The name of Syria comes from the ancient Greek name for the land of Aram at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Arabia to the south and Cilicia to the north, stretching inland to include Mesopotamia, and having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including from west to east Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene, “formerly known as Assyria” (N.H. 5.66). By Pliny’s time, however, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of smaller regions: “Palestine” (formerly known as Israel, now the states of Israel and Jordan) in the extreme southwest, Phoenicia along the coast, with Damascena to the inland side of Phoenicia, Coele-Syria (or “Hollow Syria”) north of the Eleutheris river, and Mesopotamia. Geographical Syria: located at the meeting point among the Africa, Asia and Euope makes an important stop point for all travelers. The strategic importance of Syria is due to its unique position at the meeting point of three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe, and at the crossroads between the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Nile. The Silk Road led from China to Doura- Europos (Salhieh), from Palmyra, and Homs to Syria’s coastal ports on the Mediterranean. This geographical position lent distinction to the country, not only as a trade and caravan route but also as a melting-pot of ideas, beliefs and talents. During the Greek and Roman eras, Syria was a center for culture and politics. Several Roman emperors were natives of Syria. Greater Syria was central to the rise of the world’s monotheistic religions. Christianity began its expansion from there. Antioch in the north, was the home of the first Christian community in the first century AD. The oldest churches in the world are in Syria. When Islam spread to Syria, Damascus became the capital of the Islamic Empire under the Umayyad Caliphate.
It is the second capital of Syria (350 km north of Damascus), and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the history. Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis which, long before his time, served as the foundation of a fortress (where the Allepo citadel is standing now). He milked his grey cow there, hence Allepo’s name is “Halab al-Shahba”. Allepo was famous for its architecture, its attractive churches, mosques, schools, tombs and baths. As an important center of trade between the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms and the merchants of Venice, Allepo became prosperous and famous in the centuries preceding the Ottoman era. Many of its “khans” (caravanserai) are still in use even today.One of them is called “Banadiqa Khan”, “Banadiqa” in Arabic being the term for “inhabitants of Venice”.
This is the only island in Syria, and it is located 3 kms from Tartus. It was an independent kingdom named Aradus in the days of Canaanites. It was often mentioned in inscriptions because of its importance in commerce and seafaring. Arwad provided shelter for those escaping from foreign invasions in ancient times, especially for the people of Amrit in the south of Tartus. Arwad Island Amrit still retains its name since the 5th century B.C. It has a temple surrounded by water. Arwad is a beautiful small island, with a mass of houses and fortresses with narrow lanes. It has many cafes and restaurants overlooking Tartus and the sea. Its ancient citadel was used as a prison for the nationalists during the resistance against the French. The walls of some cells in this citadel are still covered with the writings of the nationalists.
Situated in the vast Hawran plain, some 145 kilometers south of Damascus. It is an extremely ancient city mentioned in the lists of Tutmose III and Akhenaten in the fourteenth century B.C. The first Nabatean city in the second century B.C., it bore the name Buhora, but during the Hellenistic period, it was known by the name of Bustra. Later the Romans took an active interest in the city, and at the time of the Emperor Trajan it was made the capital of the Province of Arabia (in 106 B.C.) and was called Neatrajana Bustra. The city saw its greatest period of prosperity and expansion then, became a crossroads on the caravan routes and the official seat and residence of the Imperial Legate. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Bosra played a significant role in the history of early Christianity. It was also linked to the rise of Islam, when a Nestorian monk called Bahira, who lived in the city, met the young Muhammad when his caravan stopped at Bosra, and predicted his prophetic vocation and the faith he was going to initiate.
The Capital of Syria and an evidence on the history exploring different stuff of civilizations, part from Christians, part of Islamic civilization and other parts of different civil during lots of times around the history.
The Wall and Gates:
The Wall was built in the Roman era with large, tapered stones. It was oblong in shape, designed in the manner of Roman military camps, cities, and fortifications. There are seven gates in it: Bab Sharqi, Bab Al-Jabieh, Bab Keissan, Bab al-Saghir, Bab Tuma, Bab al-Jeniq, and Bab al-Faradiss. The main thoroughfare traversed the city from Bab al-Jabieh to Bab Sharqi; on both sides there were Corinthian columns, and cross it numerous triumphal arches. But this thoroughfare has been submerged over the years to about six meters underground, and has been superseded by Souq al-Tawil of Midhat Pasha, under which are occasionally discovered some Roman columns, especially when road works are in progress.
This Great Mosque stands at the heart of the Old city at the end of Souq al-Hamidiyeh. It was built by the Omayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn Abdul Malek in 705 A.D. when Damascus was the capital of the Arab Islamic Empire. It was constructed on the site of what has always been a place of worship: first, a temple for Hadad, the Aramean god of the ancient Syrians three thousand years ago, then, a pagan temple (the temple of Jupiter the Damascene) during the Roman era. It was later turned into a church called John the Baptist when Christianity spread in the fourth century. Following the Islamic conquest in 635, Muslims and Christians agreed to partition it between them, and they began to perform their rituals side by side.
Azem Palace is a palace in Damascus, Syria which was originally built in 1750 as a residence for the Ottoman governor of Damascus As’ad Pasha al-Azm. The palace now houses the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions. The architecture is an excellent example of Damascene traditional houses. The structure itself consists of several buildings and two wings: the harem and the salamlik. The harem is the family wing, which is a private space for the residents (the Azm family originally). This wing includes the kitchen, servant quarters, and the baths, which are a replica of the public baths in the city but on a smaller scale. The salamlik is the guest wing, and it comprises the formal halls, reception areas and large courtyards with traditional cascading fountains. Used in the building of this palace were several types of stones including limestone, sandstone, basalt, and marble. This provided for a natural decorative appearance of the structure. The ceilings have painted wooden panels that display natural scenes. In 1925, the Azm palace was heavily damaged by French artillery during the Syrian revolution. It has since been restored and became a museum of arts and folk traditions. It received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1983.
The only fortress in Syria built on the same level as the city, it does not top a hill or a mountain like all other castles and citadels. It was erected by the Seljuks in 1078 A.D. with masonry taken from the city wall, and turned into a heavily-fortified citadel surrounded by walls, towers, a moat and trenches. Inside, they built houses, baths, mosques, and schools it was a city within a city. At the height of Crusader raids and attacks, it was used as residence for the sultans of Egypt and Syria such as Nureddin, Saladin, and al-Malek al-Adel.
Bimaristan Al _Nouri:
To the south of Souq al-Hamidiyeh, this was built by Nureddin in the twelfth century as a hospital, and financed by ransom money to the amount of 300,000 dinars paid by a Crusader king held captive. During the Ottoman period it was converted into a school for girls, and it now houses the Museum of Arab Medicine and Science. It contains the most exquisite examples of decorative inscriptions used for the first time during Nureddin’s reign to replace the traditional kufi inscription
The tomb is next door to the north gate of the Umayyad Mosque. It was originally part of al-Azizieh School built by Uthman, Saladin’s son in the twelfth century. The whole interior is decorated with polychrome marble mosaics.
St. Paul’s Church:
It commemorates the memory of St. Paul, whose name was Saul of Tarsus, charged by the Romans to persecute the Christians. As he approached the village of Daraya, a burst of blinding light took his sight away, and he heard Jesus Christ ask him “Saul, why do you persecute me? This was a vision of faith. He was taken unconscious to Damascus, attended by Hananiya, Christ’s disciple, and became one of the staunchest advocates of Christianity. His Jewish peers decided to kill him, but he hid in a house by the city wall. The church is located at the site of his escape. He traveled to Antioch, Athens, and Rome, after a brief stay in Jerusalem and continued to teach the gospel until he died
Hama is situated between Homs and Aleppo on banks of the Orontes river, is an important agricultural and industrial center. Except for Damascus, Hama is considered the most picturesque city in Syria and one may wish to take time to relax in its attractive gardens along river banks. Hama has been settled since the early Iron Age. In book of Joshua, Hama is mentioned at the time when the land was divided up between the 12 tribes. It is also mentioned in Kings II as the source for the settlers the Assyrians moved into Samaria, after depopulating the cities of Holy land. The chief attraction of Hama are the great norias (waterwheels). Originating in Byzantine times, the oldest surviving wheels date from the 13th century. The norias, which all have given names, were used to raise water from the river into aqueducts. The purpose of the wheels nowadays is purely decorative and of historical interest. Hama’s Museum, housed in Beit Al-Azem (Azem Mansion) is a splendid example of 18th century Ottoman architecture. There are lovely courtyards with central fountains, mosaics, richly decorated wood ceilings and paneled walls, marble floors and wax models of various aspects of Syrian life in bygone days illustrating the sumptuousness of a Pasha’s life. There are numerous mosques and Greek Orthodox churches worth a visit, as well as the aqueducts and of course, Hama Citadel which was once a site of an 11th century BC royal palace and later a Muslim fortress.
Homs is the third largest city in Syria and is located 160 km north of Damascus. It is strategically located between Damascus and Aleppo and is not far from Hama to the north, Palmyra to the southeast, and the coast to the west. See Maps for locations and distances. An industrial city in the fertile Orontes River (al-Assi) Valley, Homs was once the ancient city of Emesa, which held a temple to the sun god Elagabal (it’s alleged to be where high priest Heliogabalus became emperor of Rome). Homs is now known for its silk goods. Prime attractions of Homs are the Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Great Mosque and the ruins of the underground monastery and chapel of the Syrian Aramain Church. Other attractions include the Citadel, Al Nouri Mosque, Kaneesat Um Zummar, Kaneesat Mar Elian the ancient souks and the cities proximity of the formidable Medieval castle Krak Des Chevaliers (Qalaat al-Hosn). Homs is an ancient city dating back to the year 2300 B.C. it contains a number of installations and castles, but earthquakes had destroyed most of the historical landmarks. Only the remains of one citadel built above a rocky hill south of the city with two gates and a wall remained intact. The two gates are: Bab Sham (Damascus) and the Bab Palmyra. The most important historical building in the city is the mosque and tomb of the Arab Moslem leader Khaled Bin Al-Walid who lived in Homs for the last seven years of his life. This building is distinguished by its metal dome which reflects sunshine. It is also famous for its two high minarets and narrow galleries built with black and white stones in a horizontal manner. Another mosque in the city Al-Nouri Mosque, which dates back to the twelfth century. There is also the Kaneesat Um Zummar church which was named after a piece of cloth said to have belonged to the Virgin Mary that was found underneath the alter during renovations in the 1950’s. Another church in the area is Kaneesat Mar Elian church which also had discovered beautiful wall paintings and mosaic in the 1970’s during renovations. It also contains Arab and Greek scripts dating back to the twelfth century AD and even as far back as the sixth century. Between Homs and Tartus, the Krak Des Chevaliers (Qalaat al-Hosn) is the most important castle of the middle ages. It is located 65 km west of Homs and reaches a summit of 750 meters above sea level. The castle controls a strategic passage called the Homs gap in the Orontes Valley. The castle was erected covers an area of 3 hectares and has 13 towers containing a number of halls, stores, passages, stables and bridges. Around Homs – Other places of interest around Homs, include al-Rastan, Meshta al-Helu (Resort Town), Mar Jourjous (Monastery of St. George), Wadi al-Nasara (collection of Christian villages surrounding Qalaat al-Hosn), al-Mishrefeh and Lake Qattina.
Latakia is Syria’s main sea-port on the Mediterranean. It lies 186 km southwest of Aleppo, 348 km northwest of Damascus. It has retained its importance since ancient times. Though there is evidence to suggest continuous settlement here stretching back to 1000 BC, Latakia only came to prominence in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquest, when is was transformed into a major city of the Seleucid empire. Renamed in honour of Loadicea, the mother of Alexander the Great’s general Seleucus I Nicator, it developed into an important port and becoming the main supplier of wine to the Hellenistic period. The town was briefly declared capital of Syria in the late second century AD by Septimius Severus. Devastating earthquakes in 494 and 555 badly damaged Latakia, but was rebuilt by Justinian before being seized by the invading Arab army in 638. After being captured by the Crusaders in 1097, the town oscillated between Muslim and Christian control for nearly a century, until it was retaken by Saladin in 1188. Some attractions in the city include a museum, that was an old Ottoman khan which served as the governor’s residence during the French mandate. The museum houses some interesting examples of pottery, glassware, clay tablets from nearby Ugarit, and contemporary paintings. Another attraction to the city is a Roman gateway (Tetraparticus) that consists of four columns. The Syrian seashore is about 182 km long and its numerous beaches are distinguished by soft sand, unpolluted sea, moderate climate and clear blue skies. The Blue Beach of Latakia is the most popular beach on the Eastern Mediterranean. Water-skiing, jet-skiing, and windsurfing are popular activities in this resort town. Nearby are two hotels, the Cham Cote d’Azur Hotel and Lé Merdien Latakia Hotel. The Syrian coast consists of long stretches of beaches and green mountains. These mountains are mostly covered with pine and oak trees, and their slopes touch the shore. This landscape repeats itself from Ras Al-Basit in the north to Tartus in the south. On the mountains, villages and towns are scattered, with springs of clear mineral water. Surrounding attractions, include Ugarit at Ras Shamra, Qalaat Saladin – a formidable castle that has been well preserved, Slunfeh, Kassab and Ras al-Bassit.
Palmyra (or Tadmor in Arabic) lies in the heart of Syrian Desert, and is often described as the bride of the desert. Its magnificent remains hint at a heroic history during the reign of Queen Zenobia. The Oasis, as Palmyra is sometimes called, is located near a hot-water spring called Afqa, which made it an ideal stop for caravans moving between Iraq and Al-Sham (present day Syria, Lebanon, Holy Land and Jordan), trading in silk from China to the Mediterranean. This strategic location made Palmyra prosper as a kingdom from the 2nd century BC. After the Romans conquered Syria, Palmyra flourished and became known as the city of palm-trees. When Emperor Adrian visited Palmyra, he declared it a free city; in return, people of Palmyra gratefully renamed their city Adrianapalmyra. Rome’s Severus emperors, who were originally Syrian, came to rule Palmyra, and treated its people well. Emperor Caracalla declared it a Roman colony, which ushered in new streets, arches, temples and statues, making Palmyra one of the greatest cities of the Roman empire. When conflict between Persia and Rome reached its crisis, Rome called on the ruler of Palmyra for help. This ruler, Auzaina, managed to withstand Persian armies, which led Romans to call him ‘leader of East’. But he was soon assassinated in mysterious circumstances, and his second wife, Queen Zenobia, a woman renowned for her iron will, took power. Zenobia ruled Palmyra in a way that astonished both West and East. She was exceptionally intelligent and attractive, a gifted linguist, and spoke Palmyrian, Greek and Egyptian eloquently. Queen Zenobia decided to usurp the Roman domination. In 268AD, during the reign of Emperor Aurelian, she decided to conquer all of Rome’s territories. With Aurelian preoccupied with internal conflicts and external wars, Queen Zenobia was able to annexe the whole of Syria, conquer Egypt and send armies to Asia Minor – gaining control of all land and sea ways to the Far East. She took the title of August, which was until then only used by the emperor of Rome. However, Emperor Aurelian took quick revenge. He formed a new army which proceeded through Turkey to conquer Zenobia’s army in their first defensive position in Homs. The Romans besieged Palmyra until it fell in 274. Queen Zenobia was defeated, taken captive and forcibly relocated to Rome. Fettered by chains of gold, she poisoned herself. The destiny of the great kingdom of Palmyra was no better than that of its queen; the city fell prey to looting and destruction. Archaeologists are still working on excavations here in order to uncover the queen’s palace, which was destroyed by Romans and replaced by a military camp. Queen Zenobia’s ambitious dream is still embodied in the magnificent remains of what she built. Palmyra’s ruins, which covers an area of 6 square kilometers, require a mimimum full day visit to take in the beauty of the remaining architecture such as Baal-Shamin temple, bel temple, arch of triumph, the amphitheater, the baths, the straight street, the congress council and the cemeteries.
Resafa, known in Roman times as Sergiopolis, was a city located in what is now modern-day Syria. It is an archaeological site situated south-west of the city of Ar Raqqah and the Euphrates. The site dates back to the 9th century BC, when a military camp was built by the Assyrians. During Roman times it was a desert outpost fortified to defend against the Sassanids. It flourished as its location on the caravan routes linking Aleppo, Dura Europos, and Palmyra was ideal. Resafa had no spring or running water, so it depended on large cisterns to capture the winter and spring rains. Resafa was planted right in the path of the Persian-Byzantine wars, and was therefore a well-defended city that had massive walls that surrounded it without a break. It also had a fortress. In the 4th century, it became a pilgrimage town for Christians coming to venerate Saint Sergius. Sergius was a Roman soldier who was persecuted for his Christian faith. Sergius was brought to Resafa for his execution, and there he became a martyr for the city. A church was built to mark his grave, and the city was renamed Sergiopolis.
Tartus is the Syria’s second most important coast after Latakia. It is roughly 90 km from Homs, 251 km from Damascus, 105 km from Hama, and 90 km from Latakia. See Map for distances between cities. Tartus was founded by the Phoenician colony on Arwad and remained an important settlement through the Hellenistic and Roman times. It became a major Christian stronghold and during the fourth century a chapel but was built here which is claimed to be the first dedicated to the Virgin Mary. An Earthquake in 487 AD largely destroyed the chapel but a miracle left its alter miraculously unscathed. Later the city and cathedral were attacked by Saladin forces but the Knights Templars defended the fortified city and it prevailed to be a Crusader town until 1291. Besides the Cathedral, other attractions include the old city and a city wall that preserves the beauty of the old city. The beaches and water are clean, and the accommodations are excellent. There are many hotels and restaurants in the area. Just 3 km off the coast of Tartus is Syria’s only island Arwad. It was an independent kingdom named Aradus in the days of the Canaanites. It was often mentioned in inscriptions because of its importance in commerce and seafaring. Arwad provided shelter for those escaping from foreign invasions in ancient times, especially for the people of Amrit in the south of Tartus. Amrit still retains its name since the 5th century BC. It has a temple surrounded by water. Arwad is a beautiful, small island, with a mass of houses and fortresses and narrow lanes. It has many cafes and restaurants overlooking Tartus and the sea. Its ancient citadel was used as a prison for the nationalists during the resistance against the French. The walls of some cells in this citadel are still covered with the writings of the nationalists. Other nearby attractions include Baniyas, Qalaat Yahmur, Qalaat Areimeh, Draykish, Qalaat Kadmous, Amrit, Safita, Crac des Chevaliers, Meshta al-Helu, and the Monastery of St. George.
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