The Pyramid of Giza usually gets most of the attention when it comes to ancient wonders, but the Middle East holds more than a few of these incredible ancient sights that continue to amaze tourists centuries after their construction. Standing as testaments to the history and ingenuity of humanity, these ancient wonders bring a new level of appreciation to the Middle East and its role in the development of human society.
Here are ten examples of the most amazing ancient wonders you can only experience in the Middle East.
10 Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Generally acknowledged as the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the ancient, impressive Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a common destination for Christian pilgrimages. The church was first built by Emperor Constantine I around 300 AD, but, having been around for so long, it's natural that the church has gone through some major changes.
It has been nearly destroyed, reconstructed, and redecorated countless times, and various parts of the original church have been lost forever. However, the church that can be seen today is an impressive relic and precious piece of history for people of all faiths.
9 Baalbek Roman Ruins, Lebanon
The Baalbek Roman Ruins have passed through several cultures and contain historical importance for all of them. The site started as a Mesopotamian temple before passing into the hands of the Romans during their colonization of the area. After being influenced by the Cristian faith, it then shifted under the rule of Islam when a mosque was added to the site. When the Ottoman Empire spread to modern-day Lebanon, the site deteriorated quickly and didn't undergo any restoration until around 1900.
These ancient ruins are fascinating in terms of culture, architecture, and sheer size. Many of the individual structures are still standing and continue to be a marvel of the ancient world.
8 Nizwa Fort, Oman
Nizwa Fort is a huge, well-preserved example of old Omani architecture and a popular tourist attraction. The fort is known for its cylindrical tower, which is the biggest of its kind in Oman.
It was originally constructed in the ninth century and renovated in the seventeenth century, and it has managed to stand strong in the centuries since. Here, tourists can still see the fort's old wells, prisons, shooting windows, and pitfalls, all fascinating examples of ancient history and architecture.
7 Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia
As the Nabateans’ second largest ancient city, Madain Saleh receives much less attention than the capital of Petra. However, this shouldn't necessarily be the case. Madain Saleh was an important piece of the puzzle when the empire was seeking to build up its presence along trade routes. Most of the city vanished under the sand hundreds of years ago, but visitors can still see more than 130 tombs that have been uncovered and sit silent and beautiful in the desert.
Because of a lack of tourism to this site (Muslims believe the site to be cursed and won't visit), the uncovered structures are mostly intact, and visitors can even see intricate, original tomb inscriptions on the rock faces.
6 Jerash Ruins, Jordan
Another ancient Roman site, the Jerash Ruins are often considered the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. This site holds massive gates, ornate avenues, Roman temples, and theaters that allow a glimpse into the culture of the Roman Empire.
Most of the site was damaged or destroyed in an earthquake in 749 AD. However, many structures can still be seen today. Hadrian's Arch is one of the most impressive. It was built in 129 AD and is somehow still standing. Near the arch, visitors can also find a huge hippodrome that could hold 15,000 spectators, who, in ancient times, watched the chariot races that took place there. Any visitor interested in ancient architecture will find something to marvel at here.
5 Umayyad Mosque, Syria
Before the existence of the Umayyad Mosque, a church stood in its place, which both Christians and Muslims used for worship (Christians in one half of the building and Muslims in the other). Between 706 and 715 CE, the church was demolished (after being purchased from the Christians), and a grand mosque was built by the caliph al-Walid I.
The Byzantine influence found in the architecture occurred because Byzantine workers were used to construct part of the mosque, adding another level of interest and history to the structure. The mosque now stands as one of the oldest and largest mosques in the world, earning it a solid place on any list of wonders.
4 Persepolis, Iran
Although travelers can now only walk among stone bases, a few intact columns, and preserved bas-reliefs, it's impossible not to feel the grandeur of the site and immediately comprehend its significant place in history. That's why it has continued to be the top tourist destination in Iran.
3 Babylon, Iraq
Babylon is most closely associated with one of the ancient wonders of the world, Babylon's Hanging Gardens. Although those gardens no longer exist—along with most of the great, ancient city—the ruins and restored replicas of what once stood do remain for visitors to gaze upon and allow them to imagine the wonders that this city once held.
Established in the 19th century BC in what was Mesopotamia, Babylon is now located in modern-day Iraq (it is unknown exactly how much damage has been caused due to the ongoing conflicts there). Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon became the world's largest city of its time and was likely home to around 200,000 people, an astonishing number for that era.
2 Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Situated on a high hill with cliff-like slopes on each side, the Krak des Chevaliers was strategically placed as an impenetrable fortress. Found in southern Syria, the castle is now in danger of being completely destroyed by the ongoing war as it continues serving its original purpose as an ideal battle location.
The castle was originally built in 1031 CE, and while it stood almost completely intact for more than a century, it is now unknown how much damage has been done due to aerial bombings. We can only hope that this UNESCO World Heritage Site and its 13 towers continue to loom massive and strong over the surrounding landscape.
1 Petra, Jordan
Petra is an ancient city full of caves, temples, and tombs carved directly into the pink-red sandstone of the desert, earning it the nickname the "Rose City." The Nabateans, a nomadic desert people, built Petra as their largest, most impressive city. Beyond the massive, detailed buildings, the Nabateans also included a complex water system that helped support the city's growth, showing an incredible level of ingenuity.
The Romans, who came to the city around 63 BC, made their own contributions to the architecture and growth of the city. Eventually, the city deteriorated and disappeared under the desert sand, only to be rediscovered in 1812. It is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East.