“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” Amen, Loren Eiseley. Amen. There's a reason why coastal cities around the world have been so culturally significant in human history. Think of the place that Alexandria held in ancient history – arguably the first metropolitan city in the world. Beyond being a sight for the sore eyes and slower pace than the chaos of the city, the MENA region’s plethora of historically rich coastal cities were of strategic importance back in antiquity, especially as they were the connectors to the wider world and gave these central seats their power and prominence. A visit to each of these cities won’t just be educational — you get to enjoy some beautiful landscapes and scenery, and maybe even take a dip in our famous shimmering blues.
via The 961
The beautiful city of Byblos, known locally as Jbeil, is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (since 5,000 BC).It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you really feel its historical richness when you take a stroll through this architecturally beautiful city and take in sites like Byblos Castle (built by the Crusaders), the Medieval city wall, the Historic Quarter and Souks, and St John the Baptist Church (built during the Crusade in 1116). We recommend you have dinner at Babel Bahr during sunset for the most breathtaking view and delicious meal.
TANGIER, MOROCCOvia Smarter Travel
Tangier is a port located at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. There was a time when Tangier had a 373 km² international zone under the joint administration of France, Spain, and the United Kingdom (then later, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States). The international zone lasted from 1924 until it was reintegrated into independent Morocco in 1956. That period saw literary giants, spies, and artists flock to Tangier to live there, which gave Tangier a sort of seedy yet alluring bohemian reputation. The white-washed city has many sites worth visiting, like the Cave of Hercules and the Cape Spartel.
FETHIYE, TURKEYvia Wikipedia
A port city on Turkey's southwestern Turquoise Coast, Fethiye is known for its natural harbor, incredibly blue waters, and rich history. It has many rock tombs including the 4th-century B.C. Tomb of Amyntas, which is carved into a bluff overlooking the city. Fethiye has many near-shore islands that are popular among tourists for day trips because of their ease of access by boat. A short distance to the south, the popular beach at Ölüdeniz is sheltered by the Blue Lagoon, and Butterfly Valley – a more secluded beachfront.
via The Source Magazine
Aqaba is the only coastal town in Jordan located on the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba. It has been inhabited since 4000 B.C., and is home to the Aqaba Fort from Islamic times. It has numerous beach resorts that are popular spots for windsurfing and other water sports, and is also an extremely popular area for scuba divers, with notable dive sites including the Yamanieh coral reef in the Aqaba Marine Park south of the city. A stroll through old town Aqaba’s colourful souqs is worth a visit, and the beautiful and now renowned Wadi Rum is just an hour’s drive away. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is extremely popular among Hollywood filmmakers, with movies such as, the latest Star Wars, The Martian, and the legendary Lawrence of Arabia having all been filmed there.
While nothing of this mysterious and ancient city remains today, it was once an important hub in Oman and a stop for the Indian Ocean trade network. It is also home to the Mausoleum of Lady Maryam, aka Bibi Maryam, which was built in the 13th century by Bahauddin Ayez to honour his wife. Ibn Battuta and other famed travellers such as Marco Polo have visited this old coastal Omani capital in the past.
TUNIS, TUNISIAvia Erasmus
Tunis, previously known as Carthage, was the center and capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization, east of the Lake of Tunis. It was considered to be the most important trading hub on the Mediterranean, and one of the most affluent cities of the Ancient World. The legendary Queen Dido founded and ruled the city; her empire would, through the Punic Wars, become the only existential threat to Rome until the Vandals arrived several centuries later. The city's location made it a master of the Mediterranean's maritime trade. All ships crossing the sea had to pass between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia, where Carthage was built, which gave it great power in the region. Today, all this rich history still remains, and is hosted in an affluent seaside suburb in the Tunisian capital.
ORAN, ALGERIAvia Wikimedia
Moorish traders founded Algeria’s second largest city, Oran, in 903. For centuries, it was settled and captured by several settlers – first the Spanish, then the Ottomans, then back to the Spanish before being sold to the Turks in 1792. When Ottoman rule ended in 1831, the French took over and ruled until Algeria gained its independence in 1962. Landmarks include the Santa Cruz Fort, the Bey Othmane Mosque, Oran’s city hall, Cathédrale du Sacré-Coeur d’Oran (Cathedral of the Sacred Heart), the Great Synagogue of Oran, and the Mosque of Hassan Basha. Oran is famous as the birthplace of Raï, North Africa’s liveliest musical movement. The open bay of the city is an idyllic and tranquil escape from the city streets, which are rich in the architectural styles of previous settlers.
ABU DHABI, UAE
via Golden Touch Tours
The second most populous city in the United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi is a more laid-back city than bustling Dubai. With its rapid development and urbanization, planned under the guidance of Sheikh Zayed by Japanese architect Katsuhiko Takahashi in 1967, it’s now an advanced metropolis and a centre of politics and industry, as well as a major culture and commerce hub. Around Abu Dhabi there’s a lot of archaeological evidence of historical civilizations that date back to the third millennium BCE. Before the discovery of its oil reserves, the pearl diving business was its main industry. There are some truly beautiful architectural gems and interesting sites in Abu Dhabi, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat Beach.
DUBA, SAUDI ARABIAvia Expat Woman
This small coastal city located on the northern Red Sea coast is locally known as The Pearl of the Red Sea and has a tiny population of roughly 22,000. Duba has three valleys – Dahkan, Salma, and Kafafah – and is just 800 km from Jeddah via highway. The city is frequently used as a port for ferries that operate to and from Egypt and Jordan. The first reference to Duba under this name is from 1203; historically, it’s part of Madian and is mentioned in Islamic scriptures. After the Saudi conquest of the city in 1933, King Abdulaziz built his castle there in the same year.
via Chimera Pics
This underrated destination and coastal city in the Nile Delta of Egypt is located 65 km east of Alexandria. It was founded around the 9th century, although the site of the city had been inhabited throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. It boomed when Alexandria started to decline after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517, and became Egypt’s most significant port. However, its importance waned again after Alexandria's revival. In the 19th century, it was a popular tourist destination among the Brits and was known for charming Ottoman mansions and citrus groves. Now, it’s on the peripheries, and definitely off the beaten path.