10 Wonders of the Arab World
By: Noor Almohsin/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Arab world is rich in human history and ancient civilizations, which resulted in man-made wonders, indicating productivity and creativity of the people of that region. Besides the popular Great Pyramid of GIZA, in Egypt, here are 10 other jewels that give pride for being Arab ancestors.
1. Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos Lighthouse), Egypt
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria, was built between 280 and 247 BC by the Ptolemaic Kingdom on the Northern shore of Egypt. It is about 100 meter in height, which was the tallest man-made buildings for centuries. At the top, there was a furnace that produced light to guide ships. Although it was built with the solid block of limestone, the minaret was damaged and repaired many times due to earthquakes. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
Many theories and myths have been around the marvelous construction of green mountains full of trees, shrubs, and vines that were built in Iraq. The engineering of irrigation was based on water raising mechanism that elevated water through canals for over 50 km long to irrigate the mountains. Because there is no physical evidence in Babylon, some theorists suggest Assyrians built the gardens on the Tigris River in Nineveh because it was found some ancient decorations on Assyrian walls showing mountains of gardens near the city of Nineveh. Hanging Gardens of Babylon is another site of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
3. Petra, Jordan
The Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan was a major trading hub between Arabia, Egypt, and Syria. It is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra has distinctive craved architecture, mining, and water systems. It is also known as the Rose City because of the color of stones. Petra is also considered as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. Baalbek, Lebanon
Previously known as Heliopolis (Sun City in Latin), Baalbek is a city in the Anti-Lebanon foothills east of the Litani River in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. The Phoenician town has some of the largest and preserved Roman temples, including the Temples of Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus. It hosts Baalbeck International Festival every year. Baalbek is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
5. Volubilis, Fès-Meknès, Morocco
Covering the area of 42 hectares near Fes and Meknes northern Morocco, the archaeological site of Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century BCE as the capital of Mauretania. It became an essential base for the Roman Empire, then later became the capital of the Idrisid dynasty. Throughout its history, it has been occupied by different civilizations, which has enriched its culture that combines urban construction of Roman and Islamic archaeology. In addition, it has the influence of Mediterranean, Libyan, Moor, Punic, African, and Christian cultures. Volubilis, Fes-Meknes is another UNESCO World Heritage site.
6. Old City of Jerusalem, Palestine
Old city of Jerusalem (Alquds) is a holy city for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. It has always been a symbol of religious coexistence for the major divine faiths worldwide. Therefore, it contains over 200 sites that are important to the three religions, such as Dome of the Rock for Muslims, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Wailing Wall for Jews. Before it became a religious site, it was the home of Jebusites before the 11th century BCE, and it had been through many civilizations such as David’s kingdom, Byzantine, and Muslims. Jerusalem is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site but is still under Israeli occupation.
7. Historic Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Located on the eastern shore of the Red Sea, Historic Jeddah was established in the 7th century as an essential port on the route of trade coming from the Indian Ocean. It became more vital after the Suez Canal was constructed in the 19th century. Historic Jeddah was also the port for pilgrims from all over the world to Makkah every year, which created a multicultural hub in the western region of Saudi Arabia. The old town has unique traditional architectural buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2014, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
8. Norias of Hama, Syria
They have been called the most beautiful norias ever built, The Water Wheels of Hama; they were built in the Byzantine era along the Orontes River. Some norias are 25 meters in diameter with 120 compartments that able to collect 95 liters of water per minute. These norias serve to nourish agriculture in the area. In the 1900s, there were 105 norias around Hama; however, the number dwindled to 17 inside the town of Hama, and all are unused today. For being a historic and a touristic site, the Syrian Arab Republic submitted it as a tentative World Heritage Site.
9. Carthage, Tunisia
Carthage was the capital city of the Carthaginian civilization, founded in the 9th century. It was a trading empire spanning the Mediterranean, where business activity was stimulated and challenged by other portals at the naval basin. It was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BCE in the Punic Wars, but was later re-established on Roman designs and became the main city of the Roman Empire in Africa. Today in Tunisia, it is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
10. Old City of Sana’a, Yemen
In the mountain valley of Sana’a, Yemen, the old city of Sana’a is located. Sana’a has been inhabited for over 2,500 years. It is home to the unique rammed-earth tower-houses of the homogeneous architectural ensemble. In addition, it has historic mosques and hammams that were built before the 11th century. The Old City of Sana’a has been featured in “Places of Wonder & Discovery” book and it is considered as a preserved world heritage sites by UNESCO.