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Middle East landmarks and off-the-beaten-path UNESCO sites (PHOTOS)

March 28, 2014


I have already shared with you many Middle East landmarks I have been blessed to visit or know about: From the Dome of the Rock in Old Jerusalem and the Lost Nabatean City of Petra to the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sheikh Sayed Mosque in the UAE. As part of FriFotos this week though, I want to take you off-the-beaten-path: introduce you to some Middle East landmarks and/or UNESCO sites you may have never heard of. Further, I’ll add a little snippet of history about that particular site. Ready for the visual tour?!

off-the-beaten-path Middle East landmarks, Yemen

Matanya, Wiki Commons

Historic Town of Zabid, Yemen

Personally, I believe the entirety of Yemen is a diamond in the rough: an off-the-beaten-path dream of sorts, sprinkled with political instability. Adventurers may rejoice in the beauty of today’s capital Sana’a or head to the old capital, Zabid: also a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the archaeological importance of its urban layout, civil and military architecture.

Other fun facts: Zabid used to play an important role in the Arab world due to its prestigious Islamic university — in addition to housing one of the OLDEST mosques in the world!

Zabid, Yemen UNESCO

Zabid, Yemen’s capital from 13th-15th century by Julien Harneis, Flickr

Rashid (Rosetta), Al-Buhayra, Egypt

Say wha? Even I didn’t hear about this off-the-beaten-path gem while living in Egypt for an entire year! OK, as its name suggests, this is the city where the famous Rosetta part of the Stone was found — most people know that. What most of us don’t know though is that this city is chock-full of absolutely stunning medieval Ottoman mansions, Islamic monuments and architecture. Interestingly enough though, Rashid was a popular tourist destination for the British in the 1800s before Alexandria stole its spotlight (alrahalah.com).

St. Mark's Church Rashid/Rosetta, Middle East landmarks

St. Mark Church in Rashid, Egypt by Roland Unger, Wiki Commons

Rosetta Egypt, Middle East landmarks

The architecture of Rashid/Rosetta, Egypt by Walid Hassanein, Flickr

Taq-e-Bostan, Iran

Spectacular 1700-year-old rock reliefs from the Sassanid Empire of Persia await at this UNESCO world heritage site, located in Western Iran (about 5 km from the city center of Kermanshah). They better be, as they are considered the best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture of this era (Wikipedia)!

Sassanids meant for the site of Taq-e-Bostan to highlight their honor, power, glory, fighting spirit and joy. When you put it like that…

Middle East landmarks, UNESCO Tagh Bostan

All of this, carved into a MOUNTAIN. Can compete against Petra any day!

Persian carving, Middle East landmarks

One of the 2-winged angles above the ivan depicting the crowning ceremony of Khosrau II (591-628 CE) by Johannes Lundberg, Flickr

Persian equestrian statue, off-the-beaten-path Middle East

Taq-e Bostan: equestrian statue of Khosro II in parthian armor by Philippe Chavin, Wiki Commons

Amasya, Turkey

Another one for Ottomans history buffs! Amaseia, as it is called in Alexander The Great-era documents, sits on some impressive mountains above the Black Sea in northern Turkey. Its prominence derives from the fact that it was the seat of the Pontus kingdom from 281 BC to 64 BC; plus it produced several generations of Ottoman Empire dynasties, artists, thinkers, and also happens to be the birthplace of the celebrated geographer, philosopher and historian Strabo. It is, truly, one of the most beautiful cities in Anatolia as well.

In addition to its Ottoman mentions, some must-see sights in this town are the Ancient Castle, the Pontic Kings’ tombs, Gok Medrese, and Torumtay Turbesi (Seljuk mausoleum with Mongol mummies!)

Amasya Turkey, Middle East landmarks

The spectacular landscape and architecture of Amasya by Kpisimon, Wiki Commons

The Pearling Trail, Bahrain

This is not only one of many impressive Middle East landmarks and UNESCO Heritage Sites: but a whole trail of them! The 3 oyster beds,  a segment of the coastline, Bu Mahir Fortress, and about 17 buildings and mansions sprinkled throughout the route are what’s left of once-wealthy pearl merchants — who saw their industry collapse due to the introduction of cultured pearls by the Japanese in the 1930s. “Thankfully,” Bahrain also discovered oil in their soil in 1932, so the newly-unemployed pearl tycoons and divers made the switch to this sector.

Bahraini mansions, UNESCO Middle East landmarks

one of the many Bahraini mansions by Isa AlWazzan, Flickr

Other historical sites in Kermanshah, Iran

This Iranian city has so many Middle East landmarks to offer, so I’m adding an informative video/short documentary as a bonus! ;-)

Have you visited any off-the-beaten-path Middle East landmarks?

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2 Responses to “Middle East landmarks and off-the-beaten-path UNESCO sites (PHOTOS)”

  1. Raphael Alexander Zoren Says:

    The one at Iran looks absolutely amazing!!! It’s a shame that one has to travel so far away from the capital to find the Persian heritage.


    • Maria Alexandra Laborde Says:

      Iran as a whole is such a fascinating country, so full of history! I will love to spend several months visiting them all :-)

      The JOURNEY itself, having to venture so far away from the capital, is a great part of the adventure though! Don’t you think? ;-)


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