Africa and the Middle East are considered the birthplace of humanity. These areas are home to ancient civilizations, awe-inspiring natural wonders, and some of the most spiritually significant cities in the world. Not to mention the dozens of rich, unique cultures and billions of people that live there. The cities of Africa and the Middle East are excellent destinations for all once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Whether the savanna is your thing or you prefer to explore the urban jungle, you should book your next trip to a popular city in Africa or the Middle East.

01Africa's Most-Visited City

A haunting shot of Johannesburg during a thunder storm THEGIFT777 / Getty Images

Johannesburg is the top travel destination of the entire African continent. If learning about your destination’s history is a priority, you need to drop by the Lindfield Victorian House Museum and the home of Nelson Mandela. The Lindfield Victorian House is a captivating recreation of the city during the Victorian era, and the Mandela House serves as a monument to the struggle against Apartheid. To grab some authentic South African food, the Marble Restaurant is a great stop; it spares no effort in authentic recipes and cooking techniques, with a stunning view of the city to boot.

02The Gateway to the Pyramids

The Bent Pyramid, an early example of Egyptian pyramid construction HomoCosmicos / Getty Images

Cairo is a beautiful city with something to show for every part of Egypt’s 5,000-year history. The Museum of Egyptian Antiques boasts 120,000 antiques, but most visitors come to Cairo as a stepping-off point to visit the pyramids. Over ten million people visit the imposing Giza Necropolis every year. Fewer people visit the Pyramid Fields of Dahshur, which includes distinct, impressive pyramids such as the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.

03The Heart of The World's Fastest-Growing Religion

MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA

Mecca is the holiest city of Islam, the second-largest religion in the world. As a result, Mecca draws millions of religious pilgrims every year to Saudi Arabia. Besides pilgrimages, Mecca is a leading destination for tourism among the Muslims of the world. Pilgrims and travelers alike climb Mount Arafat, an impressive mountain of granite. The spectacular Masjid al-Haram mosque is another leading destination, consisting of a traditional style of Arabian architecture that's at once simple and elaborate. In all, when it comes to the history of religion and spirituality, Mecca can't be beat. However, Saudi Arabia currently bars non-Muslims from entering the city.

04The Birthplace of Three Religions

The Dome on the Rock jutting out of the Israeli skyline stellalevi / Getty Images

Jerusalem draws religious pilgrims from each of the Abrahamic religions. This city is a melting pot of religion and culture, where modernity meets ancient history. You can visit the Old City and head to the Temple Mount, the birthplace of three religions, and view the shimmering, golden Dome on the Rock. Afterward, you can visit the energetic Machane Yehuda marketplace, home to hundreds of vendors selling food, souvenirs, and countless other goods. The new city of West Jerusalem is a thoroughly modern district that’s home to the Israeli government buildings and Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum.

05The Romantic City of Casablanca

Mlenny / Getty Images

Casablanca’s iconic architecture is a combination of traditional Moorish styles, French colonial styles, and 1920s Art Deco. Casablanca's style is not just international, but eternal. Getting lost in the maze of Old Medina’s winding streets and shops should be on your to-do list. Afterward, you can visit the breathtaking Casablanca Cathedral and if you loved the movie Casablanca, then you ought to enjoy Rick’s Cafe—a cafe inspired by the film.

06The City of World Records

Famous buildings in Abu Dhabi EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / Getty Images

The capital of the United Arab Emirates is one of the most lavish cities in the world, and it draws many tourists with its unique style. Abu Dhabi is the city where you can ride the fastest roller coaster in the world—the Formula Rossa—or visit the Capital Gate building, the most crooked building in the world. You can even use an ATM that takes cash and spits out gold. Abu Dhabi is a global capital of excess, style, and glamorous fun, but there's a lot to more to enjoy there. Once you've had your fill of urban adventure, you can enjoy Abu Dhabi Desert Safari's wild rides across the desert. Go flying over sand dunes in ATVs, go sandboarding, and then retire to shisha lounges and authentic Arabian food.

07Ancient Forts and Towering Skyscrapers

grand mosque - abu dhabi 35007 / Getty Images

The capital of Saudi Arabia is also the financial center of the country, and it draws a huge number of business-related visitors. However, it still attracts a fair share of tourism. You can eat at “The Globe,” an iconic circular restaurant that sits atop the massive Al Falsiyah Center skyscraper. The Masmak Fortress played an important part in the history of the nation, and the government has refurbished it as a museum and monument to Saudi history.

08Nigeria's Rising Star

The Lekki Ikoyi Bridge in Lagos Effi / Getty Images

Lagos is the largest city of Nigeria, as well as the cultural, economic, and political capital of the country. Any art lovers should visit the Nike Art Center, which has many exhibits on traditional Nigerian art as well as modern art. If you want to take a break from the busy streets and lively shopping markets, you can walk among the forest canopy and see Nigerian wildlife in their natural habitat at the lush Lekki Conservation Center. What's more, you don't even need to leave the city to visit it!

09See The End of the Continent at Cape Town

The famous African Penguin colony South of Cape Town Bim / Getty Images

Nestled at the Southern tip of Africa, Cape Town draws over a million visitors every year. The Cape of Good Hope truly feels like the end of the world, and a visit there always involves unique sights, such as the thriving penguin colonies South of Cape Town. Nature lovers need to take one of the Hermanus whale-watching tours, where you can see the majestic animals roaming swimming freely through the open ocean.

10The Coolest City in the Middle East

The Tel Aviv oceanfront alexandrumagurean / Getty Images

Arguably the hipster capital of the Middle East, Tel Aviv is a lively artistic and cultural center that draws coffee fanatics, freelancers, and art lovers by the thousand. If that sounds like you, visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The museum is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, and it consists of an angular, modern design that makes the building itself a work of art. Tel Aviv also has ancient historical roots; the city sprung from the Old Jaffa Port, an important location in several Biblical events. You can still visit the ancient port, and spend your time visiting photography and art exhibits, repurposed hangers, exploring the old town, or relaxing by the seaside.