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Middle East: an overview of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Cairo, Egypt

In 1972, UNESCO made the following statement : "Some cultural and natural heritage properties are of outstanding interest and require preservation". Several historic sites were then protected throughout the world in order to guarantee "transmission to future generations". Here are some of them, to be discovered in the Middle East.

The Al-Hijr site in Saudi Arabia

Al-Hijr Site in Saudi Arabia

As an ancient city carved out of sandstone, Al-Hijr extends over an area of 15 km² in northwest Saudi Arabia. This is a magnificent site, left as a legacy by the Nabataean civilization, with a multitude of tombs, wells and monuments richly decorated. As you walk through them, you will be able to see the pre-Nabatean inscriptions and rock drawings that adorn the facades. Dating mainly from the 1st century BC, the site was a meeting point for several civilizations. And for good reason, as it was located on a trade route between the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean Basin and Asia.

Byblos site in Lebanon

Byblos Castle, a Crusader castle in Byblos, Lebanon.

A few kilometres from Beirut, the coastal city of Byblos provides an exceptional testimony to the beginnings of Phoenician civilization. This ancient city was founded about 8000 years ago, when a community of fishermen decided to settle there. Several populations followed one another, each leaving a trace of its passage: Persian fortifications, Byzantine churches, temples of the Bronze Age… The ruins in the old town are a precious memory.

The ancient city of Aleppo in Syria

Aleppo, Syria : The Great Mosque

Before the ravages of war, Aleppo was famous for its lively souks, its Great Mosque and of course its citadel overlooking the city. Long prosperous, the city has had an eventful history, made of invasions and bloody sieges, since the 2nd millennium BC. Classified as a World Heritage Site since 1986, the Old City of Aleppo gathers the remains of several civilizations. A treasure of the oldest, now in ruins.

Historic Cairo in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt

Nestled in the heart of the modern urban area, the historic part of Cairo reveals a concentration of prestigious monuments. Mosques stand side by side with churches, and hammams, fountains and Koranic schools echo each other. Immersing yourself in this old Islamic city is like walking through your past: the construction of the fortress of Babylon by the Romans, then the arrival of the Fatimids (Shia Ismaili dynasty) in 969. A stroll through the breathtaking eras.

Qusair Amra Castle in Jordan

The desert castle of Qusair ‘amra

It is 85 km from the city of Amman, in eastern Jordan, that Qusair Amra Castle stands almost intact in the desert. Built at the beginning of the 8th century, the building was both a holiday resort for Umayyad caliphs and a fortress with a garrison. It includes a courtroom and a hammam, whose facades reflect the secular art of the time: hunting scenes, portraits of women, animal drawings… A representation of human figures very rare in Islamic art.