Lost civilisations in Middle East
Rising up off the dessert floor, as a man-made pyramid, the ziggurat of Choqa Zanbil have been standing since c. 1250 BC. The ziggurat is a UNESCO World Heritage site was sacked in the sixth century BC and was not discovered until 1935 - being lost in the dessert sand for more than 2500 years. The mountain around which the ziggurat have been build was considered sacred to the Elamite civilization and the reason behind the pyramid. Used as a temple-like structure you can find both sacrificing stones, religious inscriptions and a sundial around the structure. Once you get to the sundial, look out for the footprint of a Elamite child next to it - a footprint that incredibly enough have survived for more than three millennium. Around the ziggurat is also the archaeological site of the city surrounding the Choqa Zanbil called Dur Untash, which includes some royal tombs. Bring water and a hat - temperatures can reach the mid-forties (Celsius) and there is no shade!
Petra will no doubt be one of the highlights of any trip to Jordan, maybe even the reason to come here in the first place. Spectacular imposing tombs carved right out the rock face dating back to the civilisation of the Nabataeans about 2000 years ago. Winding narrow canyons leads into the area, and magnificent views over the desert and the tombs will reward you from the top of the surrounding mountains. Petra is taken right out of Indiana Jones, literately. But all this "amazingness" attracts a fair share of, let's face it, annoying fellow visitors. By arriving early, leaving late and general doing the sights in a non-obvious direction not only will you catch the best light, but you will also pretty much get the place to yourself. Off-the-beaten-track places not to be missed are the monastery Al-Deir with its many viewpoints, the viewpoint above the Treasury and the winding canyon trek through Wadi Muthlim (see photo gallery).
This set of marvellous ruins of an ancient city is the icon of Syria. The place started out as an oasis town in the desert, but became a mandatory stop on the flourishing silk route. The city grew rich and powerful and even managed to become a "free city" within the Roman Empire. Then queen Zenobia came to power and rebelled against Rome. She managed to beat up some Roman forces and invade the whole of Syria, Palestine and Egypt, before the glorious days were over and in 271 AD Palmyra was again under Roman control. Even today, it's easy to imagine how impressive the city must have been for visitors. In typical Syrian style, the site is informal with no entrance (except for the Temple of Bel), fences or explanations but it only adds to the magic of the place.