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Aleppo is situated 350 km north of Damascus. It is the second capital of Syria and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history. Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis which, long before his time, served as the foundation of a fortress (where the Aleppo citadel is standing now). He milked his grey cow there, hence Aleppo's name: "Halab al-Shahba". Ever since the 3rd millennium B.C., Aleppo has been a flourishing city, with a unique strategic position. This position gave the city a distinctive role from the days of the Akhadian and Amorite kingdoms until modern times. It was the meeting-point of several important commercial roads in the north. This enabled Aleppo to be the link in trade between Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent and Egypt. The Amorites made it their capital in the 18th century B.C. Aleppo is famous for its architecture; for its attractive churches, mosques, schools, tombs and baths. As an important center of trade between the eastern Mediterranean kingdoms and the merchants of Venice, Aleppo 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". In the Ottoman age, Aleppo remained an important center of trade with turkey, France, England and Holland. This caused various types of European architecture to be adopted in Aleppo which can be seen in many buildings today.

Khan al Wazeer
Najm citadel Aleppo Greek road
Aleppo citadel gate Aleppo castel Great Omayyad mosque in Aleppo

The city of Hama is situated 200 km to the north of Damascus and 60 km to the east of Banyas. It is a very ancient city, which has flourished continually since ancient times, and has known the successive civilizations of the Fertile Crescent.  Hama has a long heroic history in defending Syria against foreign invasions. One of the outstanding battles was that of Qarqar, where the Assyrian army was defeated in 853 B.C. Unfortunately, few of its ancient relics have been preserved. However, Hama is well known for its enormous waterwheels ("noriahs") on the Orontes, which are as old as Hama itself. The water wheels have been lifting water for thousands of years, from Orentes valley up to the village. There used to be more than 22 wheels in Hama. The unceasing sound of the water wheels plays the symphony of Syrian history. One of Hama's ancient building is al-Jami' al-Kabir (the Great Mosque), which dates back to the 14th century and includes two tombs of two emirs who ruled Hama in the 13th century. Another mosque is that of Abu al-Fida, named after Hama's Sultan, who was a famous Arab geographer and historian. The city is often linked with his name. A third ancient mosque is the al-Nuri mosque, which was built in the days of Noureddin al-Zanki in 1129; on its wall appear inscriptions in both Arabic and Greek. Hama is particularly famous for its traditional industries, especially textiles and cotton cloth.

Nori of Hama
Nori of Hama3

To know Syria is to have knowledge of a legendary world. Palmyra , the pearl in the heart of the desert, Palmyra rising from the sands, is one of the most graceful and splendid ancient sites in the East, for the glory and the greatness are still evident and fully years after its construction by the Arab Queen Zenobia. It remains one of most famous capitals of the ancient world. Palmyra is separated by some one hundred kilometers of steppe from the lush valley of the Orontes, to the west. There are more than two hundred kilometers of desert to the cross before you reach the fertile banks of the Euphrates, to the east. To Both north and south there is nothing but sand and stone. But here at Palmyra a last fold of the Anti- Lebanon forms a kind of basin on the edge of which a spring rises out of a long underground channel whose depth has never been measured. This spring is called Afqa (or Ephka) in inscriptions, an Aramaic word meaning " way out'. Its clear blue, slightly sulphurous waters are said to have medicinal properties; they have fed an oasis here with olives and date- palms and cotton and cereals. For generation this oasis was known as Tadmor.

Bell temple at night Palmyra Palmyra-Main-Road Palmyra Palmyra2

To take the road to Damascus means to return to the source of the world. Damascus is one of the oldest cities of the world. Ghouta, huge oasis with orchards and rosaries is the marvel of Damascus. The visit to Damascus starts in the Old city, which is enclosed in fortifications originally built by the Romans. To this huge wall are curved 7 gates ('bab', in Arabic) through which you can accede to all principal monuments. The Old City occupies approximately the area of the Antique Hellenistic city (III century B.C. and more precisely the ancient Roman City (I century B.C.). From the Roman rectangular framework of streets only some trace have remained such as Via Recta (The Straight Street) and the Temple of Jupiter situated between the exit of the souk Al-Hamidiyeh and the north-western façade of the Great Umayyad Mosque. In the Old City you will find the atmosphere of noises, shouts and colors of the Orient. You will move on with the crowd through the souks, enveloped in the fragrance of spices and leather in the direction of the Great Umayyad Mosque, a beautiful monument of Islam, which the Oriental world ranges among the 7 Wonders of the World. In the Quarter surrounding the Mosque you will find a splendid atmosphere of the narrow alleys, old Ottoman houses, lavishly decorated arcades….

It is from atop of the Mount Kassioun, the Damascus' balcony, that the city is most beautiful, enveloped in the mystery preceding the sunset, when the voices of the muezzins proclaim the glory of the God.
Anbar bureau al Hejaz station Bab A Saghir al Hamidia souq
Al Azem palace Takieh Suleimanieh 2 salahdine castel Omayyad mosque in Damascus2
Khan Asaad Basha Bab sharqi Bab Kesan Bab A_Salam

The famous village of Maaloula is located some 56 kilometres from Damascus, and in an altitude of more than 1500 metres. Its little houses cling to the face of an enormous rock; they look suspended in mid-air. There are two monasteries here: Saint Sergius and Saint Takla. The inhabitants still speak Aramaic, the  language spoken by Christ. Two neighboring villages, Jaba'din and Naj'a also speak the same language. The word Maaloula means "entrance" in Aramaic.

Amrit (maratous):

The strange vestiges of the site of Amrit, located some 7 km south of Tartus, are a reminder of the Phoenicians and date back to the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. The site has strong Persian and Egyptian characteristics.  We can discern a temple dedicated to the God Melqart, which is built around a deep sacred basin forming an artificial lake in the heart of which sits a sanctuary (Naos) decorated with triangular shapes. The water used to be delivered from a sacred source springing out of a nearby cave. Southwards of the temple can be seen two giant funerary towers. They have underground caves around their bases, cut into the walls.

Crack des Chevaliers:

The most famous medieval citadel in the world, Krack des Chevaliers, is 65 km west of Homs and 75 south-east of Tartus. It is 650 m above sea-level. It was built in order to control the so-called "Homs Gap", the gateway to Sryia. It was through this passage that Syria communicated with the Mediterranean. In ancient times the importance of this strategic corridor was immense. It was of crucial importance to the Crusaders and other foreign invaders in their conquest of the coast. Conflict over the Krack des Chevaliers continued through the ages. It was a fierce and bloody dispute, but in the end, Sultan Beybars managed to recover it in 1271 through a military trick and one month of fighting.Krack des Chevaliers was built on the site of a former castle erected by the emirs of Homs to accommodate Kurdish garrisons; "Carc" is a modification of the Arab word "Qal'a". The citadel covers an area of 3000 square meters and has 13 huge towers, in addition to many stores, tanks, corridors, bridges and stables. It can accommodate 5000 soldiers with their horses, their equipment and provisions for five years. 

Crac des Chevaliers4
Crac des Chevaliers3
Marqaab castle:

The citadel of Qalat Marqab is only 6 km south-east of Banyas, and is 500 m above sea-level. It is enormous: there are not less than fourteen square and round towers jutting from the curtain wall that encircles the hilltop to form a triangular bastion. Its southern corner, sharper than the others and bristling with defenses, has a keep rising above it like the prow of a ship. What makes it particularly glowering is the black basalt stone with which it was built. There are beautiful gardens and orchards surrounding it and the sea is not far away. This citadel could accommodate 1000 people, in addition to the garrison, along with provisions to last them for five years.  It was not until 1285 that the troops of Sultan Qalaun defeated the last of the European Knights at Margat (Marqab). The Hospitalier Knights were granted "the honors of war" and allowed to withdraw under safe conduct to Tartus and Tripoli. There is an Arabic inscription commemorating this great victory, carved on a band of white limestone at the top of the "tour de L'Eperon" under the keep.

ِAl Markab castle
Markab castle from inside portico
Saladin castle:

Formerly "Saone" (and still known as Castle Sahyoun), it was recently named after the great hero of Islam, Saladin (Salah al-Din), to commemorate the capture of the fortress in 1199. Though the importance of the position had been exploited before the Crusades, this castle was described as the most impregnable Crusader fortress. It stands on a rocky spur whose vertical walls rise above the junction of two fast-flowing streams. As late as 1965 it was impossible to reach it except on foot or on horseback by a difficult climb, first downhill and then up again after fording a stream. The fortress was completely isolated from the plateau by a deep ditch dug right through the connecting neck of land. The ditch was 156m long, 18 m deep. Its vertical walls show a smooth, fine yellowish rock surface. Today there is a drawbridge and a road which provide easy access to the foot of this "eagle's nest".  Visitors can park their cars at the bottom of this ditch, opposite the horses's managers and hitching holes carved out of the rock.

Saladdin castle inside
Saladdin castle2
Saladdin castle Wall of the castle
Ugarit (Ras Shamraa ) 1800-1200 BC:

Ras Shamra is a site of historical importance. It is situated only 16km to the north of Lattakia. This is the site of Ugarit, the kingdom that had a golden past in administration, education, diplomacy, law, religion and economics between the 16th and 13th centuries B.C. It is the kingdom that gave humanity the first alphabet in the world. This alphabet is still preserved on a clay tablet at the National Museum in Damascus. Documents, statues and jewels from the Ugarit kingdom are also on display at the Lattakia, Aleppo and Tartus museums.

Ugarit alphapit
St. Simeon convent 5th century AD:

The site of St Simeon is 60 km north-west of Aleppo. It was named after the hermit Saint Simon (Sam'an), a shepherd from northern Syria, who became a monk after a revelation in a dream. Following Saint Simon's death in 459, the Emperor Zenon ordered that a cathedral be built where the saint used to pray. The layout was original, centering on the famous column from which Saint Simon used to preach. Four basilicas, arranged in the shape of a cross, opened into an octagon covered by a dome, in the center of which stood the holy column. It is a beautiful church built on the ridge of the hill where Saint Simon had taken up "residence". Simplicity and harmony combine to make the ruins of the Basilica of St. Simon (an earthquake destroyed parts of the church less than half a century after it had been built) a masterpiece of pre-Islamic art in Syria. In the 10th century, some towers and walls were erected. It was then called "Qal'at Sam'an" (Simon's Citadel). It became the center of conflict between Byzantium and the Hamadani kingdom; in 986, the son of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani finally captured it.
St. Simon citadel2
S.Simone castle
St. Simon citadel
St. Simon citadel3
Ebla 2500 BC:

Ebla, situated 25 km south-east- of Idleb, is the site of important and recent archaeological discoveries. Excavations have revealed a very old Syrian civilization, that of Ebla, which flourished in the 3rd and 2nd millenniums B.C. In the palace of this great kingdom, a library containing more than 17,000 clay tablets were uncovered. These tablets are the earliest written documents in Syria.  

Ebla - Tal Mardikh2
Ebla - Tal Mardikh


Apamea is located on the right bank of the Orontes, about 55 km to the northwest of Hama. It overlooks the Ghaab plain. It was built by Salucos Nikator, the first king of the Seleucids in Syria in 300 B.C. He named it after his wife, Afamia. The city flourished to an extent that its population numbered half a million. As an Eastern crossroads, it received many distinguished visitors: Cleopatra, Septimus Severus and the Emperor Caracalla. In the Christian era, Apamea became a center of philosophy and thought, especially of Monophostism. Most of the uncovered ruins in it date back to the Roman and Byzantine ages. It is distinguished for its high walls and the main thoroughfare surrounded by columns with twisted fluting. The street is about 2km long and 87m wide. The ruins of the Roman theatre, which have been frequently disturbed, are now a great mass of stone. Its colonnade is 145 m long. Erected in the 2nd century, it was destroyed in the 12th century by two violent earthquakes; some columns are still standing nevertheless. To the west of the city, stands the Mudiq citadel which once formed a defense line along the Orontes. Fierce battles with the Crusaders attempting to conquer it took place in the 12th century, and Nur al-Din finally surrendered it in 1149. The citadel has huge towers, overlooking the Ghaab plain. It also has a khan built by the turks in the 16th century, and transformed into an archacological museum which houses Apamea's mosaics. To the south of Mudiq castle lies the citadel of Shaizar overlooking the Orontes. In the Middle Ages it could only be reached by a draw-bridge. The main tower of the citadel is square in shape and overlooks the defensive fortresses. Arabic inscriptions from the Mameluk periods appear over its entrance. The citadel was rebuilt by the Mameluks after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1157. The Crusaders tried to occupy it several times, but in vain.

Bath in Apamea


Rasafeh is located south of the Euphrates and north of the Syrian semi-desert, 160 km south-east of Aleppo and 30 km south of the Aleppo-Raqqa road. Rasafeh palace was the residence of Hisham ibn Abdul Malik, the third Omayyad Caliph, whose age was a golden one, due to his great interest in the arts and in architecture. He had several palaces built in various parts of Syria. He was in favour of simplicity and modesty; this is why he chose Rasafeh as his residence. There, he died and was buried. The palace was originally a church, built to commemorate a Roman officer (St. Sergius), who died in defense of Christianity in the 4th century. In 616, the church was invaded by the Persians, robbed and destroyed. When Hisham ibn Abdul Malik became a caliph in the 8th century, he built two beautiful palaces on its site. Later, the Abbasids invaded and destroyed what the Caliph Hisham had built. Very little of the ruins of the Mar Sarkis church remains. Parts of the church have been used as a mosque; inscriptions in both Arabic and Greek engraved on the walls indicate that Christians and Muslims co-existed peacefully in Syria since 13th century onwards.          

Mari (3500-2500BC):

120 km south of the town of Deir-ez Zor, along the Euphrates River, is located the site of the Kingdom of Mari (Tel hariri), near Abu Kamal. This kingdom dates back to the 3rd millennium b.C. It was ruled by kings of the 10th dynasty after the flood. The discovery of Mari (1932), like the recent discovery of Ebla (1975), attracted the attention of archaeologists and researchers in various fields. Twenty thousand tablets with their cuneiform inscription recount the political and diplomatic life in these kingdoms. Many of the remains and relics, statues, jewels, tablets and stamps are now at the Damascus, Aleppo, Deir al-Zor and Paris museums. Another archaeological site is at the intersection of the Euphrates and of the Khabur near Mayadin (Tel al-Ashara), where the ancient city of Tarqa, the capital of the Khana kingdom, flourished in the 2nd millennium B.C. after the fall of Mari. The wall that surrounded the city is one of the most enormous of the ancient world; it had a diameter of 20m.

Statue from Mary
Fountian Godess

Arwad Island

Arwad Island is the only island in Syria, and it is located 3 km from Tartus. 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 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.

Arwad island
Arwad island 2


Lattakia is Syria's main sea-port on the Mediterranean (186 km southwest of Aleppo). It has retained its importance since ancient times. Lattakia was one of the five cities built by Salucos Nikator in the 2nd century B.C. He named it after his mother, Laudetia. Not many ancient remains have survived in Lattakia, but there are four columns and a Roman arch from the time of Septimus Severus (circa 200 A.D.), in addition to a beautiful Ottoman construction called "Khan al-Dukhan", which is now a museum. Lattakia is the sea-gate to Syria. It is well-provided with accommodation, and is well-placed as a base from which to explore the coastal regions of the country. There are beaches, mountains, archaeological sites and many relics of the Crusaders, all within a few hours from each other. Jableh is another Syrian seaside town, 28 km to the south of Lattakia. It has a theatre built to accommodate 7,000 to 8,000 spectators. Close to Jableh is Tel Sokas, where archaeological relies were recently found, now on exhibition at the Damascus and Tartus museums.

latakia beach

Dead Cities

The numerous ruins of Christian settlements dating from the Byzantine era (the so-called Dead Cities) were built between II. century B.C. and V. century A.D. They are scattered through the limestone hills, which stretch from the Turkish border in the north and to Apamea in the south.  More than 700 sites have been documented, out of which more than 60 sites are in a remarkable state of preservation with buildings reaching almost 10 meters in height. We can see whole villages with houses, churches, presses, almost as abandoned only in recent times. Monasteries and humble hermitages recall the presence of the men of God.  The good state of preservation of the Dead Cities is explained by the gradual abandon of the settlements and by the fact that the stones were not re-used for further constructions. Since the end of the 19th century the limestone hills have been re-populated again and new villages have appeared.

Ean Dara


Bosra is situated in the vast Horan plain, some 145 kilometres 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 oldest Islamic square minarets (still standing) are found in Bosra, whose prosperous role as an important halt for pilgrims on the way to Mecca lasted until the 17th century. The most interesting part of the city today is the famous Roman theatre built in the second century A.D., which seats 15 thousand spectators, and is considered one of the most beautiful and well-preserved of Roman amphitheatres in the world. The stage is 45 metres long and 8 metres deep. Every summer, it hosts Arab and international performers who entertain audiences during the Bosra Art Festival against a majestic background of Roman columns and arches. The city itself contains a great number of Roman ruins, a part of the Byzantine Bahira Church, as well as the al-Mabrak Mosque, which is said to have been erected on the site where the Prophet's camel stopped to rest. There is also the Omar Mosque (also called the al-Arouss Mosque), which is the only one of its type remaining from the early days of Islam, and it retains its 7th century primitive form. An important Muslim citadel, dating back to the Ayyubid and Mameluk period still stands, and one of its towers now houses a museum of Antiquities and Traditional Arts.

Qasr al-Hir al- Gharbi

Qasr al-Hir al- Gharbi 45 km south-west of Tadmor (Palmyra), built by the Caliph Hisham ibn Abdul Malik in the 8th century, this palace is square and surrounded by a huge wall, at each corner of which there is a round tower. At each side of the main gate there are two half-rounded towers. It has a courtyard with columns with Corinthian crowns.

Qaser alHair Garbi

Deir ez-Zor


320 km south-east of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor is the most important urban center in the east of Syria. Its river is the Euphrates, lifeline of the region and fount of civilization throughout the ages. With the formation of Lake al-Assad, it is now possible to regulate its once capricious flow and to make plans for new harvests. 85 km south of Deir al-Zor, on the western bank of the Euphrates, is the archaeological site of the birthplace of Seleueucos, near the Arab village of Salihiyeh. This was the historic town built by Seleucus Nicator, Alexander's lieutenant, the fortified tower of Doura Europos. This town was closely linked with Palmyra, serving as an important forward-line of defense against the Persians. The site did not attract significant attention until 1921 when some mural paintings were discovered in a temple (there were sixteen temples dedicated to the various gods of Palmyra, at present in the national Museum at Damascus). Many other discoveries followed, notably frescoes dating from 235 A.D., which were in a remarkable state of preservation. They too, were transported to the Damascus Museum in 1936. Doura Europos, however, is still a place of interest for visitors.

Deir Ezzor


Some 30 kilometres from Damascus, the village of Saidnaya is spread out over a hilltop, and is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. It has a famous monastery founded in 547, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The name of the village itself, "Seyda Naya" in Syriac means "Our Lady". The monastery contains a portrait of the Virgin believed to have been painted by St. Luke.


Dura Europos

Dura Europos is situated 28 km from Mari. It occupies a section of arid plateau dominating the right border of the Euphrates River.  The site was discovered in Mars 1920 by a British expeditionary force that escaping the Arabic troops took refuge amidst its the huge walls.  Digging the trenches they uncovered a fresco representing two priests in coning hats.  Other frescos of exceptional beauty where found in Dura Europos for which it is nicknamed  ' Pompeii of the Orient'. If you are not a specialist it is not easy to understand the complex of vestiges of this flourishing cosmopolitan city, but anyway many interesting ruins are still discernible. The approach road brings you to the main Palmyra Gate, if you pass through it you will find on your left ruins of a synagogue and on your right ruins of a Christian chapel.   The main path running eastwards from the Palmyra Gate follows the line of the decumanus, the main road of the city, which leads to the river, where you can see vestiges of the agora, bath complex, palaces, temples… At the end of the road a beautiful view opens up on the citadel and the Euphrates meandering 40 meters below.

dura europos
dura europos national museum
Euphrates river

Qalat Jaber and the Assad Lake

The new city of Al- Thawra  rose up out of the sand. It was inaugurated by President Hafez al-Assad in 1973. Al-Thawra, "the Revolution", is the capital of the area of the Euphrates dam. Here, when people talk of "the dam", they do not only mean the huge structure that holds back the river (4500 meters long, 60 meters high, 512 meters wide at the base, 41 million cubic meters of rock earth and clay), but they also mean the al-Assad lake (80 km long, with 12 billion cubic meters of water, and a hydroelectric power-station, as well as the 640.000 hectares of agricultural land now brought under cultivation. Gone are the fears of devastating floods. Experimental farms and agricultural colleges are pointing the way to the future. Thanks to the cooperation between Unesco and the Syrian government, monuments of the site were saved from the river flood, including Ja'bar Citadel and the two minarets of maskana and Abi Hurayra; relics of these cites can now be seen in the Aleppo Museum. In the distance, on the other bank of the dam, a pink fortress appears reflected in the blue water of the lake. This is Qal'at Ja'bar, one of the Seleucid fortresses reconstructed by Nur al-Din in the 12th century. It is surrounded by two walls with thirty-five towers of different shapes. The facades of the towers are richly decorated with ornamentations and inscriptions. The citadel which has been restored is to be turned into a tourist center.


Assad lake
Jahbar citidal


Qasr al-Sharki

110 km north-east of Palmyra, the palace Qasr al-Sharki was built by the Caliph Hisham in 628, it contains a palace-residence for the caliph and for the garrisons. There is a small mosque built in the style of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, there is a bath with hot, warm and cold running water. This is the oldest Umayyad bath. The palace is surrounded by a wide garden.

Qaser alHair sharqi



Located on the left bank of the Euphrates between Aleppo (188 km) and Deir al-Zor (105 km), Raqqa Iis an ancient city built by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. In 662 the Caliph Mansur built, on the ruins of Raqqa, a new city imitating the style of Baghdad which he called "Rafiqa". Invaded by the Mongols in the 12th century. Raqqa has few remains left from that period. These were built by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid in the Abbasside age. Some remains of ancient Raqqa survive today. Those built in pink tile reflect a particular style of architecture. Of the Jam'I al-Kabir (the Great Mosque), there remains only the minaret, which was reconstructed by Nur al-Din in 1166. Pottery and glass were famous and there is a museum in the city which contains many relics of ancient Raqqa. A lot of these relics can also be seen in museums in new York, Washington and other Western cities. Raqqa is beginning to flourish again, and to play an important economic role (after the building of the Euphrates Dam) in the life of Modern Syria.

Rahbeh Citadel
Halabia & Zilabia
Site in Al Raqqa


A summer resort some 45 kilometers north of Damascus, 1175 meters above sea-level. It overlooks the plain of Zabadani, a fertile land with thousands of fruit trees bearing delicious apples, cherries, plums, peaches, and pears. The source of the river Barada is in this plain and it supplies Damascus with water, and irrigates the Ghuta around the city. The source of the river forms a little lake which is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and play-grounds. Attracted by its fresh air and beautiful scenery, Damascenes rush to this resort on hot summer days. The area has many hotels and restaurants, cafes and camping sites situated near the banks of the river. Many Damascenes, however, prefer another nearby resort, Bludan, which spreads over the mountain overlooking Zabadani, at 1500 metres above sea-level, It is cooler here and the scenery is particularly impressive, especially at sunset. Here, too, plenty of hotels, restaurants and cafes cater to the needs of all visitors. Most notable among them is the Grand Hotel, with its spacious terrace that overlooks the entire Zabadani plain. Also on the hill-top between Zabadani and Bludan, lies the village of Buqein with its famous mineral-spring gushing out of the hillside. It is customary for visitors to stop here and sample this fresh water. This is now bottled and sold in hotels, restaurants and shops throughout the Middle East. Recreation spots near Damascus are numerous and varied. In the western Ghuta on the banks of the river Barada, you will find hundreds of them concealed under the shade of poplar and willow trees. The main resting-spots in this valley are: Ein al-Fijeh, Ein al-Khadra, Bassemeh, al-Ashrafieh, al-Hameh, and al-Rabweh. The eastern Ghuta, where the International Airport is located, is also a most attractive part of the Damascus environs. It is full of fruit orchards with apricot, peach, apple, and pear trees. Also a little to the north of Damascus there are two interesting villages, al-Tel and Mnein (1300 meters above sea level), well-known for their clear springs and pretty cafes. The village of Erneh is some 52 Kilometers from Damascus, suspended at 1400 meters above sea-level on the slopes of Mount Hermon. It has over 300 springs that converge to create al-A'waj River, and it is well-known for its delicious strawberries, cherries, apples and peaches.




Tartus is the second most important Syrian seaport on the Mediterranean (90 km to the south of Latakia). It was called Antaradus by the Phoenicians and Tortusa by the Byzantines. Tortusa was to become one of supply ports for theCrusaders and a military base of considerable importance. It was held by the Templars, but recovered by Saladin in 1188. The arches, wall-towers and narrow lanes in Tartus evoke what the twon must have been like in medieval times. A jewel of Romanesque art is the cathedral of Tartus, which is now a museum containing relics from various Syrian civilizations.


Al rimal al zahabia - Golden sand beach
Misyaf castle
Dawayat Cave


In the Jabal al-Arab region 90 kilometers south-east of Damascus. Shahba stands in an oasis of orchards and vineyards. Renowned as the birthplace of the Syrian Emperor Philip who ruled the Roman Empire between 244 and 249 A.D. to honor him, the city bore the name Philipopolis during the Roman period. He took a personal interest in the city, planned it after the Roman style, built numerous palaces and temples in it, erected triumphal arches and public baths, a theatre and a great wall surrounding it. He is said to have wanted to turn Shahba into a replica of Rome itself. Visitors to the Shahba museum can see the immense mosaic panels representing ancient Greek myths; the god of wine and fertility Dionysus, the goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite, and the legendary poet and musician Orpheus. Another collection of Shahba's  mosaic panels is in the National Museum in Damascus. Remains of the city temple (Philipon), some public baths, parts of the old wall and its four gates, as well as the two intersecting thoroughfares and the Roman Canal can still be seen in the town.


St George Monastery

The Greek Orthodox monastery of St George is still inhabited by several monks.
It dates back to the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, VI century. Inside the  ancient church can be found a collection of painted icons dating from the XVI century and an icon from the XIII century depicting Saint George staging the dragon.


Saint Georges monastery
Saint Gergious church


Safita is a picturesque village situated 10 km south of Draykish, 35 km east of Tartus and 350 m above sea-level, it is surrounded by hills covered with olive trees and flowers on all sides.The present-day town with its tiled roofs stands on the site of the fortress that was called "Castle of Blanc" by the Crusaders. One of its huge towers, about 38 m high is still standing; this tower contains a chapel which has never been deconsecrated: Christians still hold their services in it. Its houses are beautifully designed with brick roofing, An international hotel operates in it. A number of various tourist attractions exist in Safita: Sleiman Castle, Al-Arima fortress, Yahmur fortress, Krack des Chevaliers), Saladin Castle, Qalat Marqab.




Situated some 90 kilometres south-east of Damascus, Suweida is well-known for its plentiful vineyards. It stands 1100 metres above sea-level, and was known by the name of Suweida (little black town) in the Nabatean period, because it was built with black volcanic stone. The Romans, in the 3rd century, considered it one of the most important towns in the Province of Arabia and called it Dionysus. Ruins of ancient civilizations are numerous but widely scattered; some of the most notable of these, along with a collection of exquisite mosaics discovered in 1962, are now housed in the Suweida Museum. One part of this mosaic collection represents Artemis, goddess of chastity and the hunt, surrounded by her nymphs when she is surprised by a hunter while bathing. This fine roman work dates back to the sixth century. Another scene portrays the birth of Venus and the wedding of Thetis. Statues carved in hard basalt show signs of a mixture of Nabatean, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Arab influences.There are also the ruins of a 3rd century Roman temple surrounded by a colonnade of Corinthian columns.


A fountain in Sweida


St. Simeon convent Aleppo Rassafa Mari Plamyra Ebla Ugarit Marqab Castle Amrit Castle Saladin Aphmie Hama Crack des Cheliers Maaloula Damascus
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