Tyre & Sidon (united between 10th and 9th centuries BC, divided around the beginning of the 7th century BC)

© UNESCO/V. Dauge

Tyre and Sidon were the two most important cities of Phoenicia. Characterized by natural coves during the Bronze Age, the cities had artificial harbor infrastructure after the first millennium BC. After the burial of the ancient basins, after the first millennium AD, the two harbours remained exceptionally preserved due to the preservation properties of the sedimentary context and the presence of the water table.

Stone Town of Zanzibar

© UNESCO/J. Jafferji

The Stone Town of Zanzibar is a great example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa and is one of the most significant port cities of the Swahili culture. During several centuries a tremendous commercial maritime activity has bound Asia to Africa, while the diverse influences underlying the Swahili culture mixing Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements made Stone Town also unique. It has flourished as a spice trading center in the 19th century when the city was the capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate.


Siraf is an ancient port city located in the Persian Gulf that prospered during the medieval period with maritime trade. It played an important role in facilitating maritime trade and connecting the Indian Ocean and Chinese routes with maritime routes in the Gulf region. The first connections with South China appear to have taken place in 185. Siraf had its heyday in the 4th century.

Pemba Island

Archaeological excavations conducted on Pemba Island have shown the significance and centrality of the location within the Swahili coastal trading system from the 7th century AD. Urban settlements were later developed on the northern coast of the island from the 11th to the 16th centuries, flourishing from the maritime trade in the region.

Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara

© UNESCO/R. Van Oers

Located on two islands close to the shore at 180 miles south from Dar es-Salaam are the remains of two port cities, Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara. Kilwa Kisiwani has been occupied from the 9th century to the 19th century and saw its heyday between the 13th and the 14th centuries. These Swahili merchant cities prospered by controlling the maritime trade in the Indian Ocean with Arabia, India and China, trading ivory and gold from inland for silver, perfume, Persian earthenware and Chinese porcelain.

Failaka Island

Located 60 miles south of where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers empty into the Persian Gulf, Failaka Island has been a strategic location since the rise of Ur, the great ancient Mesopotamian city during the third millennium BC. From that location the maritime trade that passed by the Persian Gulf could be protected. Two harbors were built on the Island, and potable water and fertile soil allowed its occupation among the centuries.

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