5 Surprisingly Hip Middle Eastern Cities

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Even though the Middle East has had a reputation for being a bit conservative, there are several cities that have their own brand of bohemia. Some governments are more tolerant than others when it comes to forms of expression like street art and DIY cultures, we have discovered 5 surprisingly hip Middle Eastern Cities.

Tel Aviv, Israel

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Tel Aviv, a small city with a big heart, is a youthful, hip and cosmopolitan vacation spot. With its amazing year-round beach weather, dance clubs and striking architecture, Tel Aviv attracts fashionable people from across the world. The best place to experience the buzz of the city is the Florentin section of the city. There you will find artists, immigrants and students who frequent the bars, clubs and shawarma joints of this melting pot of a neighborhood. After a visit to Cafelix, a unique coffee spot where beans are roasted daily and decor includes locals' coffee cups hanging on the wall, you'll feel like you are one of the regulars. Don’t forget to hit the chic boutiques and art galleries.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

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There is no denying that Dubai has all the glitz and glam of Milan or Paris, but most people would be surprised that the capital of the UAE also has a lively art and music scene. Dubai welcome millions of tourists every year and most head straight to the malls and mega-resorts without getting to know the chic, down-to-earth scene that hides between the skyscrapers. To experience the relaxed vibes of Dubai, check out the foot-friendly Jumeirah Beach neighborhood to meet friends at the trendy rooftop bars, chic dance clubs and fun shops. Dubai is also beefing up its art scene by supporting a growing community of local and regional artists, thanks to the support of resident art lovers. There are now even districts and festivals that foster artistic and cultural creativity. The Dubai Street Art Tour is a great way to experience this lively side of the city.

Amman, Jordan

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Most tourists come to Jordan for its history and striking monuments like Petra, but many visitors overlook the cosmopolitan side of Amman. The city has always been open to international influence and its diverse neighborhoods reflect a welcoming atmosphere that has developed naturally over the years. Residents of Amman are friendly and easygoing and its nightlife reflects that open, vibrant feeling. Yes, they do serve alcohol in Amman thanks to a small expat scene that operates small bars and clubs like Sekrab. This trendy bar on Rainbow Street is colorful and hosts weekly music events.  Amman even has a hip coffee bar culture that rivals Seattle’s java. Don't miss out on the city's art, and if you're in town at the end of April, check out the Baladk Street Art Festival.

Beirut, Lebanon

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Beirut has had some pretty bad press in the past, but today this hip city is alive and well and art, cuisine and culture are the order of the day. You will find that Beirut has a more liberal view of drinking than many other Middle Eastern cities and you can find a wide selection of bars that cater to all tastes. Want to know where the cool kids hang out? Check out the Mar Mikhael section of the city where there's no shortage of bars, restaurants and artisan jewelers lining Armenia Street. People from all over come to Beirut with loads of cash and are not shy about spending it. Beirut has shucked its war-torn image and boasts a great nightlife, amazing weather and an esplanade along the Mediterranean that is sure to thrill anyone looking to have fun.

Istanbul, Turkey

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For centuries, Istanbul has been at the crossroads of East and West and today it's still a hotbed of activism. It’s become a trendy spot for street performers, public art and expats who like to come and sip Turkish coffee at the many hipster coffeehouses like Urban. Visitors should definitely check out the Beyoglu section of the city where locals sit in crowded cafes viewing the Bosphorus while talking politics. You will also find vintage clothing shops clubs set up in 19th-century buildings adding to the cool vibe of Istanbul. Head to Babylon and check out this lively club where many international musicians and DJs jam to the latest beats.

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