The 10 Best Cities in Africa and the Middle East

The best cities in Africa and the Middle East, according to Travel + Leisure readers, make regional culture come alive through the warmth of their people.

View of the Muttrah Corniche, the world famous Muscat sea promenade, at dusk.
Photo: Buena Vista Images/Getty Images

Some might think of the Middle East simply as a destination for desert camping or dune-bashing, or Africa, the world's second-largest continent, only for a safari trip. But that ignores the people. These parts of the world are home to some of the most interesting thinkers, designers, and hoteliers you'll find anywhere — and travelers can meet them on a visit to the best cities in Africa and the Middle East.

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.

The African cities on the list represent some of the continent's most popular destinations. Long-time T+L reader favorite Morocco claims two of the top spots this year: Marrakesh, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, at No. 5, and at No. 10, Fez, the second-largest city in the country and historically a center of traditional craftsmanship. One reader described it as "a beautiful city with friendly people and lots of opportunities for shopping."

One rising African metropolis is Kigali, which arrives at No. 6, its first appearance on this list. The Rwandan capital is becoming popular with travelers as a city escape before or after trips into the country's many national parks, which are still the main drivers of the country's tourism economy. Another reason it's attracting more attention: a burgeoning arts and fashion scene. Readers noted that Kigali was easy to navigate and packed with interesting sites.

Four of this year's top 10 are on the Arabian Peninsula, including No. 8 Doha, where Qatar will host the World Cup later this year, and No. 9 Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Readers praised the latter as a "lovely, super-modern city," with one noting that "the Louvre Abu Dhabi is absolutely astonishing."

Topping the list is another Gulf city, but one that's known less for shiny skyscrapers — they're not allowed — and more for its quiet vibe and view of mountains and sea. Read on for the full list of the best cities in Africa and the Middle East.

1. Muscat, Oman

Local people among stalls in the Night Souk of Muscat.
Buena Vista Images/Getty Images

Oman's oceanfront capital is one of the most atmospheric cities on the Arabian Peninsula, thanks in part to its millennia of history as a key trading port. Because of a nationwide height limit on new construction, the architecture tends toward the traditional, with obvious influences from Arab, Persian, Ottoman, and broader Indian Ocean aesthetics. Wander through the souks or along the corniche, and don't skip a tour of the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Muscat is currently having a bit of a hotel boom as interest grows from international travelers — look out for the beachfront Jumeirah Muscat Bay, opening this summer.

Score: 89.21

2. Cape Town

View of Sea Point promenade on the Atlantic Seaboard of Cape Town, South Africa
Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.76

3. Tel Aviv

Locals and tourists walking on street and seaside enjoying the sunshine and laid-back lifestyle in Tel Aviv, which is the most east part of Mediterrean Sea.
Getty Images

Score: 88.17

4. Jerusalem

Gardens on the Temple Mount and view of the Golden Dome in the historic city center
Salvador-Aznar/Getty Images

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.45

5. Marrakesh, Morocco

Early morning pedestrians and shoppers in a Marrakech outdoor market.
Cheryl Ramalho/Getty Images

Score: 86.17

6. Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda.
Yannick Tylle/Getty Images

Score: 86.04

7. Dubai

Dubai Marina with beautiful city sunset time
Raimonds Klavins/500px/Getty Images

Score: 85.09

8. Doha, Qatar

5th June Arch bridge in Doha to lusail public highway.
Shakeel Sha/Getty Images

Score: 84.24

9. Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi. Rear view of an Arab woman watching the Majestic building of the Emirates Palace Hotel
Buena Vista Images/Getty Images

Score: 83.42

10. Fez, Morocco

View of the medina quarter of Fez

Score: 82.93

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