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The seven oldest cities in the world


Ostill | Shutterstock

Daniel Esparza - published on 09/14/17

Some of them flourish, while others struggle to survive.

When one thinks on the oldest cities in the world, one tends to think of open blue skies over buildings made of clay bricks amidst some eroded marble columns, crowded with tourists taking pictures of the remains of an ancient temple or fortress.

Reality, as usual, is way more complex. Aleppo, for example, arguably the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, is nowadays struggling to overcome the onslaught of a long civil war; but Plovdiv, in Bulgaria, has managed to balance the comforts of contemporary life with the beauty of its historical past.

These seven cities, the oldest in the world according to Matador Network, are examples of both splendor and survival:

7. Sidon, Lebanon (4000 BC)

Diak | Shutterstock

Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, took place here. Forty kilometers from Beirut, on the Mediterranean coast, the “Old City” of Sidon is a maze of perfectly preserved adobe streets and arcades.

6. Faiyum (El Fayoum), Egypt (4000 BC):

Roland Unger | CC BY-SA 3.0

One hundred kilometers south of Cairo, Faiyum is located on the foundations of what used to be “Crocodilopolis,” an ancient temple town in which the sacred crocodile, Petsuchos, was worshiped. Today, it is home to large bazaars, mosques and luxury resorts around Lake Qarun.

5. Susa, Iran (4200 BC):

Ahmadreza Nikazar | Shutterstock

Aeschylus’ tragedy “The Persians,” considered the oldest preserved work in the history of theater, takes place in Susa. The city is also mentioned in the biblical books of Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel: it is said that both Nehemiah and Daniel lived here, and it was in this city where Esther was named queen, by marrying Ahasueurus, saving the Jewish people from genocide.

4. Damascus, Syria (4300 BC):

Everett Historical | Shutterstock

According to some, Damascus has been inhabited since the year 10,000 BC, although this is still a matter of debate. One of the largest cities of antiquity, it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and ruled by Romans, Arabs and Ottomans successively.

3. Aleppo, Syria (4300 BC):

Pietro Ferreira | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Aleppo has been, since its very foundation, the crossroads of multiple trading routes. No wonder Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans disputed this city’s dominion.

2. Byblos, Lebanon (5000 BC):

Ostill | Shutterstock

The cradle of the Phoenician alphabet was also, for centuries, the main paper-exporting city to Greece. Forty kilometers from Beirut, Byblos attracts tourists from all over the world thanks to an exceptional combination of beaches, mountains and ancient ruins.

1. Jericho, Palestinian Territories (9000 BC):

Eugene R Thieszen | Shutterstock

Gleaming in the distance from the banks of the Jordan, Jericho is surely the oldest city in the world. Archaeologists have found remains of more than 20 settlements dating back more than 11,000 years, although the city has been abandoned several times throughout its history.


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