The earliest inhabitants settled in Beirut in 3,000 BC. The city’s excavations have dug up Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman remains, and this now vibrant city has had mention in letters to the Pharaoh of Egypt dating back to the 14th Century BC.
Lying close to the Syrian border, Gaziantep’s history dates back to the Hittites, and its earliest inhabitants settled in 3,650 BC. Its historic point of interest the Ravanda citadel was restored by the Byzantines in the sixth century and can be found in the city centre.
Before it became a Roman city, Plovdiv was a Tracian settlement dating back as early as 4,000 BC. It was taken over by both Byzantine and Ottoman control before it became part of Bulgaria. Its biggest drawcards are the numerous ancient remains including a Roman amphitheatre and aqueduct and Ottoman baths.
Potentially the oldest of the Phoenician cities, Sidon was settled in 4,000 BC, and can be remembered as from where the Phoenician’s great Mediterranean empire grew. It’s said that Jesus and St Paul both visited Sidon, and Alexander the Great who took it over in 333 BC.
Settled in 4,000 BC, Faiyum controls part of Crocodilopolis, an ancient Egyptian city that, yes as you may have guessed, worshipped a sacred crocodile, Petsuchos. These days you can visit its vibrant bazaars, mosques, and baths.
Settled in 4,200 BC, Susa was the capital of the Elamite Empire until the Assyrians captured it. Cyrus the Great then took control under his Achaemenid Persian rule. Susa is the setting for the oldest surviving play in theatrical history, The Persians, an Athenian tragedy by Aeschylus.
It’s earliest inhabitants settled in 4,300 BC although some claim Damascus has been inhabited since 10,000 BC. The Aramaeans arrived and set up a network of canals, which still form the basis of the city’s modern water networks. It was one of Alexander the Great’s conquests, and has been ruled by the Romans, Arabs, and Ottomans. Until the recent unrest in the area it was a popular historical tourist destination
Now with over 4.4 million citizens, Aleppo is Syria’s most populated city, and dates back to 4,300 BC. The city sits on an ancient site that has mostly remained untouched by archaeologists. Aleppo was ruled by the Hittites until around 800 BC, then succumbed to the rule of Assyrian, Greek and Persian hands, before later being occupied by the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs. The battles didn’t end there; the Crusaders, Mongols and Ottomans all at some point in time besieged Aleppo.
Jericho, Palestinian Territories
Dating back to 9,000 BC, Jericho gets the crown for being the world’s oldest continually inhabited city. Remains of 20 successive settlements have been recovered in Jericho, dating back 11,000 years. Today the city is home to around 20,000 people.
Dating back to 5,000 BC, Byblos was founded by the Phenicians who named it Gebal. The Greeks, who imported papyrus from the city, renamed it Byblos. The English word ‘bible’ is derived from Byblos. If you visit today you’ll want to check out the ancient Phoenician temples, Byblos Castle, and St John the Baptist Church.