Top 10 Cultural Exploration Vacations in Africa and the Middle East
The earliest foundations of humanity and the birthplace of three major religions are found here, so there is no question that historical sites are widespread. Many of the first traces of human civilization can be found here, such as the ruins of stone cities and pyramids. Religious monuments and the remnants of the slave trade and apartheid are here as well. Wars have been fought and are still being fought over many of these sites and their preservation is of worldwide importance.
- The Pyramids, Egypt
The largest man made structures in the world and are one of the most lasting symbols of ancient civilization. Numbering approximately 100, the stone monuments located across the Nile valley date back as many as 5,000 years.
- Jerusalem, Israel
The old walled city of Jerusalem, a holy site of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is fominated by historic sites such as the Dome of the Rock, Wailing Wall, and church of the Holy Sepulchre.
- Petra, Jordan
The "rose-red city half as old as time" is a rock carved city of the Nabataean culture tucked away in a narrow gorge.
- Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Inside Mecca sits the holiest shrine in Islam, the Kaaba, a building inside the al-Masjid al-Haram mosque, the Sacred Mosque, where the annual Hajj revolves around.
- James Island, Gambia
The beginnings of the slave trade to North America and the first interior route of the trade began around this small island on the River Gambia in West Africa.
- Timbuktu, Mali
The city of Timbuktu, now threatened by the encroaching Sahara, was home to the Koranic Sankore University and was an intellectual and spiritual capital of Islam in North Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.
- Rock-Hewn Churches, Ethiopia
The 11 monolithic cave churches hewn out of rock in the 13th Century in Lalibela are an important Christian pilgrimage site.
- Carthage, Tunisia
The ruins of the great trading empire of Carthage founded in the 9th century B.C. is one of the most important sites on the Mediterranean.
- Robben Island, South Africa
This island was a military base and more importantly a maximum security prison during the years of apartheid, where political prisoners were held, including Nelson Mandela who spent the majority of his most of his 27 years behind bars here.
- Palmyra, Syria
The ruins of this Persian city were once home to one of the greatest cultural centers of the ancient world. It was here, in the first and second centuries, that Graeco-Roman and Persian influences met.