Top Ten Middle Eastern Cities

Top Ten Middle Eastern Cities

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  1. 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, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul,
  2. 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 AttractionsTop Ten Spiritual Destinations on EarthTop Ten Mosques, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecca,
  3. 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 Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai,
  4. Doha, Qatar
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           Doha, “the big tree” is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar. Doha is Qatar’s largest city, with over 80% of the nation’s population residing in Doha or its surrounding suburbs, and is also the economic center of the country. Doha also serves as the seat of government of Qatar, which is ruled by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Doha is home to the Education City, an area devoted to research and education. Doha was the site of the first ministerial-level meeting of the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. The city of Doha held the 2006 Asian Games, which was the largest Asian Games ever held. Doha also hosted the 2011 Pan Arab Games and most of the games at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. Doha will also host a large number of the venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Doha is currently bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The World Petroleum Council held the 20th World Petroleum Conference in Doha in December 2011
    Links: Top Ten Qatari Attractions, Top Ten Architectural Works by I.M. PeiTop Ten Dome Interiors, Top Ten Domeshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doha,
  5. Lahore, Pakistan
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    Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the 2nd largest city in the country. With a rich history dating back over a millennium ago, Lahore is a major cultural center of Pakistan. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a vibrant economic, political, transportation, entertainment and educational hub. Considered a gamma+ world city, Lahore maintains its historical status as one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and lively of cities. Lahore has been a center of cultural heritage for many civilizations. It successively served as regional capital of the empires of the Shahi kingdoms in the 11th century, the Ghaznavids in the 12th century, the Ghurid State in the 12th and 13th century, the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, the Sikh expansion in the early 19th century, and it was the capital of the Punjab region under the British Raj in the mid-19th and early 20th century. The traditional capital of Punjab for a thousand years, Lahore was the cultural center of North India which extends from the eastern banks of the Indus River to New Delhi. Mughal structures such as the Badshahi Mosque, the Lahore Fort, Shalimar Gardens, and the mausolea of Jehangir and Nur Jehan are popular tourist attractions for the city. Lahore is also home to many British colonial structures built in the Indo-Saracenic style, such as the Lahore High Court, the General Post Office, Lahore Museum and many older universities including the University of the Punjab. The Lahore Zoo, thought to be the 4th oldest zoo in the world, is also situated here. Lahore is referred to as the cultural heart of Punjab as it hosts most of the arts, cuisine, festivals, film-making, music, gardening and intelligentsia of the country. Known for its affiliation with poets and artists, it has the largest number of educational institutions in Punjab and some of the finest gardens in the continent. Lahore has always been a center for publications, where 80% of Punja’’s books are published and remains the foremost center of literary, educational and cultural activity in Punjab. It is also an important religious center as it is home to hundreds of temples, mosques and shrines like Data Durbar Complex. It is ranked 40 in the most populated urban areas in the world, with approximately 8,590,000 citizens, and the 8th largest city within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In 2008, Lahore was ranked as a city with High Sufficiency to become a Gamma world city. In 2010 it was ranked by The Guardian as the 2nd Best Tourist Destination in Pakistan.
    Links: Top Ten Pakistani Attractions, Top Ten ZoosTop Ten Minarets,
  6. Medina, Saudi Arabia
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           Medina, “the radiant city,” also transliterated as Madinah, is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the 2nd holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and it is historically significant for being his home after the Hijrah. Before the advent of Islam, the city was known as Yathrib, but was personally renamed by Muhammad. Medina is home to the three oldest mosques in Islam, namely; Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque), Quba Mosque (the first mosque in Islam’s history), and Masjid al-Qiblatain (the mosque where the qibla was switched to Mecca). Because of the Saudi government’s religious policy and concern that historic sites could become the focus for idolatry, much of Medina’s Islamic physical heritage has been destroyed since the beginning of Saudi rule. The Islamic calendar is based on the emigration of Muhammad and his followers to the city of Medina, which marks the start of the Hijri year in 622 CE, called Hijra. Similarly to Mecca, entrance to Medina is restricted to Muslims only; non-Muslims are neither permitted to enter nor travel through the city. Muslims believe that Mecca and Medina and its surrounding outskirts are the two places where the Quran was revealed
    Links: Top Ten Saudi Arabian Attractions, Top Ten Mosques, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medina,
  7. Shiraz, Iran

           Shiraz is the 6th most populous city in Iran and is the capital of Fars Province, the city’s 2009 population was 1,455,073. Shiraz is located in the southwest of Iran on the Roodkhaneye Khoshk (Dry river) seasonal river. Shiraz has a moderate climate and has been a regional trade center for more than 1,000 years. The earliest reference to the city, as Tiraziš, is on Elamite clay tablets dated to 2000 BC. In the 13th century, Shiraz became a leading center of the arts and letters, thanks to the encouragement of its ruler and the presence of many Persian scholars and artists. Shiraz was the capital of Persia during the Zand dynasty from 1750 until 1781, as well as briefly during the Saffarid period. Shiraz is known as the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers. The word “shir” in Persian means “lion,” but it could also mean “milk.” It is also considered by many Iranians to be the city of gardens, due to the many gardens and fruit trees that can be seen in the city. Shiraz has had major Jewish and Christian communities. The crafts of Shiraz consist of inlaid mosaic work of triangular design; silver-ware; pile carpet-weaving and weaving of kilim, called gilim and jajim in the villages and among the tribes. In Shiraz industries such as cement production, sugar, fertilizers, textile products, wood products, metalwork and rugs dominate. Shirāz also has a major oil refinery and is also a major center for Iran’s electronic industries: 53% of Iran’s electronic investment has been centered in Shiraz. Shiraz is home to Iran’s first solar power plant. Recently the city’s first wind turbine has been installed above Babakoohi mountain near the city.
    Links: Top Ten Iranian Attractions, Top Ten Mausoleumshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiraz,
  8. Muscat, Oman
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    Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is also the seat of government and largest city in the Governorate of Muscat. As of 2010 census, the population of the Muscat metropolitan area was 734,697. The metropolitan area spans approximately 1,500 square km (580 sq mi) and includes six provinces called wilayats. Known since the early 1st century AD as an important trading port between the west and the east, Muscat was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreign powers such as the Persians and the Portuguese Empire at various points in its history. A regional military power in the 18th century, Muscat’s influence extended as far as East Africa and Zanzibar. As an important port-town in the Gulf of Oman, Muscat attracted foreign tradesmen and settlers such as the Persians, the Balochs and Gujaratis. Since the ascension of Qaboos bin Said as Sultan of Oman in 1970, Muscat has experienced rapid infrastructural development that has led to the growth of a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society. The rocky Western Al Hajar Mountains dominate the landscape of Muscat. The city lies on the Arabian Sea along the Gulf of Oman and is in the proximity of the strategic Straits of Hormuz. Low-lying white buildings typify most of Muscat’s urban landscape, while the port-district of Muttrah, with its corniche and harbour, form the north-eastern periphery of the city. Muscat’s economy is dominated by trade, petroleum and porting.
    Links: Top Ten Omani Attractions, Palaces, Top Ten Gates, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscat,_Oman,
  9. Amman (Ancient Philadelphia), Jordan
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    Amman is the capital and largest city of Jordan. It is the country’s political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost 6.5 million by 2025 due to constant and rapid immigration. Amman is also the administrative seat of the homonymous governorate. Amman is also ranked a Gamma global city on the World city index. Amman was named one of the MENA’s best cities according to economic, labor, environmental and socio-cultural factors. Amman is considered one of the richest and most Western-oriented cities in the Middle East. According to the 2011 Global Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities, Amman is among the top ten cities in the entire Middle East and Africa region in terms of international visitors and international visitor spending making it an important global destination city for tourism and business. According to the index, the city alone welcomes 1.8 million visitors and makes $1.3 billion a year in international visitors’ spending. Regionally, Amman is considered more prominent in global business and tourism than its counterparts in the Persian Gulf with the exceptions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Amman receives more international tourists than Beirut as well, however it earns less income from them then the Lebanese capital.
    Links: Top Ten Jordanian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amman,
  10. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. As of 2007 the population was estimated to be around 1 to 2 million. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, it serves as the country’s largest and main seaport. The Beirut metropolitan area consists of the city and its suburbs. The first mention of this metropolis is found in the ancient Egyptian Tell el Amarna letters, dating from the 15th century BC. The city has been inhabited continuously since then. Beirut currently serves as Lebanon’s seat of government and plays a central role in the Lebanese economy, with many banks and corporations based in its city center  Hamra Street, Rue Verdun and Ashrafieh. The city is the focal point of the region’s cultural life, renowned for its press, theaters  cultural activities and nightlife. After the destructive Lebanese Civil War, Beirut underwent major reconstruction, and the redesigned historic city center  marina, pubs and nightlife districts have once again made it a tourist attraction. Beirut was named the top place to visit by The New York Times in 2009, and as one of the ten liveliest cities in the world by Lonely Planet in the same year.
    Links: Top Ten Lebanese Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beirut,
  11. Abu Dhabi, UAE
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           Abu Dhabi, literally “Father of gazelle,” is the capital and the 2nd largest city in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. The city proper had an estimated population of 896,751 in 2009. Abu Dhabi houses important offices of the federal government, and is the seat for the United Arab Emirates Government and the home for the Abu Dhabi Emiri Family and the President of the UAE from this family. Abu Dhabi has grown to be a cosmopolitan metropolis. Its rapid development and urbanization, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population, has transformed Abu Dhabi to a larger and advanced metropolis. Today the city is the country’s center of political, industrial activities, and a major cultural, and commercial centre due to its position as the capital. Abu Dhabi alone generated 56.7% of the GDP of the United Arab Emirates in 2008. Abu Dhabi is home to important financial institutions such as the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and the corporate headquarters of many companies and numerous multinational corporations. One of the world’s largest producers of oil, Abu Dhabi has actively attempted to diversify its economy in recent years through investments in financial services and tourism. Abu Dhabi is the 2nd most expensive city for expatriate employees in the region, and 50th most expensive city in the world. Fortune & CNN stated that Abu Dhabi is the richest city in the world.
    Links: Top Ten United Arab Emirates Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Dhabi,
  12. Astana, Kazakhstan
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           Astana, formerly known as Akmola, Tselinograd and Akmolinsk, is the capital and 2nd largest city (after Almaty) of Kazakhstan, with an officially estimated population of 708,794 as of August 1, 2010. It is located in the north-central portion of Kazakhstan, within Akmola Province, though administrated separately from the province as a federal city area.
    Links: Top Ten Kazakhstani Attractions, Pyramids, Top Ten Modern Pyramids, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astana,
  13. Kuwait City, Kuwait
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    Kuwait City is the capital of Kuwait with a population of 2.38 million in the metropolitan area. Located at the heart of the country on the shore of the Persian Gulf, and containing Kuwait’s parliament (Majlis Al-Umma), most governmental offices, the headquarters of most Kuwaiti corporations and banks, it is the political, cultural and economic center of the emirate. Kuwait City’s trade and transportation needs are served by Kuwait International Airport, Mina Al-Shuwaik (Shuwaik Port) and Mina Al Ahmadi (Ahmadi Port) 50 km to the south, on the Persian Gulf coast.
    Links: Top Ten Kuwaiti Attractions, Top Ten Mosques, Top Ten MinaretsTop Ten Towers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuwait_City,
  14. Ancient City of Damascus, Syria
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    Damascus, commonly known in Syria as Al Sham, and as the City of Jasmine, is the capital and the largest city of Syria and one of the country’s 14 governorates. The Damascus Governorate is ruled by a governor appointed by the Minister of Interior. Damascus is a major cultural and religious center of the Levant. The city has an estimated population of 4,211,000 (2009). Located in southwestern Syria, Damascus is the center of a large metropolitan area of 6 million people (2009). Geographically embedded on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range 80 kilometers (50 mi) inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean on a plateau, Damascus experiences a semi-arid climate due to the rain shadow effect. The Barada River flows through Damascus. First settled in the 2nd millennium BC, it was chosen as the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from 661 to 750. After the victory of the Abbasid dynasty, the seat of Islamic power was moved to Baghdad. Damascus saw a political decline throughout the Abbasid era, only to regain significant importance in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. During Ottoman rule, the city decayed completely while maintaining a certain cultural prestige. Today, it is the seat of the central government and all of the government ministries. Damascus was chosen as the 2008 Arab Capital of Culture.
    Links: Top Ten Syrian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_City_of_Damascus,
  15. Old Walled City of Shibam, Yemen
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    Shibam (often referred to as Shibam Hadhramaut) is a town in Yemen with about 7,000 inhabitants. The first known inscription about the city dates from the 3rd century AD. It was the capital of the Hadramawt Kingdom.
    Links: Top Ten Yemen Attractions, Top Ten Wallshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibamhttp://whc.unesco.org/en/list/192,
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