SYRIA CITIES & SITES
An outward looking port city, Lattakia has a lively, cosmopolitan, free-spirited feel to it. Built in the 2nd century B.C. by the Seleucids, Lattakia once welcomed St. Peter and Marc Antony to its shores. ….
Beautifully situated at the top of a hill overlooking the fertile Afrin Valley near the border with Turkey, Ain Dara reveals ruins beneath the layers of its tell that date back to the Neo-Hittite period at the beginning of the first millennium B.C.
Set in a largely deserted agricultural area with the sea glistening in the background, Amrit was an ancient religious center built as a complement to the Phoenician port settlement on the nearby island of Arwad.
Bara is one of the greatest of the Byzantine ’Dead Cities,’ both in terms of size and variety of remains. In the heart of Syria’s northern limestone plateau, Bara was once a dynamic center of communication and agriculture.
Second most important site of Roman influence in all Syria, Bosra is famed for its exceptionally intact Roman Theater –it became one of the leading Nabatean cities before becoming capital of the Roman province of Arabia in 106 A.D.
Opened in 1996 under the auspices of the Free University of Berlin, Deir ez-Zor’ s archeological museum is one of Syria’s very best, well laid-out and thoughtfully presented, with excellent reconstructions including prehistoric housing and a Mari temple.
Descend deeper into the Anti-Lebanon valley to secluded Deir Mar Mousa, a living monastic community dedicated to interreligious communion. The monastery was named for St. Moses the Abyssinian, the son of an Ethiopian king who renounced his kingdom for that of God.
Established at the beginning of the Hellenistic period as an important military colony designed to protect the lower Euphrates river, Dura Europos offers a fascinating glimpse into the early representational art of the Christian and Jewish traditions.
Thought to have been the oldest city in Syria, Ebla was only discovered in 1964 and is still in the process of excavation, giving its visitors an excellent glimpse into archeological work in progress.
During his reign from 527-565, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian consolidated this site, originally built by the Palmyrene Queen Zenobia, to protect his Empire against Persian encroachment from across the Euphrates River.
A ruined temple situated within a sheltered amphitheater in the mountains, this wild and rocky location, surprisingly verdant and cool, consists of gigantic half-collapsed ruins which were a site for cult worship for thousands of years.
Like other Arab fortresses of the period, Qalaat Jaber uses a central core of high ground, tightly circumscribed by defensive walls and a ditch. It once overlooked an important crossing point on the Euphrates, and has gained in visual impact with the encroachment of the waters of Lake Assad to the base of the castle.
Krak des Chevaliers is the most spectacular but least known medieval castle in the world. 65 km (40 miles) West of Homs at 650 m (1985 ft) above sea level, it has unbelievable architecture and occupies a strategic location overlooking the Christian Valley (Wadi al-Nasarah).
Located just 60 kilometers from Damascus, Maalula attracts visitors both for its charm, and for its importance in the history of Syrian Christianity. Homes in Maalula are gaily painted in violet and blue pastels, and perched abreast an imposing gorge between two mountains.
Discovered in 1933, the archeological site of Mari holds one of the most important keys to our understanding of the ancient Mesopotamian world, and has been described as the definitive third millennium B.C. royal city-state par excellence.
North of Tartous and 500 m (1640 ft) above sea level, this enormous castle with its 14 towers juts out from its huge walls overlooking the sea. The Citadel was built with black basalt stone and was designed to accommodate one thousand people
The bird of the desert’, located 243 km (151 miles) NE of Damascus and 160 km (99 miles) East of Homs. Its central geographic position made it the most important commercial center between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean Sea.
Qalb Lozeh, or ’The Heart of the Almond’ in Arabic, is one of only a few Druze enclaves that has survived in the Ala mountains since the tenth century, far from the main Druze population center in the south near Suweida.
Striking for its barren desert location, its orange walls rising seemingly from nothing, this castle was built in around 700 A.D. by the Umayyads, Islam’s first dynasty. The fortress served both as a stop on caravan routes from Mesopotamia to Syria.
Completed in 564, the last year of Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s reign, Qasr Ibn Wardan is in architectural terms perhaps the most remarkable and graceful of the Byzantine defensive outposts designed to ward off Persian invasion from the East.
The war-ravaged town of Quneitra owes its current misfortune to its location beside the Golan Heights and crossroads leading to four different countries. Quneitra was destroyed during the Syrian-Israeli war in 1967.
Founded by Alexander the Great himself, and later an important fortress on the front line between the Christian and Persian empires, Raqqa finally served in Islamic times as the summer capital of the Abbasid empire.
Rising from the desert seemingly in the middle of nowhere, this fortified settlement was built in Byzantine times as a defense against the Sassanian Persian threat. The site itself has even earlier roots, and is even mentioned in the Old Testament.
East of Lattakia at 410 m (1345 ft) above sea level, the castle stands on a rocky spur surrounded by two natural trenches that makes it completely isolated if the drawbridge is drawn. The castle dates back to the prosperous days of the Phoenicians (1000 B.C.)
Like its sister village of Maalula just 30 kilometers away, Seidnaya – in arabic Our Lady, is renowned for its picturesque views and Christian heritage. After Jerusalem, Seidnaya has been the most famous center for Christian pilgrimage in the east since the sixth century A.D.
One of the most interesting and visited of the ’dead cities’ near Aleppo, Serjilla, located in a natural basin opening out to the south, comprises extensive remains of a complete Byzantine settlement, including houses, a church, baths, tombs and sarcophagi.
Famous for its mosaics and monuments dating from the 3rd century A.D., Shahba is thought to be the only town in Syria the Romans built from scratch and one of the most important architectural legacies of their rule in the East.
Also known as Qala’at Sama’an in Arabic, this site bears the name of the ascetic Saint Simeon who spent the last twenty-seven years of his life in hermetic isolation on the top of a column.
In 1928, at a site just north of Lattakia, archeologists unearthed one of the most spectacular finds in Syria: the complete Kingdom of Ugarit, ’probably the first great international port in history.