence of Arabia while traversing the dunes. I enjoyed its sunsets and would recommend being there at that time.

On my first trip, my friend and I hired a guide to take us to Wadi Rum, and he included a stop at a typical Bedouin camp for tea. Judging from their attire, Bedouins might, at first glance, appear to be out of a different age, but don’t be surprised to see a satellite TV dish or mobile phone nearby. After viewing a sunset, we continued on to Petra and overnighted at Taybet Zaman (from $95/night), where Bill Clinton once stayed. This very simple boutique hotel has a Turkish sauna that is enjoyable after a day of touring.

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