What exactly constitutes the Middle East can be a bit ambiguous, but generally speaking it is where Europe, Africa and Asia meet. One thing that can be agreed upon is the Middle East is composed of several nations and cultures, each with their own rich history. Gappers looking to spend a year in the Middle East will find themselves immersed in antiquity that dates back to the very start of humanity.

A gap year experience in the Middle East can be tailored to suit every traveler’s interests, as options abound. Are you interested in helping people? Many Middle Eastern countries are looking for volunteers to help with health clinics and wildlife conservation. Are you an ancient history buff looking to spend time among some of the world’s greatest relics? Then consider taking an internship in Israel or Egypt. Do you enjoy helping children? Then pick any number of Middle Eastern countries looking to hire English teachers. However you’d like to spend your time abroad, the Middle East has exactly what you’re looking for.

Volunteering

Travelers looking to make a difference during their gap year will find many opportunities to volunteer in Middle Eastern countries. Our partner GoEco has several programs in the Middle East for the medically inclined. Clinics in need of assistance are in Tel Aviv, Israel and Dhamar, Yemen. Perhaps the desire to help wildlife and nature is your calling, in which case you’ll find numerous programs with GoEco where you can guard endangered animal populations or protect gorgeous coral reefs and beaches. There is a constant need for volunteer English teachers in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Jordan and Palestine.

Teaching English

As the Middle Eastern economy grows stronger, governments are preparing themselves to play a major part in the world system. One of their primary goals is to establish a solid English curriculum in schools and universities by hiring English teachers for all subjects, not just English, in the hopes of creating bilingual schools. Teaching positions at international schools are more competitive, generally hiring experienced teachers, with long-term salary packages and job security. Go Overseas has compiled an excellent selection of teaching opportunities on their Teach Abroad Middle East page.

Internship

Being in such a unique part of the world, the Middle East has some great opportunities for specialized internships. The most obvious choices are archeology and human rights. With years of history to be uncovered and digs all over the country, Israel is the ideal location to be a Research Assistant. Not to be outdone, some might call Egypt the focal point of archeology work. Those looking to participate in international policy and human rights would do well to look into an internship with the World Youth Alliance in Lebanon, Beirut.

Factors such as budget, how you want to spend your time, cultural nuances and safety will play a role in how you plan your gap year in the Middle East. First and foremost, will you be held in one place by a job? Will that job provide additional income? Answering these questions will help determine how much you’ll need to save for your trip.

Some places in the Middle East are more conservative than others and it is important to determine what level of cultural adjustment you’re comfortable making. The most important aspect is safety. Be aware of current political situations to ensure you have the best possible gap year in the Middle East.

Cost of Living

Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan are still incredibly cheap and you can expect to pay under $35 USD per day. Coming in higher on the scale are Israel and the United Arab Emirates at around $75 USD per day. For simplicities sake, we’ll compare the high and low end of the spectrum with Jordan and Israel.

An average meal in Jordan costs about $6 USD, while in Israel it could cost you $12.50.

Advising on taxi prices anywhere is risky due to the constant change, but currently the average start rate in Jordan is $0.40 and $0.70 per kilometer, while in Israel it is $3 and $1.30 per kilometer.

Rent, like most places, depends on where you live. An apartment in a major Jordanian city is on average $350 USD per month while a city apartment in Israel can cost $750. A useful tool is Numbeo, which lists everything from the current price of one-way public transit to the average cinema ticket in whatever city or country you’re looking to visit.

Culture and Etiquette

Physical contact between genders is considered improper and should be entirely avoided. Men and women often sit separate from one another on buses. If you are traveling as a couple, refrain from public displays of affection as this is seen as distasteful.

For women, dress code is very important to observe in the Middle East. Covering the shoulders, torso and at least to the knees is imperative. Abiding by local customs is for your benefit as well as respectful to the culture. If you receive advances from men you don’t appreciate, be clear and vocal that you are not interested. Some sites even recommend single women wear a fake wedding band if they don’t want to deal with unwanted interest.

It is considered polite to greet everyone with handshakes upon entering a room. Bargaining in markets and bazaars is expected; don’t be shy! Hospitality is a point of pride in many Middle Eastern countries and you may find yourself flooded with invitations to tea and dinner.

While there is political turmoil in various areas of the Middle East, if you exercise common sense, respect, and avoid the most troubled regions, it is unlikely you’ll encounter problems during your gap year.

Petty crimes are not as much of a problem as in other areas of the world, but it is still best to keep valuables locked away or on your person in a money belt. Be aware of your surroundings and stay away from overly militant areas.

Do research before traveling by checking out the U.S. State Department’s list of travel warnings as well as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s on traveler threats.

If you need specific medications while traveling, be sure to bring them clearly labeled in their original containers. This should be in conjunction with a signed and dated letter from your physician that lists your medications and medical conditions. Don’t count on your medications being available for refill in the Middle East. Take a supply for your entire time abroad.

Health care is varied, but generally better inside major cities. Countries like Israel and the UAE have good facilities with well-trained doctors. It’s always beneficial to travel with a small first aid kit, especially when traveling in less touristy areas.

Contributed by Alecia Weaver

Gap Year Programs in the Middle East

Displaying 1 - 15 of 20 programs
EF International Language Campuses
EF Language Year Abroad in Dubai
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Travel to Dubai for a semester or year and learn Arabic in a city an...

Tru Experience Travel
Gap Year Volunteering with TRU Experience Travel
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10 •8 reviews

Have you ever wanted to use your skills in less developed parts of the...

Kol Ami
Kol Ami Mechina Leadership Gap Year in Israel
Israel
9.2 •35 reviews

Kol Ami is a life changing leadership program operated by the Jewish...

Aardvark Israel
Aardvark: Gap Year Program in Israel
Israel
8.59 •39 reviews

Aardvark Israel is a program which combines volunteering/interning and...

Global U
Global U Gap Year for Christian Entreprenuers
Multiple Countries
9.92 •12 reviews

You sense that God created you for something more, that He wants you...

Young Judaea Year Course
Year Course - Gap Year Program in Israel
Israel
8.73 •15 reviews

Why Choose Year Course in Israel for your gap year? After more than 60...

Free Spirit Experience
Free Spirit Experience Gap Year in Israel and Italy
Israel
9.56 •9 reviews

Free Spirit offers a unique experience in Israel and Italy, filled...

Hostelling International
IOU Respect - Egypt: Intercultural Exchange
Egypt
9.83 •6 reviews

IOU Respect is a two-week, intensive, cultural exchange program...

Kivunim
Kivunim International Gap Year Program
Israel
9.75 •4 reviews

KIVUNIM inspires its students to forge a lifelong relationship with...

Youth International
Explore the Cultures of Kenya, Egypt, and Jordan
Multiple Countries

Join Youth International's newest program and immerse yourself in the...

Masa Israel Journey
Gap Year Programs in Israel
Israel

Intrigued by the opportunity to spend a semester or year experiencing...

Ecoventure
Outdoor Education Instructor
United Arab Emirates
10 •1 review

Exciting opportunity to spend the winter in the sun and explore the...

BINA
BINA Gap Year in Tel Aviv
Israel
10 •1 review

BINA Gap offers high school graduates a unique opportunity to...

Artzi
Artzi Gap Year!
Israel
10 •1 review

Artzi is a unique artistic gap year program in Israel. At Artzi...

OneLife Institute
OneLife Institute Gap Year
Multiple Countries
10 •1 review

OneLife is a nine month gap year program for students who want to grow...

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