5 Oldest Cities in Asia (Middle-East)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Oldest Cities in Asia

Humans have been building communities for a long time. A really long time. There are people living in places that have seen millennia of human settlement, particularly on the Asian continent, widely considered to be the place where civilization started. Ranking the age of some of these cities is going to be mind-boggling, to say the least, so we’d recommend trying to think about time less as a human would and switch more to a geological scale. It might make it easier. These are the five oldest cities in Asia.

Erbil, Iraq

Erbil, Iraq

Credit: sadikgulec/iStock

~7,000 Years

You may remember learning in elementary school that the earliest civilized people in the Fertile Crescent built their homes out of mud bricks. We do, anyway. We also remember thinking bricks like that can’t be as permanent as ours. Well, they aren’t, which is how the city of Erbil got its start. Roughly located in the center of the city is the Erbil Citadel, a massive fortified dirt mound on an otherwise flat plain. The mound is man-made and the result of thousands of years of settlements built on top of settlements built on top of settlements. The reason people were able to build on top of settlements is the wearing down of those mud bricks we mentioned earlier. Over time, the bricks disintegrate in place, adding a thin layer of dirt to the growing mound. Multiply that by a few thousand years and thousands of residents and Erbil grows from the result.

Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos, Lebanon

Credit: benedek/iStock

~7,000 Years

In Phoenician mythology, Byblos was founded by the god El at the beginning of time. While that might not be completely factual, the mythological truth of the statement can’t be denied. It’s a city so old it’s at least partially responsible for naming the Bible, thanks to its booming papyrus trade (the main thing the Bible was printed on at the time) and the Greek word for book, biblos. Before it accidentally named the second largest religion’s main publication, it was famous for its shipbuilding industry and enabled the Phoenicians to solidify their reputation as world-class sailors. Even before that it was an important port for Mediterranean trade, exporting prized Lebanese cedar to the powerful Egyptian empire. The city’s declined somewhat since its ancient glory, though Ernest Renan, a prominent French historian, contributed to its rejuvenation when he published the mostly forgotten history of Byblos in 1860.

Ray, Iran

Ray, Iran

Credit: mazzo1982/iStock

~7,500 Years

The true age of Ray is difficult, maybe impossible, to determine. A lot of the “archaeology” that went on in the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s amounted to little more than destructive treasure hunting, meaning the trace evidence that could prove the city’s true edge may have been permanently destroyed. But the city’s resilience proved more than treasure hunters could completely destroy. Excavations in the 1990s and 2000s turned up what would be classified as “horizon pottery of Češmeh Ali” and puts Ray’s founders among the very first settlers of the Iranian plateau around 5,500 B.C.

Today, Ray’s been incorporated into the larger metropolitan area of Tehran, no slouch of a city itself. But Ray still has the Iranian capital beaten by a few centuries at least.

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Jericho

Jericho

Credit: Gosiek-B/iStock

~11,000 Years

Jericho’s roots grow so deep that the term “settlers” is more accurate than it is for other places. The earliest traces of human habitation around Jericho point to Mesolithic hunters who just decided to stay put one day. Like the hunters simply got tired and literally settled down. A thousand years after that, the hunters’ descendants started work on a huge stone wall around the town, with evidence of at least one huge tower incorporated into the wall. That’s 10,000 years of walled defense. So while Jericho might not be the oldest settlement in human history, its famous wall certainly is.

Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria

Credit: uchar/iStock

~10,000 — 12,000 Years

Twelve thousand years is a ridiculously long time, almost too long to conceptualize. To put it in some kind of perspective, Damascus possibly being 12,000 years old would put its founding during the Ice Age. During. Humans were settling down in Damascus at the same time half the Northern Hemisphere was buried under 4 kilometers of ice.

To make an even more of a dramatic statement of humanity’s ability to build cities, Damascus retains excellent examples from each of the major civilizations to contribute to its construction. Examples of Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture are all on full display in the city, with the major examples being the Roman Temple of Jupiter, Roman walls and gates, and the Great Mosque built by Umayyad Caliphate. Essentially, what the city is today is a living, breathing Arabic city built on a hybrid Greek and Roman city plan in a location that’s seen human habitation since most of the Earth’s surface was made of glaciers.

In 40 Minutes A Life Time Of Work Is Gone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

When Iraqi government forces seized control of the contested city of Kirkuk on Monday, hundreds of Kurdish families were sent scattering to nearby safe havens.

The swift military operation came just weeks after Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in a controversial referendum that was condemned by the United States and Baghdad.
The loss of Kirkuk and its nearby oil fields is a setback for Kurds, who have held the city — home to more than one million people — for the last three years. The Kurds took control of the city after it was abandoned by Iraqi forces during ISIS’ lightning offensive in 2014, but it lies outside the recognized borders of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.
Now, driven out of Kirkuk, with their dreams of building a separate nation in northern Iraq suffering a major setback, displaced Kurds are still reeling.

Families flee Kirkuk on the road to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah on Monday.

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From noisy cafés and bars, to the quiet of people’s homes, everyone in Erbil — the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq — is trying to make sense of what happened.
Many of the Kirkuk residents who fled to Erbil for fear of potential clashes expressed their displeasure, grief, and shock that Iraqi troops — backed by Shia militias known as the Popular Mobilization Units — were able to take the city in a single day.
The same forces were later cheered on by Arab and Turkmen residents on Monday as they removed a Kurdish flag that had flown over the Kirkuk governor’s office.
“The shock is too great and I cannot imagine what happened overnight, especially after all the threat and intimidation of the Peshmerga forces against those approaching the province,” Samal Omar, a 33-year-old government employee, told CNN.
“We fled to Erbil before noon on Monday when we heard that the Popular Mobilization [Units] would enter Kirkuk for fear of aggression.”

Some residents celebrate after Iraqi forces took control of Kirkuk on Monday.

Some Kurdish civilians said they took up arms and deployed to the streets in an attempt to ward off the Iraqi army operation.
One of them, Mohamed Werya, 37, said he didn’t sleep for two consecutive days before fleeing Erbil.
“I saw officials leave and I said to myself, ‘why should I stay and danger my life and my family?'” Werya said, describing chaotic scenes as people scrambled to flee the city. “What I saw on the road I have not seen before, only during the [Kurdish] uprising of 1991.”
“Who is responsible for what happened?” he asked.
A version of the same question was echoed by other Kurds.

Kurdish forces open fire on Iraqi troops in the streets in Kirkuk on Monday.

“I cannot express my sorrow and my displeasure. But the question is, why did the Peshmerga forces withdraw? Why they did not they tell us earlier and we lived in a strong feeling that there was someone defending us?” Abu Mahmoud, 55, asked.
“I did not expect the effort of many years lost in 40 minutes,” he added.
There was still much confusion over what transpired during the clashes between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with reports of a split between Kurdish factions. The Peshmerga General Command accused members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a political party within the Kurdistan region, of abandoning their posts as Iraqi forces entered, in what it described as a betrayal.

Kirkuk residents cross a Kurdish checkpoint in Altun Kupri on Monday.

“No one understands what exactly happened,” said Fouad Aziz, 40, who fled Kirkuk for Sulaymaniyah, while his brother went to Erbil. “There are accusations against the Kurdish parties in the region, some accused of deception and leaving the fighting sites.”
“We were welcomed by the people of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in a way we did not expect,” he added.
Dozens of young people lined the road to Erbil on Monday, handing out food and water to those fleeing, while other Erbil residents opened their doors to those displaced by the fighting.
Abu Nebez, 55, said he hosted dozens in his home.
“I welcomed in my house seven families consisting of 37 people, 14 of whom we do not know,” Nebez said. “They were on the main road in a deplorable condition when they fled from Kirkuk to Erbil.”

Locals wave to Iraqi forces as they arrive in southern Kirkuk on Monday.

On Tuesday, some Kurdish residents began to trickle back into Kirkuk, wary of what might come next.
Qais Book, a Kurdish blogger and social media consultant who lives in Kirkuk, stayed behind as others fled on Monday.
He watched the celebration in the governor’s square, as Arab and Turkmen residents celebrated.
“There are many different feelings in the city now,” Book said. “Some people feel disappointed about what happened, especially the Kurdish people, and some of the Arabs, because they were loyal to the Kurds here. And they feel sorry because many Kurdish families left their houses here and fled to Kurdistan.”
“The city is calm now, but people are waiting to see what happens next.”

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Iraq, Syria and the Kurdish Fingerprint

We reap what we sow. Many countries did not pay attention to the fact that maps need constant maintenance to prevent them from aging and rotting, and that relations between entities should be continuously repaired as well.

The first condition of maintenance is to prioritize the notion of citizenship and to build a state that deserves to be called as such; which means a state of law and institutions, a state that guarantees equal rights and duties.

Discrimination against citizens creates a hole in the map; a hole that allows the infiltration of winds and foreign influence. The ruler believes that power can silence the people forever. He has forgotten that the balance of power can be distorted and twisted and that the oppressed can grab any opportunity to take revenge. Grievances can make them jump out of the map.

The ruler commits a fatal error when he gives power the last say and when he refuses to listen to people’s complaints or demands. He believes that he has an endless ability to silence them and that fear can make the wounded and the disadvantaged forget their injuries and the injustice against them.

The worst scenario of all is when the ruler regards a group of citizens as a foreign body that was planted by destiny inside the map, and when he believes that the solution is to abolish the features of this group, separate it from its heritage, weaken its language and force it to gradually relinquish its identity.

The call for holding an independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on September 25 has ignited the Kurdish issue. Baghdad opposed the call. Iran rejected it. Ankara saw it as a huge mistake. The reactions of those parties are not surprising. Countries that have scattered Kurds across their maps following World War I, including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, can disagree over anything but on the necessity to abort the Kurdish dream of having an independent state.

Masoud Barzani is aware of this truth. It is clear that the referendum will not lead to immediate measures. Lessons have taught Barzani to differentiate between dreams and illusions. He understands that rushing to completely leave the Iraqi entity could make the province an easy prey for major players in the region.

It is widely believed that Barzani is hopeless over the future of Iraq as a whole, especially in the wake of the ongoing rivalries between the Sunni and Shiite entities.

However, Barzani knows well that reviewing the borders involves major risks unless it is achieved under an international umbrella that sponsors a process of such size and nature.

ISIS’ invasion of Mosul has accelerated the dismantling of the Iraqi entity. It has intensified conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shiites. It has also increased the distance between Erbil and Baghdad.

ISIS attempted to invade the Kurdish province to fortify its presence in its mountains and take advantage of its location on the border of three countries. The Kurds engaged in a fierce battle to defend their region. They paid heavy prices. The Kurdish leader has once again concluded that the Sykes-Picot entities are artificial and not endlessly viable. He considered that “new maps are drawn with blood.”

Barzani knows that a Kurdish state in northern Iraq is a quasi-impossible dream. Yet, perhaps he is trying to consolidate the right to independence, even if it was not possible to be achieved in the near future. Some people believe that he is ready to accept a less-than-a-divorce formula. A formula that is based on confederate states that would save Erbil and Baghdad from being entangled in complex relations.

However, such formula needs a dance partner. It needs a realistic partner in Baghdad. Without the presence of such collaborator, Baghdad might be pushed towards a new conflict following the fall of ISIS: a conflict that can be triggered in “disputed areas”, beginning with Kirkuk. Some people do not exclude an upcoming confrontation between the Peshmerga and the Popular Mobilization Forces, with all the consequences that may imply on the Iraqi and regional levels.

While talking about Iraq, one should not neglect the deep transformations taking place in Syria. Syria’s Kurds today are different from those who were living there six years ago when the war broke out. Syria’s Kurds did not rush to engage in the country’s uprising. They took the role of spectators and were preparing for the worst. ISIS’ insistence to target their areas has offered them several opportunities. Their victory in Kobani has given them a much longed-for legitimacy. The Democratic Union Party, led by Saleh Muslim, succeeded in militarizing a society that felt threatened.

It was widely believed at the beginning that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has not cut its relations with the regime, and that the latter was able to manipulate it at the right time to suit its own interests. Nonetheless, the Kurds proved to be coherent forces at a time when the Syrian opposition was being struck on several sides. Syria’s Kurds have found a major role in fighting ISIS. They received training and arms. Washington was betting on their role, despite Erdogan’s anger and warnings.

It is true that the Turkish Army succeeded in preventing geographic communication between Kurdish areas, but this did not keep the YPG from changing the landscape in several Syrian regions.

Saleh Muslim says that the Syrian regime has practically collapsed. He means the single-party regime. He also says that it was impossible to revert to the pre-war situation in 2011. He notes that the Kurds will live in self-administered zones. The role of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa reinforces the belief that the Kurds will not have a marginal role.

In the past century, maps were sketched on the detriment of the Kurds. It looked like they were confined inside the borders. Abstaining from treating the Kurds with equity while preserving our maps has led us to the explosion.

It is clear that the Kurdish fingerprint will be seen when drawing the future of Iraq and Syria, which raises the fears of Turkey and Iran.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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