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Over the past century, urban development and expansion have robbed many of the world's towns and cities of their old-world charm. However, there are certain wonderful pockets of the globe that still provide us with unique snapshots of the past. These towns have changed little since their heyday, allowing us to get a first-hand view of life in a bygone era.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest, most famous cities in the world. While its beauty is unquestionable, Jerusalem's appeal runs deeper, as the spiritual nexus of three major world religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. As such, the city contains a wealth of religious landmarks and sites which, despite their age, remain remarkably well preserved. Jerusalem has seen countless sieges and attacks throughout its 6,000-year history, yet in its Old Town, relics of the ancient world seem to defy time.
Dubbed by Lord Byron as the "pearl of the Adriatic," Dubrovnik is one of the finest examples of a town that has retained virtually all of its authentic old-world charm. Towering stone walls surround the white-marble streets, as do stunning Byzantine-era buildings and churches.
Once a major sea power and trade city, Dubrovnik's beauty has endured for over five centuries, despite years of turmoil. In 1667, the city was rebuilt after a major earthquake leveled many of its buildings, and more recently, a massive restoration project returned the city to its original glory after Serb shelling caused severe damage during Croatia's War of Independence.
At roughly 4,000 years old, Luxor is one of the oldest inhabited towns in the world. Built around the ancient capital city of Thebes, this site is of such grand historical splendor, that it has earned a reputation as the "world's greatest open air museum." In the 19th century, European settlers caught wind of this ancient wonderland, and it soon gained notoriety as one of Egypt's premiere tourist attractions. However, it remains incredibly well preserved, offering an unparalleled view of a fully-formed ancient Egyptian settlement.
Buenos Aires stands out with a decidedly old-world flavor. The city's neoclassical architecture and café culture lend a surprisingly European feel. On a stroll down the avenues of Buenos Aires' downtown district, it's easy to think that little has changed since the colonial era, when the city underwent rapid expansion. However, the new multiculturalism that has swept the city in recent years has added a renewed energy and panache to the mix, as well as some world-class cuisine.
Lamu Old Town, Kenya
Lamu is undoubtedly the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Separated from the mainland by a narrow channel and protected by barriers of coral reefs and mangroves, this old town has retained many traditional functions for centuries. Over its 700-year history, Lamu has had a significant impact on the region's religious and cultural traditions. Today, the town still holds an important place at the center of Swahili and Islamic culture in the area. Despite an increase in tourism in recent years, the narrow streets and ancient stone buildings remain unchanged after centuries.