By Flora Stubbs
July 10, 2019
Peter Adams/Getty Images

What do Travel + Leisure readers look for when choosing the best cities in Africa and the Middle East? The results of our World’s Best Awards survey for 2019 made it clear that the criteria are very specific. A strong sense of historical and cultural identity is crucial, as is beautiful scenery. The food and shopping scenes are important, too. And the hotels, of course, must be world-class.

The South African city of Cape Town has all of the above, and more — which is why T+L readers voted it the best city in Africa and the Middle East for the 18th time. “It is such a beautiful city,” observed one reader. “There are so many things to do and places to see and experience. The people are incredibly friendly and make you feel welcomed, and the value is wonderful.”

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

Morocco is another long-standing favorite when it comes to Africa and the Middle East. Marrakesh placed third on this year’s survey, while Fez came in fifth place, and Essaouira in seventh. It seems the unique visuals of Marrakesh, combined with excellent shopping and a robust luxury hotel scene, make it one of the continent’s most appealing urban experiences. As one respondent put it, “We loved the old city and all the fascinating sites. The central medina was amazing, with all the winding alleys, shops, and places to eat.”

Jerusalem placed second on this year’s list, with respondents raving about the old city’s extraordinary historical and cultural legacy. As one reader wrote, “Fascinating city.

Tragic, beautiful, rough around the edges. Friendly people, great food, and lively nightlife. Hard to find a place with as much history and diversity.”

Read on for the full list of the best cities in Africa and the Middle East.

10. Luxor, Egypt

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Score: 81.03

9. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Score: 81.16

8. Muscat, Oman

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Score: 81.17

7. Essaouira, Morocco

Nadia Isakova/Getty Images

Score: 82.10

6. Tel Aviv

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Score: 82.42

5. Fez, Morocco

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Score: 82.98

4. Beirut, Lebanon

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Score: 84.48

3. Marrakesh, Morocco

Jakub Rutkiewicz/EyeEm/Getty Images

Score: 85.11

2. Jerusalem

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WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.46

1. Cape Town

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WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.86

Ever since the World Cup came to Cape Town in 2010, this exceptionally scenic city on the southern tip of Africa seems to have gone from strength to strength. Classic hotels such as Ellerman House, Cape Grace, and the Belmond Mount Nelson (fresh from a major face-lift) have been complemented by the arrival of contemporary contenders like the Silo and Gorgeous George. The city’s culinary scene has taken off, with Luke Dale-Roberts’ 2010 launch of the Test Kitchen setting off a wave of restaurant openings that today attract visitors from around the globe. From an arts perspective, too, Cape Town is now a major player, with 2017’s launch of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront confirming the city’s position on the world stage. Some things, of course, don’t change: the monumental Table Mountain and the rugged coastline around Hout Bay will always make this one of the continent’s most strikingly beautiful destinations. One respondent summed it up by saying, “Cape Town is like Southern California on Steroids! What an amazing place. The Atlantic Ocean nearby, and Table Mountain right in the middle of the city, make it a sight to behold.”

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.