West Asian capitals

West Asia is the southwestern part of the Asian continent. This geographic region includes 18 countries but does not have clear boundaries because, for example, Egypt lies on Asia and Africa continents and Turkey in Asia and Southern Europe.

Reading time: 9 min        

The basic of West Asian culture is Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, and Jewish philosophy and art. Israel is the region's most democratic country. The biggest cities are Istanbul in Turkey, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, and Baghdad in Iraq.

"The arts, which we now call garden design and landscape design, have three separate origins: sacred space, horticultural space and domestic space. Like Homo sapiens, the arts of garden and landscape design probably spread to Europe from West Asia." – Tom Turner, an English landscape architect.

The urban architecture of the region's capitals is rich in spindle-shaped columns, sharp-ended domes, coffered and stalactite-honeycomb ceilings, and rectangular spaces-iwans.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please read the policy page.

West Asian Capitals: Which One is the Oldest?

West Asia Map

Each of the West Asian cities has a great history and incredible historical artifacts. But which one is the oldest as the national capital – the seat of the country's government? Keep reading. Here is a list of 18 West Asian capitals.

18. Ramallah

Ramallah, located in the West Bank north of Jerusalem, is the de facto capital of Palestine. The city is also the cultural capital because it has several active Palestinian cultural centers. 

Founded in the 16th century during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, Ramallah flourished until the 20th century. After the occupation of the West Bank by Jordan and Israel in the mid-20th century, many Ramallah residents emigrated to the United States. Since 1993, Ramallah has been the administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority.

17. Sanna

Sanna is the capital of Yemen. Since 1986, its Old Town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has a distinctive architectural character, expressed in multi-story buildings decorated with geometric patterns. 

The first settlement on the site dates back to the 4th century; it became an important center inhabited by the ancient Arabs - the Himyarites. From the 7th century, the city was part of the Muslim Caliphate, and at the end of the 19th century, it passed to the Ottoman Empire. In 1990, Sanna became the capital of Yemen.

16. Jerusalem

An old street in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an old city in the Middle East, significant for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The city's status is controversial. Israel controls the entire city and has declared Jerusalem its capital, but many countries do not recognize it. Traditionally, its Old Town has four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian. 

The first walls, located on the east side of Jerusalem, were built by the Canaanites in the 17th century BC. At various times, Jerusalem was ruled by the Kingdom of Judah, the Roman Empire, Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and the British. In 1950 Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital. The Israeli government began to reside in the west of the city in 1967. In 1980, Israel occupied the eastern part of the city, and since then, the Israeli government considers Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the state.

15. Manama 

Manama is the capital and largest city of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Strongly influenced by Western culture, mainly British, it gradually strengthens its position as a regional tourist center among the Persian Gulf countries.

The city was founded in the 14th century and gradually developed as a port. In the 16th century, it was captured by the Portuguese and in the next century by the Iranians. In the 18th century, the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty began. 

Manama became a free port in the late 1950s and the capital of Bahrain in 1971 when it gained independence from the United Kingdom.

14. Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. In the vicinity of the city, there is archaeological evidence of historical civilizations' existence, such as the culture of Umm an-Nar Culture dated back to the 3rd millennium BC.

Founded as a city in the 18th century, Abu Dhabi became the capital of the United Arab Emirates in 1971

13. Doha

Doha skyscrapers

Doha is the capital of Qatar, located in the middle of the east coast of the Qatar Peninsula on the Persian Gulf coast. The city is famous for its abundance of mosques and modern buildings. 

In the 19th century, Doha was a small village of fishermen and pearl seekers next to the largest town then in Qatar, Al Bidda. In 1916, Doha became the capital of the British Protectorate of Qatar, and since 1971 it has been the capital of an independent state.

12. Kuwait City

Kuwait City is the capital of Kuwait, a port city on Kuwait Bay in the Persian Gulf. It is one of the most modern cities in the Middle East, growing by large oil fields discovered in 1934 in the coastal deserts.

The town of Kuwait was a fishing village in the 17th century. From the beginning of the 18th century, it quickly became an important transit trade axis between Arabia and India. In 1961, Kuwait became an independent state from British protectorates and Kuwait City as its capital.

11. Damascus

Damascus is the capital of Syria, located 80 km / 50 mi from the Mediterranean and sheltered by the Anti-Lebanon mountains. Titled the City of Jasmine, it is one of the oldest cities in the world. Its Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. 

The first historical information about Damascus dates back to the 15th century BC when the Egyptian pharaohs ruled the city. Between the 7th and the 8th century, Damascus was the capital of the Caliphate of Umayyad. From the 16th century to 1918, it was a part of the Ottoman Empire. In the 20th century, after Syria gained independence from the French Mandate in 1946, Damascus became the capital of the Syrian Arab Republic.

10. Amman

The uncompleted Roman Temple of Hercules at the Amman Citadel 

Amman is the capital of Jordan, located about 40 km / 25 mi northeast of the Dead Sea.

The territory was conquered by the ancient Assyrians, the Persians, later by the Greeks, the Turks, and the British. In the 18th century BC, Amman (then called Rabbah Ammon) was the capital of the Ammon kingdom. In 1946, Amman became the capital of Jordan.

9. Beirut

Beirut is the capital of Lebanon, located on a narrow Mediterranean peninsula. The city is rich in an abundance of the architectural heritage of different periods and cultures. After the First World War, Beirut passed to France, and in 1943 it became the capital of independent Lebanon.

It is one of the world's oldest still inhabited cities; people live in the area since the Stone Age. Phoenician and Egyptian already mentioned the city in their writings dated to the 15th century BC, then as Berot or Biruta.

In the Old City, there are Phoenician shrines, the remains of Roman buildings (forum, thermal baths, temples, columns), the Byzantine Al-Omari Grand Mosque (the former church of St. John the Baptist, 12th century; rebuilt in 1291), and other historical monuments.

8. Riyadh

Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is one of the fastest expanding cities in the world. Inhabited by about 10.5 million people, it is the third-largest Arab capital city in terms of population.

Approximately four thousand years ago, nomadic Arab tribes lived on the territory of modern Riyadh. In the 6th–7th centuries, Riyadh was a modest settlement, no different from others. Only starting from the 18th century, when the traditional Arab market increased, and when the construction of new religious buildings began actively, it became a vibrant city.

In 1932 Riyadh became the capital of Saudi Arabia. Since 1960, the country reaps profits from the oil trade, and therefore Riyadh has evolved from a relatively isolated place to a large, cosmopolitan megapolis with many modern skyscrapers.

7. Ankara

Designed in a Neoclassical style, Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Mosque is the largest and newest mosque in Ankara

Ankara is the capital of Turkey. Geographically it is close to the center of the country. The distance to the Black Sea is about 400 km / 250 mi, to the Mediterranean – 500 km / 310 mi.

The city, founded in the 7th century BC, was known under the Latin name Ancyra. In the late Byzantine period, a large number of wealthy Greek families lived in the city. It has embraced many civilizations from prehistory to the present day: the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans, and, finally, the Turks.

After Ankara was declared the capital – in 1923, it developed rapidly and became the country's second-most populous city, following Istanbul.

6. Baghdad

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq and one of the largest cities in the Middle East, located on the banks of the Tigris River.

The creation of most of the architectural structures of Baghdad, later recognized as cultural and historical monuments, dates back to the 12–16th centuries. Among them are Zumurrud Mausoleum (early 13th century), Mustansiriya Madrasah (13th century), Gates of Baghdad (13th century), Al-Kadhimiya Mosque (also known as the Golden Mosque; 16th century), and more.

Baghdad was founded in the 8th century by Al-Mansur, the second caliph of the Abbasid dynasty. From the 17th century until the beginning of the 20th century, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. Since 1921, Baghdad has been the capital of Iraq.

5. Baku 

Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city on the coast of the Caspian Sea and in the entire Caucasus region. Its Old Town with Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower is on the World Heritage List since 2000. 

The Absheron District, including the modern city of Baku, was a savannah inhabited by animal and plant wildlife about 100,000 years ago. The earliest human settlement of the region dates back to the Stone Age.

The first mention of Baku in written sources is from the 6th century. Between the 7th and 18th centuries, Arabs, Shirvan Tatars, Persians, and Russians ruled the city. In 1920 Baku became the capital of the Azerbaijan republic.

4. Yerevan 

Rebuilt sections of the ruins of 7th-century Zvartnots Cathedral in Yerevan

Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia, located on the banks of the Hrazdan, the country's largest river. The city has many tourist attractions such as Dancing Fountains in Republic Square, State Opera House, amphitheater complex, ruins of the ancient Erebuni fortress, and the archaeological site of Karmir Blur.

Archaeological data show that the Urartu state fortress and the city of Erebunis on the site of present-day Yerevan were already in the 8th century. In different periods, Romanians, Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Russians ruled the city. Since 1918 Yerevan has been the capital of Armenia.

3. Muscat

Muscat is the capital of Oman, located in the rocky mountains of Hajar, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz.

Since the beginning of the first century, Muscat was an important commercial port between East Africa and Southwest Asia. Several local tribes ruled the city throughout its history, and in historical periods it fell under the control of some external powers such as the Persians and the Portuguese. In 1792 Muscat became the capital of Oman.

2. Nicosia 

Nicosia is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus and partially recognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, located close to the center of the island. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Nicosia remained the only divided capital in Europe as the northern part of the city is under Turkish occupation.

Two and a half thousand years ago, it was the city-state under the name Ledra. When the first Christian priest named Trevelius arrived in the city in 348, it was called Lefkosia. Since the 10th century, it has been the capital of the whole island of Cyprus. 

1. Tbilisi

Old Tbilisi

Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, located by the river Kura in the center of the Caucasus in the eastern part of the country. Until 1936, the name of the city was Tiflis. 

Among the attractions of Tbilisi are Narikala Fortress (4th century), Anchiskati Basilica (6th century), Sioni Cathedral (8th century), and Metekhi Church (13th century).

Archaeological excavations confirm that the territory of Tbilisi was inhabited as early as the 4th century BC. The oldest source dates back to the second half of the 4th century when the king of Iberia Aspakur II built a fortress in these places. Since the 5th century, the city serves as the capital of various Georgian kingdoms and republics, although it was repeatedly under foreign control.

The World's Oldest Capital Cities

For the oldest capital cities in other parts of the world, read:

Save this post on Pinterest!

West Asia