Top 10 oldest cities in the world
Top 10 oldest cities in the world

What are the oldest cities in the world?

Every city in the world has a story to unfold. The ancient cities have all the more tales engulfed with rich cultural heritage to share. They have an intriguing history, beautiful architecture, and showcase the imprints of evolving human civilisations.

While the designation for the oldest city on earth may not be decided yet, there are a handful of cities thought to be strong contenders. Here are top 10 of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world today.

List of top 10 oldest cities in the world

10. Argos, Greece

9. Faiyum, Egypt

8. Sidon, Lebanon

7. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

6. Athens, Greece

5. Byblos, Lebanon

4. Jericho, West Bank

3. Beirut, Lebanon

2. Damascus, Syria

1. Aleppo, Syria

10. Argos, Greece

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Árgos, city, seat of the dímos (municipality) of Argos-Mykínes in the northeastern portion of the periféreia (region) of Peloponnese (Modern Greek: Pelopónnisos), Greece. It lies just north of the head of the Gulf of Argolís (Argolikós Kólpos).

The name Árgos apparently signified an agricultural plain and was applied to several districts in ancient Greece. Historically, the Argolís was the easternmost portion of the Peloponnesian peninsula, and the city of Árgos was its capital. Agamemnon, Diomedes, and other heroes from Argolís’s fertile plain figure prominently in the Iliad of Homer. The present city of Árgos lies about 4 miles (6.5 km) from the gulf below Kástro hill (ancient Lárissa), a site probably occupied since the Early Bronze Age and very prominent in Mycenaean times (c. 1300–1200 BCE). A small market town on the Corinth-Návplion rail line, it is built over much of the site of the Classical city.

The most activity goes around the town centre, which is the two big squares of Saint Peter, with the church on it and Dimokratias, with the flea market every Wednesday and Saturday. Another known part of the centre is the pedestrian roads ("pezodromoi" as called in Greek), which are the streets of Eleftheriou Venizelou, Panagi Tsaldari and Mihail Stamou.

Most shops, cafes and restaurants are nearby the town centre. Around there are also the Archeological Museum of Argos (closed due to renovations as of March 2021) and the Byzantine Museum of Argolida within the Kapodistrias Barracks.

9. Faiyum, Egypt

Photo: CNN
Photo: CNN

Faiyum is a city in Middle Egypt. Located 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Cairo, in the Faiyum Oasis, it is the capital of the modern Faiyum Governorate. Originally called Shedet in Egyptian, the Greeks called it in Koinē Greek: Κροκοδειλόπολις, romanized: Krokodilópolis, and later Byzantine Greek: Ἀρσινόη, romanized: Arsinoë. It is one of Egypt's oldest cities due to its strategic location.

Al-Fayyūm is a market and distribution centre for the governorate. It is linked by rail to Banī Suwayf in the Nile valley, and to Cairo by a highway that runs northward across the desert. Narrow-gauge railways radiate from the town to serve the agricultural communities of the governorate, and the Yūsuf Canal also fans out into a series of irrigation channels. Pop. (2006) 315,940.

This large fertile basin, about 70km wide and 60km long, is often referred to as an oasis, though technically it’s watered not by springs but by the Nile via hundreds of capillary canals, many dug in ancient times. The area harbours a number of small but important archaeological sites; slumped, stubby remains of pyramids and crumbled remnants of once vast Ptolemaic cities that were major centres of crocodile worship. Fayoum is also the base for adventures out to Wadi Rayyan's desert lakes and to Wadi Al Hittan, where prehistoric whale skeletons sit amid a sweep of rock-outcrop dotted sand.

8. Sidon, Lebanon

Photo: Britannica
Photo: Britannica

Sidon, Arabic Ṣaydā, also spelled Saida, or Sayida, ancient city on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon and the administrative centre of al-Janūb (South Lebanon) muḥāfaẓah (governorate). A fishing, trade, and market centre for an agricultural hinterland, it has also served as the Mediterranean terminus of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, 1,069 mi (1,720 km) long, from Saudi Arabia, and the site of large oil-storage tanks.

Sidon was one of the first places to manufacture purple dye, which was so expensive and unique that the color purple became symbolic of royalty.

7. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Photo: Jewish week
Photo: Jewish week

Plovdiv, second largest city of Bulgaria, situated in the south-central part of the country. It lies along the Maritsa River and is situated amid six hills that rise from the Thracian Plain to a height of 400 feet (120 metres). Called Pulpudeva in Thracian times, it was renamed Philippopolis in 341 BC after its conquest by Philip II of Macedonia. From AD 46 it was called Trimontium and was the capital of the Roman province of Thrace. Plovdiv repeatedly changed hands during the Middle Ages until 1364, when it was taken by the Turks, who called it Philibé. After the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), it became capital of Turkish Eastern Rumelia, which united with Bulgaria in 1885. It officially assumed its present name after World War I.

But cobblestoned lanes and National Revival–era nostalgia are only part of the story. Bulgaria’s cosmopolitan second city has always been hot on the heels of Sofia, and a stint as European Capital of Culture 2019 seems sure to give Plovdiv the edge. Music and art festivals draw increasing crowds, while renovations in the Kapana creative quarter and Tsar Simeon Gardens have given the city new confidence. Once an amiable waystation between Bulgaria and Greece or Turkey, the city has flowered into a destination in its own right – and one that should be on any itinerary through central Bulgaria.

6. Athens, Greece

Photo: Gavel International
Photo: Gavel International

Athens, Modern Greek Athínai, Ancient Greek Athēnai, historic city and capital of Greece. Many of Classical civilization’s intellectual and artistic ideas originated there, and the city is generally considered to be the birthplace of Western civilization.

The cultural and social life of Athens plays out amid, around and in landmarks that are centuries old, if not millennia. The remnants of Ancient Greece get the most attention, of course, thanks to a little thing called democracy. Oh, and mythology, and drama, and philosophy. But don't overlook the 'later' years: thousand-year-old Byzantine churches, for instance, which squat, unruffled in the middle of streets and attached to hillsides. Ottoman traces can be seen in architecture and in food. And the neoclassical style of the 19th century adds elegance all over the centre.

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5. Byblos, Lebanon

Photo: Agoda
Photo: Agoda

Byblos, modern Jbail, also spelled Jubayl, or Jebeil, biblical Gebal, ancient seaport, the site of which is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, about 20 miles (30 km) north of the modern city of Beirut, Lebanon. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world. The name Byblos is Greek; papyrus received its early Greek name (byblos, byblinos) from its being exported to the Aegean through Byblos. Hence the English word Bible is derived from byblos as “the (papyrus) book.”

A pretty fishing port with an ancient harbour, medieval town centre, Crusader-era castle and atmospheric archaeological site, Byblos (Jbail in Arabic) is a wonderful choice for those wanting a night or two out of Beirut, but it's also an easy and enjoyable day trip. The seaside, good accommodation and eating options, and a lively party scene in the old souq make it a likeably hedonistic place that packs out in summer.

4. Jericho, West Bank

Photo: Britannica
Photo: Britannica

Jericho, Arabic Arīḥā, town located in the West Bank. Jericho is one of the earliest continuous settlements in the world, dating perhaps from about 9000 BCE. Archaeological excavations have demonstrated Jericho’s lengthy history. The city’s site is of great archaeological importance; it provides evidence of the first development of permanent settlements and thus of the first steps toward civilization.

Jericho is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and has a fascinating and history. Situated in the West Bank near the Jordan Valley and close to the Jordan River, Jericho is a place of huge religious and historical significance for locals and tourists alike.

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3. Beirut, Lebanon

Photo: DW
Photo: DW

Beirut, Arabic Bayrūt, French Beyrouth, capital, chief port, and largest city of Lebanon. It is located on the Mediterranean coast at the foot of the Lebanon Mountains.

Beirut is a city of baffling contradictions whose character blends the sophisticated and cosmopolitan with the provincial and parochial. Before 1975 Beirut was widely considered the most thoroughly Westernized city in the Arab Middle East; after that, however, 15 years of civil war ravaged most parts of the city and eroded much of the lustre that had formerly concealed the Arab—as distinct from the Levantine—side of its character.

If you’re looking for the real East-meets-West so talked about in the Middle East, you need look no further than Beirut. Fast-paced, fashion-conscious and overwhelmingly friendly, it's not a relaxing city to spend time in – it's too crowded, polluted and chaotic for that – but its energy, soul, diversity and intoxicating atmosphere make it a vital, addictive city. A couple of excellent museums are the key sights, but exploring the character of the different districts, strolling the waterfront and diving into the city's wonderful restaurant and nightlife scene are major attractions. As Lebanon is so small, and day trips easy, some travellers base themselves here for their entire visit.

2. Damascus, Syria

Photo: Al Arabyia
Photo: Al Arabyia

Damascus, Arabic Dimashq, city, capital of Syria. Located in the southwestern corner of the country, it has been called the “pearl of the East,” praised for its beauty and lushness; the 10th-century traveler and geographer al-Maqdisī lauded the city as ranking among the four earthly paradises.

Located in present-day Syria, the city is a unique place as so many cultures have made it what it is today, including elements of Roman and Greek city urban planning. Islam has also had a great influence, which is evident in the Umayyad Mosque. Also known as the Great Mosque, it is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world, built sometime between A.D. 705 and 715.

1. Aleppo, Syria - The First City In the World

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

Although the exact age of Aleppo is unknown, an ancient temple discovered in the city dates to around 3,000 B.C., according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Other estimates date Aleppo to at least 5,000 B.C. The modern-day city has been devastated by a lengthy and violent civil war, and at least 30 percent of the ancient city of Aleppo, a UNESCO heritage site, has been destroyed.

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