This is a list of present-day cities by the time period over which they have been continuously inhabited. The oldest cities in the world boast beautiful architecture and amazing stories, yet remarkably few ancient cities stand today. There is some disagreement about the historical record, so we’ve added a few cities to this list because of the area’s religious or cultural significance.
1. Jericho, Palestinian Territories
The world’s oldest continually-inhabited city, Jericho is a Palestinian city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank. It is the administrative seat of the Jericho Governorate. The city was occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967, and has been held under Israeli occupation since 1967; administrative control was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 1994. It is known in Judeo-Christian tradition as the place of the Israelites’ return from bondage in Egypt, led by Joshua, the successor to Moses. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back 11,000 years (9000 BCE), almost to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of the Earth’s history.
2. Byblos, Lebanon
Founded as Gebal by the Phoenicians, Byblos was given its name by the Greeks, who imported papyrus from the city. It is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of present-day Lebanon under the current Arabic name of Jubayl and was also referred to as Gibelet during the Crusades. It is believed to have been occupied first between 8800 and 7000 BC, and according to fragments attributed to the semi-legendary pre-Trojan war Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, it was built by Cronus as the first city in Phoenicia. Today it is believed by many to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world.
3. Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; it has been inhabited since perhaps as early as the 6th millennium BC. Syria’s most populated city with around 4.4 million citizens Aleppo was founded as Halab in around 4,300 BC. As the ancient site is occupied by the modern city it is barely touched by archaeologists. The city was under Hittite control until around 800 BC, before passing through Assyrian, Greek and Persian hands. It was later occupied by the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs, besieged by the Crusaders and then taken by the Mongols and Ottomans.
4. Damascus, Syria
The capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, Damascus commonly known in Syria as ash-Sham and nicknamed as the City of Jasmine. Cited by some sources as the world’s oldest inhabited city, Damascus may have been inhabited as early as 10,000 BC, also this is debated. It became an important settlement after the arrival of the Aramaeans, who established a network of canals, which still form the basis of its modern water networks. Another of Alexander the Great’s conquests, Damascus has since been in Roman, Arab and Ottoman possession. Today, its wealth of historical attraction make it a popular tourist destination.
5. Susa, Iran
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km (160 mi) east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers. In historic literature, Susa appears in the very earliest Sumerian records, e.g. in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta it is described as one of the places obedient to Inanna, patron deity of Uruk. In urban history, Susa is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and the world. Based on C14 dating the time of foundation of a settlement there is as early as 4395 BCE. The modern Iranian town of Shush is located at the site of ancient Susa. Shush is the administrative capital of the Shush County of Iran’s Khuzestan province. It had a population 65,00.
6. Faiyum, Egypt
Faiyum is a city in Middle Egypt.Located 130 km southwest of Cairo, it is the capital of the modern Faiyum Governorate. The town occupies part of the ancient site of Crocodilopolis. Founded in around 4000 B.C., it is the oldest city in Egypt and one of the oldest cities in Africa . Modern Faiyum consists of several large bazaars, mosques and baths, while the Lehin and Hawara pyramids are found nearby.
7. Sidon, Lebanon
Sidon is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. One of the most important – and perhaps the oldest – Phoenician cities. It was the base from which the Phoenician’s great Mediterranean empire grew. Both Jesus and St Paul are said to have visited Sidon, as did Alexander the Great, who captured the city in 333 BC.
8. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
The second-largest city in Bulgaria after the capital Sofia, Plovdiv was originally a Tracian settlement before becoming a major Roman city. It later fell into Byzantine and Ottoman hands, before becoming part of Bulgaria. The city is a major cultural centre and boasts many ancient remains, including a Roman amphitheatre and aqueduct, and Ottoman baths.
9. Gaziantep, Turkey
Gaziantep is a city in southeast Turkey and amongst the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The city is located 185 km northeast of Adana and 127 km by road north of Aleppo, Syria. Gaziantep’s history extends as far back as the Hittites. The Ravanda citadel – restored by the Byzantines in the 6th century – is found in the city centre, while Roman mosaics have also been discovered.
10. Beirut, Lebanon
The capital and largest city of Lebanon as well as its cultural, administrative and economic center Beirut’s history stretches back around 5,000 years. Excavations in the city have unearthed Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman remains, while it is mentioned in letters to the pharaoh of Egypt as early as the 14th century BC. Since the end of the Lebanese civil war, it has become a lively, modern tourist attraction.