Top Ten Middle Eastern Attractions

Top Ten Middle Eastern Attractions

  1. Petra, Jordan

    Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 40 places you have to see before you die.”
    Links: Top Ten Jordanian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra,
  2. Historic Areas of Istanbul, Turkey

           Istanbul, also known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the largest city of Turkey. According to the address-based birth recording system of the Turkish Statistical Institute, the metropolitan municipality (province) of the city had a population of 13.26 million as of 2010, which is 17.98% of Turkey’s population and the largest in Europe. Istanbul is a megacity, as well as the cultural, economic, and financial centre of Turkey. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. During its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). When the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed on 29 October 29, 1923, Ankara, which had previously served as the headquarters of the Turkish national movement during the Turkish War of Independence, was chosen as the new Turkish State’s capital. Istanbul is currently bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The city covers 39 districts of the Istanbul province.
    Links: Top Ten Turkish Attractions, Cities, Top Ten Middle Eastern Cities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul,
  3. Mecca, Saudi Arabia

           Mecca is a city in the Makkah province of Saudi Arabia. Islamic tradition attributes the beginning of Mecca to Ishmael’s descendants. In the 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad proclaimed Islam in the city which was by then an important trading center. After 966, Mecca was led by local sharifs. When the authority of the Ottoman Empire in the area collapsed in 1916, the local rulers established the Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz. The Hejaz kingdom, including Mecca, was absorbed by the Saudis in 1925. In its modern period, Mecca has seen tremendous expansion in size and infrastructure. The modern day city is the capital of Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Province, in the historic Hejaz region. With a population of 1.7 million (2008), the city is located 73 km (45 mi) inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of 277 m (909 ft.) above sea level. Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in Islam. More than 13 million Muslims visit Mecca annually, including several million who perform the Hajj (pilgrimage). As a result, Mecca has become one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the Muslim world, however, non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the city. Mecca and Medina and its surrounding outskirts are the only two places where the Quran was composed.
    Links: Top Ten Saudi Arabian Attractions, Top Ten Spiritual Destinations on Earth, Top Ten Mosques, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecca,
  4. Baalbek Temple, Lebanon

           Baalbek is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 1,170 m  (3,840 ft), situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire. It is Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure, and it can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world, containing some of the largest and best preserved Roman ruins. Towering high above the Beqaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The gods worshiped here, the triad of Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were grafted onto the indigenous deities of Hadad, Atargatis and a young male god of fertility. Local influences are also seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which vary from the classic Roman design. Baalbek is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival. The town is about 85 km (53 mi) northeast of Beirut, and about 75 km (47 mi) north of Damascus. It has a population of approximately 72,000.
    Links: Top Ten Lebanese Attractions, Temples, Top Ten Asian Temples, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baalbek,
  5. Dubai, UAE

           Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates. The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the 2nd largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only two emirates to have veto power over critical matters of national importance in the country’s legislature. The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, and the earliest settlement known as Dubai town dates from 1799. Dubai was formally established in 1833 by Sheikh Maktoum bin Buti al Maktoum when he persuaded 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe, living in what is now part of Saudi Arabia, to follow him to the Dubai Creek by the Al Abu Falasa clan of Bani Yas, and it remained under clan control when the UK assumed the protection of Dubai in 1892. Its geographical location made it an important trading hub and by the beginning of the 20th century, it was an important port. In 1966, the year oil was discovered, Dubai and the emirate of Qatar set up a new monetary unit to replace the Gulf Rupee. The oil economy led to a massive influx of foreign workers, quickly expanding the city by 300% and bringing in international oil interests. The modern emirate of Dubai was created after the UK left the area in 1971. At this time Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and four other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates. The following year Ras al Khaimah joined the federation while Qatar and Bahrain chose to remain independent nations. In 1973, the monetary union with Qatar was dissolved and the UAE Dirham introduced throughout the UAE. A free trade zone was built around the Jebel Ali port in 1979, allowing foreign companies unrestricted import of labor and export capital. The Gulf War of 1990 had a negative financial effect on the city, as depositors withdrew their money and traders withdrew their trade, but subsequently the city recovered in a changing political climate and thrived. Today, Dubai City has emerged as a global city and a business hub. Although Dubai’s economy was built on the oil industry, the emirate’s model of business drives its economy, with the effect that its main revenues are now from tourism, real estate and financial services, similar to that of Western countries. Dubai has recently attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events.
    Links: Top Ten UAE Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai,
  6. King Solomon’s Temple, Wailing Wall, and Dome of the Rock, Israel

    Solomon’s Temple was the temple in Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount (also known as Mount Zion), before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BC. According to the Hebrew Bible, the temple was constructed under Solomon, king of the Israelites. This would date its construction to the 10th century BC, but it is possible that the temple continued an earlier Jebusite sanctuary predating the Israelite conquest of Jerusalem. During the kingdom of Judah, the temple was dedicated to Yahweh, the God of Israel and housed the Ark of the Covenant. Because of the religious sensitivities involved, and the politically volatile situation in East Jerusalem, only limited archaeological surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted. There is no archaeological reconstruction of the temple as it stood at the time of its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. It is plausible that the temple had been substantially remodeled, or even reconstructed in its entirety, over the period between its supposed construction under Solomon and its destruction about three centuries later. Rabbinic sources state that the First Temple stood for 410 years and, based on the 2nd century work Seder Olam Rabbah, place construction in 832 BC and destruction in 422 BC, 165 years later than secular estimates. The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, having been constructed around 19 BC by Herod the Great. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter. It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries, the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dating from the 4th century. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.
    Links: Top Ten Israeli Attractions, Temples, Top Ten Middle Eastern TemplesTop Ten Walls, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Solomon%27s_Temple, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wailing_wall,
  7. Persepolis, Iran
    Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC). Persepolis is situated 70 km northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid). The earliest remains of Persepolis date from around 515 BC. To the ancient Persians, the city was known as Pārsa, which means “The City of Persians.” Persepolis is a transliteration of the Greek Πέρσης πόλις (Persēs polis: “Persian city”).
    Links: Top Ten Iranian Attractions, Palaces, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persepolis,
  8. The Great Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq

           The Ziggurat of Ur, meaning “house whose foundation creates terror,” is a Neo-Sumerian ziggurat in what was the city of Ur near Nasiriyah, in present-day Dhi Qar Province, Iraq. The structure was built during the Early Bronze Age (21st century BC), but had crumbled to ruins by the 6th century BC of the Neo-Babylonian period when it was restored by King Nabonidus. Its remains were excavated in the 1920’s and 1930’s by Sir Leonard Woolley. Under Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s, they were encased by a partial reconstruction of the façade and the monumental staircase. The ziggurat of Ur is the best-preserved of those known from Iran and Iraq, besides the ziggurat of Dur Untash (Chogha Zanbil). It is one of three well preserved structures of the Neo-Sumerian city of Ur, along with the Royal Mausolea and the Palace of Ur-Nammu (the E-hursag).
    Links: Top Ten Iraqi Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziggurat_of_Ur,
  9. Göbekli Tepe
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           Göbekli Tepe is a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge some 15 km (9.3 mi) northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa in southeastern Turkey. The site, currently undergoing excavation by German and Turkish archaeologists, was most likely erected in the 9th millennium BC. Together with Nevalı Çori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic. When discovered, it had been deliberately filled in and buried, for reasons unknown.
    Links: Top 100 Ruins, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe,
  10. Links: Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_Asia_and_Oceaniahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_Heritage_Sites_in_the_Arab_States,

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