But it is the Middle East and the Fertile Crescent that is the most, well, fertile area for antique urbanity. Not that this makes the job of firmly planting a flag on the oldest city any easier. Cities in this region have not shouted their claims, or investigated them, or tried to trade them for the tourist dollar, as energetically as have the big hitters in ancient city fame, such as Rome, Athens or even Cirencester.
Iraq for instance has Kirkuk, once the ancient Assyrian capital of Arrapha, founded around 2,200BC, and with the ruins of a 5,000-year-old castle to prove its bona fides. Then there is nearby Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which claims settlements dating back to 6,000BC.
Iran meanwhile has Susa, now the delightfully named Shush, administrative centre of Shush Country, which has an acropolis – a sure sign of ancient city status – that is carbon-dated to around 4,200BC, and evidence of permanent homemaking going back another 800 years. Susa’s claims are somewhat dented, however, by the fact that it was downgraded to “small settlement” between the 15th and 20th centuries.
Jerusalem and Beirut can both claim urbanisation going back to at least 3,000 BC, as can Jericho in the West Bank.
In this very interesting article The Guardian have tried to pin point the oldest city in the World, and as expected the large majority of the places which can lay claim to this title fall within the Middle East. Its sad to note, as mentioned in one of the comments, that these ancient, beautiful cities are being (or have already been) destroyed by men due to their inhumanity towards other men.