Scuba Diving In The Middle East
Areas of the Middle East are often on the world stage, and generally, for the wrong reasons, but for divers, the Middle East means one thing – awesome diving!
The striking contrast between the desert landscape and the myriad colours of the underwater world has to be seen to be believed, and as well as epic diving locations throughout the region, you also have the chance to visit iconic places such as Wadi Rum and the Rose-Red City of Petra in Jordan; Mount Sinai, the Great Pyramids and Luxor in Egypt; and Jerusalem in Israel. The age-old attractions deserve to be seen first-hand, but there are also more-modern sites that demand your attention (and can be dived!), including the immense aquarium beneath the Atlantis hotel off the coast of Dubai, and the brand-new Deep Dive Dubai – at 60m, the world’s deepest dive pool.
DID YOU KNOW? - Wadi Rum has been used by Hollywood for many top movies, including Prometheus, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and The Martian, and the latest version of Dune.
Top Dive Site Editor’s Pick (Mark Evans)
The Middle East is an obvious contender for any ‘top dives’ list, with various countries in the region boasting incredible diving opportunities.
The Red Sea
The Red Sea doesn’t really need an introduction to divers, and it truly is one of the best diving locations on the planet. I have been over 60 times in the past 25 years, and I can’t wait to return. It is the perfect blend of every kind of dive – drift dives, reef dives, wall dives, wreck dives, all served up in a veritable soup of marine life.
Many countries offer Red Sea diving, and each has its own unique offerings:
Jordan may only have a small section of Red Sea coastline, but out of Aqaba, divers can explore sunken aircraft (a C-130 military plane and a Tri-Star commercial airliner), the purpose-sunk wreck of the Cedar Pride and the unique Military Museum, which comprises several armoured vehicles in convoy on the seabed.
Egypt is home to the world’s most famous shipwreck, the SS Thistlegorm, which with its cargo of wartime supplies is like a sunken museum, but as well as this iconic dive, there are a myriad of other top-quality locations, including the offshore reefs of the Brothers and Daedalous, the sheer walls of Ras Mohammed Marine Park, the caverns of St Johns, and the wreck graveyard of Abu Nuhas.
Fancy a cuppa? - Mocha is a delicious drink in which coffee and chocolate are mixed. The word ‘mocha’ is actually derived from Mocha, a port in Yemen on the Red Sea.
Sudan is a wild country, and in its relatively undived waters, divers can encounter various shark species and explore pristine reefs, as well as dive the remains of Cousteau’s Precontinent II underwater living experiment, and the awe-inspiring Umbria shipwreck – think the Thistlegorm, but that has hardly been dived.
Like Jordan, Israel only has a very small portion of the Red Sea coastline, but it was the birthplace of Red Sea holiday diving packages. It still boasts some spectacular coral reefs and a handful of shipwrecks, all easily accessible from the coastal city of Eilat.
The Sultanate of Oman is located on the Arabian Peninsula and boasts a lengthy coastline into the Indian Ocean. Diving here is unique – it doesn’t have the mega-vis of the Red Sea, but the nutrient-rich waters bring in whalesharks, manta rays and other pelagic creatures, and there are some fantastic hard coral formations around the protected Daymaniyat Islands.
Did you know? - There is a fantasy novel written in the 2nd century AD in Roman Syria which features explorers flying to the moon, a first encounter with aliens, and the discovery of a continent across the ocean.
Find more inspiration for your dive trips this year in the Ultimate Divers Guide.