Iraq is sometimes called the “Cradle of Civilization” as it was home to the earliest known civilisation, the Sumerian civilisation, which arose in the fertile Tigris-Euphrates river valley of southern Iraq. It was here, in the late 4th millennium BC, that the world’s first writing system, mathematics, astronomy and recorded history itself were born. The legendary capital, Baghdad, contained much beautiful architecture from the medieval Islamic period however conflicts in more recent decades have taken their toll. Adventurous travellers can still visit the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, travel the winding mountain roads through dramatic scenery, pleasant towns, orchards and waterfalls in the Kurdish Autonomous region, explore a lively bazaar with people selling colourful rugs, jewellery and copperware, or take a boat ride down the Euphrates River.
Syria is a country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts. A number of Syria’s archaeological and historic features have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites; these include the ancient cities of Damascus, Aleppo, and Bostra, the site of Palmyra, and the Crusader-period fortresses of Krak des Chevaliers (“Castle of the Knights”) and Qalʿat Salāḥ al-Din (“Fortress of Saladin”).