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Six exceptional Middle East Capital Cities

The Middle East’s vibrant countries feature a remarkable percentage of youth in their respective populations. Besides this, and the Arabic language which is common to them, there are many characteristics which set them apart.

Abu Dhabi

The capital’s name literally means “Father of the Antelope”. The Emirate boasts the largest population of the Arabian Oryx, an Antelope species.

La Mosquée Cheikh Zayed à Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

The capital of the relatively young United Arab Emirates, founded in 1971, is actually an archipelago of 200 small islands. Dubai, a neighboring Emirate, is a two-hour drive away. The islands recently topped the Safety Index ranking worldwide.


In Canaanite-Phoenician, “be’erot” means “wells”, in reference to the rich underground water resources of the area still being used today.

La ville de Beyrouth.

People have long called it the Paris of the East: Beirut boasts over five millennia of civilisation, from Canaanite to Ottoman. Its iconic corniche overlooks the Mediterranean, yet the beach is only about one and a half hour’s drive to the popular skiing destination Faraya.


“Qahirah” refers to an overpowering force, a “force majeure”.

A proximité du Caire, en Egypte, sur le plateau de Gizeh se dressent les pyramides de Kheops, Khephren et Mykérinos, veillées par le Sphinx.

Founded in 969 AD, about 3,000 people inhabit each square kilometer of Cairo—one of the highest population densities in the world. Cairo is both the largest city in the Arab world, and Africa. On the banks of the Nile River, Cairo hosts the colossal Pyramids of Giza, and many other ancient Egyptian monuments.


Also referred to as the City of Jasmine, terms similar to “Dimashk” have appeared in different languages dating back to the year 2000 BC. One possible meaning of the name is “a well-watered land”.

Grande Mosquée des Omeyyades de Damas.

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus.

Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., Damascus is one of the Middle East’s oldest cities. The cultural and commercial crossroads boasted industries of sword crafting and lace, with over 125 monuments from different civilizations, including the Umayyads and the Assyrians.


Muscat means a “location; the place on which something lands”. The word is commonly used when talking about a person’s place of birth.

Mascate, la capitale su sultanat d'Oman.

Muscat has been a focal point of trade and commerce since the 2nd century AD. It lies lies on the historic maritime Silk Road, opposite Iran, Pakistan and India. The city has been conquered by different peoples, from the Persians to the Portuguese, vying for the wealth, security and power which came with the city.


Riyadh is the plural of Rawdah, meaning garden or meadow.

Le quarier Al Bujairi à Riyad. (Crédits photo : Eyeem)

Al Bujairi, Riyadh. (Crédits photo : Eyeem)

Riyadh is the vast, land-locked Saudi Arabian capital, home to some six million people. The north-western Diriyah suburb features Najdi architecture dating back to the 15th century. The district is built on the edge of the Diriyah oasis and is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site.

Published on 6 December 2017