UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Middle East

Did you know that the Middle East is home to almost 100 UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Middle East 02

Whilst these sites make a great “bucket list” of experiences for travellers to the Middle East, many are inaccessible due to their location or the impact of civil war.

Not all of these sites have the infrastructure to capitalise on tourism either, but they are definitely worth bearing in mind planning your Middle East adventures. Even if you cannot get to see these sites in person, learning more about these fascinating places before travelling is a great introduction to the region and its rich history.

Where we have stories about visiting these sites – especially tips for visiting with kids – we have provided links from this page.  Please let us know if there’s an article you would like to add.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

UNESCO World Heritage Sites were created in 1978 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was recognised that important sites around the globe should have a special designation to preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage, in the collective interest of humanity.

These sites whilst administered locally – in most cases by the government of the country they are located in – are protected by international treaties.  In certain cases, they may receive World Heritage Funds to conserve the site.

As at the time of writing, there are 1,092 UNESCO World Heritage Sites globally (845 cultural, 209 natural and 38 mixed properties).

You can read more on the official UNESCO website about how a site comes to gain UNESCO World Heritage classification. We follow their country listing conventions, though they classify the “Arab States” slightly diffrently to how we have classified the Middle East on our site.

Ephesus in Turkey

Ephesus in Turkey

Full listing of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Middle East

As at March 2019, the following sites fall under the international World Heritage Program.  (Note 17 of these sites are listed as in danger, designated ^)

Bahrain

  • Qal’at al-Bahrain Ancient Harbor and Capital of Dilmun
  • Muharraq Island, Qal’at Bu Mahir Fortress, And Coastal And Offshore Pearling Sites
FURTHER READING
Seeking out the best of Doha visiting with Kids

Read more about visiting Bahrain here

Egypt

  • Abu Mena ^
  • Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
  • Historic Cairo
  • Memphis & its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
  • Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
  • Saint Catherine Area
  • Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Read more about visiting Egypt here

Sphinx and Pyramid

The Pyramid fields of Giza to Dahshur

Iran

  • Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran
  • Bam and its Cultural Landscape
  • Bisotun
  • Cultural Landscape of Maymand
  • Gonbad-e Qabus
  • Golestan Palace
  • Historic City of Yazd
  • Lut Desert
  • Masjed-e Jamé of Isfahan
  • Meidan Emam, Esfahan
  • Pasargadae
  • Persepolis
  • Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region
  • Shahr-e Sukhteh
  • Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
  • Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
  • Soltaniyeh
  • Susa
  • Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
  • Takht-e Soleyman
  • Tchogha Zanbil
  • The Persian Garden
  • The Persian Qanat

Read more about visiting Iran here


Iraq

  • Ashur (Qal’at Sherqat) ^
  • Erbil Citadel
  • Hatra ^
  • Samarra Archaeological City ^
  • The Ahwar of Southern Iraq

Read more about visiting Iraq here

Israel

  • Bahá’i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee
  • Biblical Tels – Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheba
  • Caves of Maresha and Bet-Guvrin in the Judean Lowlands as a Microcosm of the Land of the Caves
  • Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev
  • Masada
  • Necropolis of Bet She’arim: A Landmark of Jewish Renewal
  • Old City of Acre
  • Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves
  • White City of Tel-Aviv – the Modern Movement

Read more about visiting Israel here

Jerusalem (Proposed)

  • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls ^
Old City of Jerusalem and its walls

Old City of Jerusalem and its walls

Jordan

  • Al-Maghtas (Baptism Site Bethany Beyond Jordan)
  • Petra
  • Quseir Amra
  • Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa’a)
  • Wadi Rum Protected Area
FURTHER READING
40+ Things to do in Abu Dhabi for Free

Read more about visiting Jordan here

Lebanon

  • Anjar
  • Baalbek
  • Byblos
  • Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)
  • Tyre

Read more about visiting Lebanon here

Baalbek Temple Lebanon

Baalbek, Temple of Bacchus, Lebanon

Oman

  • Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman
  • Ancient City of Qalhat
  • Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn
  • Bahla Fort
  • Land of Frankincense

Read more about visiting Oman here

Palestine

  • Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem ^
  • Palestine: Land of olives and Vines Cultural landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir ^
  • Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town ^

Read more about visiting Palestine here

Qatar

  • Al Zubarah Archaeological Site

Read more about visiting Qatar here

Saudi Arabia

  • Al-Ahsa Oasis, an Evolving Cultural Landscape
  • Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Mada’in Saleh)
  • At-Turaif District In ad-Dir’iyah
  • Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah
  • Rock Art in the Hail Region

Read more about visiting Saudi Arabia here

Historic Jeddah Saudi Arabia

Masjid in Historic Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Syria

  • Ancient City of Aleppo ^
  • Ancient City of Bosra ^
  • Ancient City of Damascus ^
  • Ancient Villages of Northern Syria ^
  • Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din ^
  • Site of Palmyra ^

Read more about visiting Syria here

Turkey

  • Aphrodisias
  • Archaeological Site of Ani
  • Archaeological Site of Troy
  • Bursa and Cumalikizik: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire
  • City of Safranbolu
  • Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape
  • Ephesus
  • Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi
  • Göbekli Tepe
  • Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
  • Hierapolis-Pamukkale
  • Hattusha: the Hittite Capital
  • Historic Areas of Istanbul
  • Nemrut Dag
  • Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük
  • Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape
  • Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex
  • Xanthos-Letoon
FURTHER READING
How to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Read more about visiting Turkey here

cappadocia turkey World Heritage Site

Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia

United Arab Emirates

  • Cultural Sites of Al Ain (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas)

Read more about visiting the United Arab Emirates here

Yemen

  • Historic Town Of Zabid ^
  • Old City Of Sana’a ^
  • Old Walled City Of Shibam^
  • Socotra Archipelago

Read more about visiting Yemen here

Have you visited any of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Middle East with kids? We’d love to hear more about your experience and share any important visitor information with our readers. Please contact us here to learn more. 

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UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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