50 Interesting Facts about Middle East

1Derinkuyu

In 1963, a man tore down a wall in his house and noticed an enormous and complex tunnel system behind it. He had rediscovered the ancient underground city of Derinkuyu in Turkey. At its peak the city could have accommodated as many as 20,000 people and had all the usual amenities found in other underground complexes.


2. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was initially called "Operation Iraqi Liberation", but was quickly changed to "Operation Iraqi Freedom" due to the acronym spelling out "OIL."


3. In Ancient Egypt, the deceased bodies of beautiful and high ranking women were left to decay for 3 to 4 days before being sent off for embalming. They did this to discourage necrophilia.


4. In 2002, a fire at a girls' school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia killed 15 girls. It has been strongly suggested that their deaths occurred due to the involvement of the "religious police," who prevented them from leaving the building because the girls were not wearing correct Islamic dress.


5. 3 men from Yemen tried to sue NASA for invading Mars, claiming they had inherited it from their ancestors 3,000 years ago.


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6Kuskoy village

In the village of Kuskoy in Turkey, people talk to each other using a whistled language that can be heard from up to half a mile away.


7. In 1993, the golden covering of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan who sold one of his houses in London to fund the 80 kilograms of gold required.


8. In 1983, Saudi Arabian developers tore down Ajyad Fortress, a centuries-old Turkish fortress that was once used to protect Mecca and the Kaaba from invaders and bandits, to build a Megahotel complex.


9. In Dubai, license plates are bought and sold for upwards of $14 million in order to show status, with 1 being the most desired, then 2, then so on.


10. As a man, you can be arrested in Iran for wearing shorts.


11Fustat

In 1168.AD., Fustat, the then-capital of Egypt was ordered to be burnt to the ground by its own vizier to stop it falling into the hands of the crusaders.


12. A natural gas vent in Iraq known as The Eternal Fire has been burning continuously for over 4,000 years and is mentioned by Herodotus, Plutarch, and in the Old Testament's Book of Daniel.


13. 350 million years ago, there existed a species of 20-foot tall mushroom in Saudi Arabia. It was likely the largest living thing on dry land at that time.


14. Due to its isolation, a third of the plant life on the island of Socotra (Yemen) is found nowhere else on the planet. It has been described as "most alien-looking place on Earth."


15. You can't file for Bankruptcy in Dubai. In turn, people abandon their exotic sports cars in the airport parking lot while fleeing. About 2,000 to 3,000 cars including Ferrari, Porche, Land Rover, and Mercedes are abandoned each year to gather dust in the desert heat.


16Syrian Air Defense

In 1973, Syria had such a powerful air defense system, it almost destroyed the Israeli air force in just 18 days. In 1982 the rebuilt Israeli air force launched the largest air battle since the Korean war, destroying nearly the entire Syrian air defense and air force in under 2 hours.


17. Up to 95% of the historic structures in the city of Mecca have been demolished over the last three decades. Many of the sites were over 1000 years old and many were connected to the life and times of the prophet Muhammad and his companions.


18. In ancient Egypt, any books found in ships coming into port would be brought immediately to the library of Alexandria and be copied. The original would be kept in the library and the copy given back to the owner.


19. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology which opened in 2009 is the first mixed-gender university campus in Saudi Arabia. The religious police do not operate on-site, and women are allowed to mix freely with men and to drive on campus, and they are not required to wear veils.


20. There is a youth orchestra called the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra made up of top Israeli and Palestinian musicians to promote peace in the Middle East.


21Teenage birth

A mentally disabled Iranian girl named Leyla Mafi was prostituted by her mom at an young age. At the age of 9 and 14, she gave birth to children. At the age of 19, she got sentenced to death for “immoral behavior.” A lawyer was able to intervene and got the sentence reduced to public beating and imprisonment.


22. During the Siege of Baghdad, The Grand Library of Baghdad, containing countless precious historical documents and books on subjects from medicine to astronomy, was destroyed along with the House of Wisdom. The Tigris waters ran black with ink from the huge quantities of books that were flung into the river.


23. Turkey imprisons more journalists than China and Iran combined.


24. Israel planned to assassinate Saddam Hussein in 1992. Plans were canceled when they accidentally killed their fellow commandos while simulating the method of their attack.


25. Camp 1391 is a secret prison, which is located an hour out from Tel Aviv. It has been dubbed “the Israeli Guantanamo.” It was discovered by accident in 2003 by an Israeli historian who was researching old British police buildings.

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