Must-visit: 5 Middle Eastern UNESCO World Heritage sites
T hese places may not be at the top of the travel list when it comes to luxury locations but that's all about to change as they now stand side by side with The Great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House in terms of 'outstanding universal value'. Buro 24/7 Middle East shares some of the places that will now be forever protected for future generations, thanks to their new UNESCO listing.
Memphis and its Necropolis, Egypt
The rock tombs, temples and pyramids of Egypt's Giza pyramid district remain a wonder of the world. Listed at number 86 on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, Memphis and its Necropolis is actually one of eight sites in Egypt protected under the act and a must-see all year around. Travellers are however advised to check with tourism authorities before visiting areas in and around Cairo.
Susa is known for the archaeological mounds rising on the eastern side of the Shavur River, as well as Ardeshir's palace, on the opposite bank. The city formerly belonged to the Elamite, Pesian and Parthian empires and Susa is testimony to those cultural traditions that have largely disappeared. It was also once the winter residence of Persian kings after having been captured by Cyrus the Great. Discoveries from extensive excavations in the area have included cylinder seals, jewellery, clay balls and clay tablets with inscriptions recording business transactions, political history and mathematical calculations.
Al Ain Oasis, UAE
The Al Ain Oasis is officially a part of the UAE's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Following a decree by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the oasis, along with five other sites in the area, are now part of a preservation effort to save the 2000-year-old location. The oasis itself spreads over 1,200 hectares and is filled with more than 140,000 date trees. At the centre of the visitor experience is the Eco-Centre, aptly built from sustainable materials and which offers a comprehensive educational experience. Other highlights include the West Gate Exhibition, an artistic interpretation of the past traditions connected with the water that flows through the many veins and channels within the compound.
Once a key port city, Ephesus thrived under the Hellenistic and Roman settlers and the Temple of Artemis. Excavations in the area have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. "The city, which was situated at the beginning of the Persian Royal Road has survived sufficiently enough to enable us to understand the ancient way of life in Ephesus," said UNESCO.
Ha'il Rock Art, Saudi Arabia
Consisting of two areas — Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabal al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis — the rock arts of the Ha'il region show numerous representations of human and animal figures covering 10,000 years of history. A lake that once flowed at the foot of the Umm Sinman hill range was a source of water for Arab ancestors but has now disappeared. However, the traces of their passages in numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock bear witness to a period, which is now literally lost in the sands of time.
Also don't miss the 29 other UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore in 2018.