Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ancient Civilizations & World Wonders in Arabia

The Ancient Mesopotamia (Cradle of Civilization)

Existed: From 9000 B.C. until 500 B.C

Location: Between the present-day Syria and Iraq.

History: Mesopotamia, called the "cradle of civilization", was the site of early river valley settlement. Conditions in the area led to people constructing permanent communities, practicing sustained farming methods, and evolving from a hunter-gatherer society into agriculture communities. Housing evolved into walled cities. Similar river valley civilizations soon followed in the Indus and Nile River regions. Today Mesopotamia is part of Iraq. This river-valley region was the site of a series of city-state kingdoms including Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria.

Petra (The Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans)

Existed: From about 300 B.C. until 600 A.C.

Location: The area of present-day northern Saudi Arabia and southern Jordan .

History: The queen of the caravan cities, the legendary Petra at the edge of the Arabian Desert was the glittering capital of the Nabataean King Aretas IV (9 B.C. to 40 A.D.). Masters of water technology, the Nabataeans provided their city with great tunnel constructions and water chambers. An amphitheatre, built after Greek-Roman prototypes, offered space for an audience of no fewer than 4,000 persons. Still today, the Palace Tombs of Petra, with the 42-metre-high Hellenistic temple façade on the El-Deir Monastery, belong to the most impressive achievements of Middle Eastern culture.

The Pyramids of Egypt

Built: From about 2700 to 2500 B.C.

Location: Giza, Egypt, on west bank of Nile River near Cairo

History: The Egyptian Pyramids are the oldest and only surviving member of the ancient wonders.

Of the 10 pyramids at Giza, the first three are held in the highest regard. The first, and largest, was erected for the Pharaoh Khufu. Known as the Great Pyramid, it rises about 450 feet (having lost about 30 feet off the top over the years) and covers 13 acres.
It's believed to have taken 100,000 laborers about 20 years to build the mammoth Khufu pyramid, using an estimated 2.3 million blocks. By one theory, crews dragged or pushed limestone blocks up mud-slicked ramps to construct the royal tombs.

Many scholars think the pyramid shape was an important religious statement for the Egyptians, perhaps symbolizing the slanting rays of the sun. Some speculate the sloping sides were intended to help the soul of the king climb to the sky and join the gods.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

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The Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria

Built: About 270 B.C.

Location: On ancient island of Pharos in harbor of Alexandria, Egypt

History: Upon its completion, the Alexandria lighthouse -- commonly estimated to have been about 400 feet high -- was one of the tallest structures on Earth. The Greek architect Sostratus designed it during the reign of King Ptolemy II.

The Pharos guided sailors into the city harbor for 1,500 years and was the last of the six lost wonders to disappear. Earthquakes toppled it in the 14th century A.D.
An Arab traveler made notes in 1166 that provide intricate details on the structure. From his writing, archaeologists have deduced that the lighthouse was constructed in three stages. At the top, a mirror reflected sunlight during the day, and a fire guided sailors at night.
The structure was so famous that the word "pharos" came to mean lighthouse in French, Italian and Spanish.

In November 1996, a team of divers searching the Mediterranean Sea claimed to have found the ruins of the fabled lighthouse of Pharos.

Alexandria Lighthouse

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The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Built: About 600 B.C.

Location: In Babylon near modern-day Baghdad, Iraq

History: These gardens -- which may be only a fable -- are said to have been laid out on a brick terrace by King Nebuchadnezzar II for one of his wives. According to the writings of a Babylonian priest, they were approximately 400 feet square and 75 feet above the ground. His account says slaves working in shifts turned screws to lift water from the nearby Euphrates River to irrigate the trees, shrubs and flowers.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

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The Ancient City of Sana'a

Founded: Between 5000 BC to 2500 BC.

Location: On the South West of Arabian Peninsula, Yemen.

History: According to popular legend Sana'a was founded by Shem, one of the three sons of Noah. The story tells of how Shem after coming a long way from the north, finally reached Yemen and found the plain of Sana'a most suitable for settlement. Shem chose originally the western part of the Sana'a plain close to Mount Aiban. When he began to lay the foundations a bird came and picked up his sounding lead. Shem followed the bird convinced that it was sent by Allah to show him a more suitable place. The bird flew to the eastern part of the Sana'a plain and dropped the lead at the foot of Mount Nugum.

Shem then laid the foundations for a city that was called "Madinat Sam" (the city of Shem). Later, the name changed to Azal (from the biblical Uzal -Gen. 10:27 - the sixth son of Joktan, the Arabic Qahtan). Finally, it was called Sana'a, meaning "the fortified one", in ancient inscription.

Bab El-Yaman, Sana'a

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