Recently the US blocked entry to our country for citizens from 7 countries, specifically those with a large Muslim population. Unfortunately, many US citizens don’t know much about these 7 countries except what they’ve heard related to terror and war. Like every other place on earth, there’s so much more to these countries than what is heard on the news. Bluntly stated, there is much more to these country’s histories than war.
Each of these 7 countries is filled with fascinating and intelligent people, exotic food, amazing experiences, and pieces of ancient history that have been frozen in time. Moreover, these 7 countries represent the places where all of our civilization began. Below are some highlights of these magnificent countries.
Iran/Islamic Republic of Iran
Iran is home to some of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage sites on the planet. It has made every single one of my travel books for its plethora of ancient historical sites and beautiful locations. Currently, many Australians and New Zealanders travel to Iran on holiday without issue. In fact, many of them cite Iran as one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s on my bucket list, not just for its beauty, but also because two of my favorite co-workers ever originate from here. And who couldn’t want to experience a place like Bam.
Imamzadeh Saleh is another beautiful place in Iran and unlike Bam, Imamzadeh Saleh is located right in Iran’s capital city of Tehran. I’ve only shown the outside of the mosque below, but I encourage you to Google pictures of the inside. It has an interior that is mirrored and bright and just stunning. From the interior, the mosque glistens like the inside of a classy disco ball.
This is a local pilgrimage site and is one of the most famous sites in Iran. The mosque is also the resting place of the son of the 7th Shia Imam.
Iraq is not just a dry desert. Portions of Iraq are lush, green, and full of waterfalls and hiking trails. Amadiya in Iraqi Kurdistan is an example of just this. Think of it as a floating city, in high elevation, overlooking rolling valleys and fields. In the regions surrounding Amadiya there are plenty of trails to explore, including some through old historic gates with long tunnels, and other trails that lead to hidden waterfalls.
Iraq’s fertile lands shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Iraq was home to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the original 7 Wonders of the World. Though the exact location of the Hanging Gardens has yet to be discovered, it is believed there were located in either Babylon, Iraq or located in the Iraqi city of Mosul. These gardens were described as possessing some of the most advanced early feats of engineering. These engineering feat consisted of a tiered layer of gardens that contained all manner of trees, shrubs, and vines. Pretty baller even to this day!
Another UNESCO heritage site on my list of places to see is Sabratha, Libya. Sabratha sits on the Mediterranean coast, about 70 kilometers west of the city of Tripoli. Like most other places in the Middle East, Sabathra is super old and chocked full of history. It was established as a trade port as early as 500 BC. Later in its history, it was overtaken by the Romans and built as the westernmost port for Roman trade. I think anyone who has seen pictures of Rome’s Colosseum will see undeniable similarities between it and Sabathra.
Despite having survived both World War II and the current Libyan Civil War, Sabathra is most endangered by global warming and coastal erosion. Since Sabathra was built on soft sand near the ocean, as waters rise and soften the earth, most likely Sabathra will eventually be overcome by the natural elements.
Here’s a place that for some reason, despite it’s beautiful and diverse history, is not a UNESCO Heritage site. The Meroe Pyramids may be smaller in stature than Egypt’s more famous pyramids, but they are just as beautiful in history and architecture. These pyramids too were built meticulously by hand.
Fun fact: There are more pyramids in one corner of Sudan, than there are in all of Egypt. Egypt may get the fame and glamour for their pyramids, but they aren’t the only pyramid city in Africa. Sudan is home to the Meroe Pyramids. The Meroe Pyramids are the burial sites of Nubian kings, who ruled over 4500 years ago. Just like the pyramids in Egypt, these tombs were built along the Nile River Valley for royal families.
Due to political tensions and internal country conflict at this, it’s not advised that Americans visit this area. However, one day this will hopefully be resolved and the guided camel rides to these pyramids will resume.
The past few years have not been kind to the Syrian people. Their country has been desecrated by civil war and many people have been displaced. But if you listen to these now refugees speak of their homeland, it is somewhere that they hope to return. I, too, hope one day they safely return home. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable in their homeland.
Syria is home to some of the oldest and most well-preserved sites in the world. Sadly, many of the sites in this country have been destroyed or heavily damaged by civil war.
One of the most well-preserved places that hasn’t been hit by civil war is Crac des Chevaliers. Crac des Chevalier (or Krak des Chevaliers depending on where you look it up) is another well-preserved piece of civilization. Crac des Chevaliers looks like it was straight out of middle ages Europe. In fact, it is from the times of the Crusades and is one of the most well-preserved mid-evil castles in the world. Crac des Chevaliers sits alone on a mountain top overlooking the rolling grasslands below. Who says you need to go to Europe to see a stunning, mid-evil castle?
This island has long been on my bucket list. Socotra is an island off the South coast of Yemen, a small dot in the midst of the Arabian sea. Socotra is an island of natural anomalies for both plants and animals. The topography of this island consists of massive sand dunes, sweeping ocean views, an elaborate network of cave systems, and massive trees. The whole island reminds me of a magic forest, with trees straight out of a children’s book.
Some of the biggest attractions on the island include nature hikes (not shocking since it’s gorgeous) through both deserts and mountains and scuba diving the surrounding waters. There’s a large reef just off the coast of the island that makes for prime fish and dolphin watching!
And since Socotra is sparsely populated and has little to no light pollution, it has some of the best views of the night-time sky. You’ll love the locals too, who are known to be some of the friendliest in the world.
I hope to go to these places one day. I hope you do too. These countries are so much different from what I see every day. To me, that’s what makes them exciting, exotic, unique, and ripe for exploring. When I was a little girl in my tiny, homogeneous Midwest town, I promised myself I’d never let the fact that something was different scare me from going there. And I haven’t.
I encourage everyone to go, travel, learn, and explore. Meet people who are different from you. Talk to strangers even if you can only do it through hand gestures or in broken languages. One of the things I have learned on my travels is that the more you go to places that are different from what you know, the more you’ll realize how much all humans are the same.