The Middle East is an important part of the world known for its prolonged, rich history.

Many Arabs and those living in the region often forget, marginalize and neglect the fact that this part of the world doesn't lack surprise and novelty.

Here are some fun and fascinating facts about the Middle East to emphasize its ever-standing characteristics:

1. A True History

Roman-Syrians knew what the future had in store long before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and Leif Eriksson "found" America.

In what is arguably the first fantasy book, True History tells the stories of the first encounter with aliens, the discovery of a new continent in the West, and explorers flying to the moon.

Lucian of Samosata was a Syrian writer in the second century who knew Greek. He wrote this book as a parody, mocking all adventures and creatures that used to be featured in old tales.

2. Hamsters

The small, cute and lovable gerbils were firstly discovered in Syria in 1797. 

In 1930, Israel Aharoni, a zoologist from the University of Jerusalem, captured Syrian hamsters - originally called golden hamsters - in order to subject them to medical research

After scientists bred them, they delivered them to multiple laboratories around the world.

The hamsters you see in pet shops today are most likely the descendants of the same furry animals which were bred in 1930.

3. Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed is an action-adventure video game revolving around a war between the "Assassins" - fighting for peace and freedom - and the "Templars" - those convinced that peace will reign only if humanity is controlled.

Little do players of this video game know that the Assassins depicted in it are based on actual assassins who existed between the 11th and 13th century in Syria and Persia (modern day Iran) and were known as "Hashishiyyin".

4. Suing NASA

In 1997, CNN reported that three Yemenis sued NASA for invading Mars after the agency sent out the Pathfinder spacecraft and the Sojourner rover to explore the red planet

According to the three Yemeni men, they "inherited the planet" from their ancestors 3,000 years prior to the incident. 

They also had papers to prove it. 

All claims of owning the planet were later dismissed. 

5. Mocha

Mocha is a delicious drink in which coffee and chocolate are mixed. 

The word mocha is actually derived from Mocha, a port in Yemen on the Red Sea. 

Up until 1990, the latter was the primary port to export Arabian coffee (a strong, dark brown coffee) to the world.

6. An "alien-looking" place on Earth

The Socotra Island is a hot, dry island situated in the Indian Ocean. 

It makes up an archipelago of four islands in the Arabian Sea and is part of Yemen. 

Also called "The Socotra Island of strange plants," it is pretty isolated, yet inhabited by some 44,000 people. 

Due to its diminutive population, this island contains 700 extremely rare species of animals and plants

In total, 1/3 of its flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else on earth.

7. Importing sand and camels?!

Even though Saudi Arabia is well-known for its wide deserts and camel-back riding, the country is importing sands and camels from Australia. 

Mainly using camels to carry people and goods, Saudis don't find their "ships of the desert" tasty.  

Apparently, Australian camels are fatter and more delicious. While the sand found in the kingdom is not fit for construction.

8. 20-foot mushrooms

Giant mushroom, Saudi Arabia
The giant fungus unearthed in Saudi Arabia in 2007 Source: YouTube

In 2007, American scientists discovered a giant "20-foot fungus" in Saudi Arabia.

It is believed that these mushrooms dominated the Saudi territory; that is until they became extinct 350 million years ago.

9. Springs are drying up

The springs in Saudi Arabia are rapidly drying up because of the country's unbalanced farming techniques.

If this persists, the country may have to import all its food in the near future.

10. The name "Muhammad"

"Muhammad" is the most popular baby name in the world. 

Around 150 million men and boys have the same name as the prophet of Islam.