• Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Jordan!

    Jordan: Petra. Go Now!

    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Architecture of Israel

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in Israel, please read this travel warning before going!

The land of modern day Israel has an incredibly long history and their architecture has nearly as impressive a history. However, the land was often under foreign rulers and due to this, during these times received few monumental buildings, meaning there are long stretches of the region's history with no buildings that were built that exist in the present.

In the 900s BC the Phoenicians or Canaanites had formed a fairly uniform fort structure as numerous ruins and stories from this time explain similar layouts, including Hazor from the time of King Solomon. After the fall of the Phoenicians few buildings of note were erected in modern day Israel until the arrival of the Romans.

Numerous building, from about 70 AD, were in the Roman style, or more commonly had Roman elements, however few early structures as a whole have survived. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (300s; primarily rebuilt until the Crusaders in the 1100s and numerous times since) and the pathway to the church (running east) still stand.

The Church of St. John the Baptist (400s; again renovated by the Crusaders in the 1000s) in Jerusalem is a good example of early architecture under Byzantine rule. The Golden Gate in the city walls is also from the Byzantium time period.

With the arrival of Islam in the 600s and 700s AD structures were being built for a new purpose, including mosques. In Jerusalem one of the earliest mosques was built on the land that occupied a temple built by Herod the Great. More important though, the Umayyad Dynasty (based in Damascus, Syria) built one of the greatest early mosques in Jerusalem. This mosque, the al-Aqsa Mosque is no longer standing, but consisted of numerous naves and was in the "hypostyle," which is a series of columns supporting the roof and providing a huge space for worship. Nearly every mosque after this point copied this style. This mosque was also one of the first to have a mihrab, which is a niche that is symbolic of the presence of Prophet Mohammad.

During about this same time the Dome of the Rock (completed in 691) in Jerusalem was built. This structure today serves to commemorate the Prophet Mohammad's ascension to heaven, which it is said he did from this location. The Dome of the Rock is one of the first Islamic monumental buildings to be constructed.

However, the Jews and Christians still lived in Jerusalem during these times. Plus, due to the strong connection with Europe, European styles continued to be built in the region. This was further magnified with the arrival of the Crusaders, who brought with them the Romanesque style, which was still popular in Europe in the 1000s and 1100s.

The Monastery of the Holy Cross (1000s), the Church of St. Anne (1000-1100s), the Cathedral of St. James the Great (400s-1100s), the Church of the Holy Archangels (1200s) are all from this period and are primarily in the Romanesque style. The Triple Suq (or market) is also from the time of the Crusaders.

After the Romanesque architecture, the European styles continued to make an impact on Israel as the Gothic style arrived, but with less fanfare or popularity. This is primarily due to the Muslim victories in the Crusades and their securing the city, leading to more and more Muslim architecture and less Christian or Jewish architecture.

During these years, from about 1200 and later, Islamic architecture incorporated new aspects, including the heavy use of stucco, which originated in Persia, and the increasing amount of tiles and mosaics, which were common in various regions, most notably in Central Asia.

This Islamic dominance continued until the 1800s when the country, most particularly, the city of Jerusalem, became a destination for immigrants once more. This led to an influx of numerous foreign styles. Many Jews from southern Europe brought in Mediterranean architecture as numerous Jewish homes have red roof tiles today. The Russian and German Jews brought styles from their homes. Even the Arabs brought in new styles during this time, from both Europe and other parts of the Islamic world.

In the 1900s the city of Tel Aviv was founded and designed primarily by the Russian (and other Eastern European) Jews. This led it to have aspects of Russian and Polish architecture, while at the same time being almost entirely modern due to its short existence.

Also in the 1900s and into the 2000s, Israel has received modern buildings, which are much easier to build due to the materials and machines created by the Industrial Revolution, including concrete, steel, and cranes. There are numerous modern buildings in the country, most particularly in the city of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv has the best examples of numerous modern styles, including Art Deco, which is best represented in the Mugrabi Cinema.

Modern day Jerusalem hwoever looks and feels much older. Building laws and a desire to maintain the traditional look and feel of this historic city have created modern building in a historic style. Nearly every building in or near Jerusalem's Old Town are built in white sandstone with little other color other than perhaps some black trim. Although this lack of color may seem dull, it creates a feeling of history, even in buildings that have modern interiors.

This page was last updated: March, 2016