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Situated in the Hawran plain, 145km to the south of Dimashq (Damascus), Bosra is an extremely ancient city which was mentioned in the list of Thutmose and Akhntoun .In the fourteenth century B.C it was the first Nabatean city ,and in the second century B.C it reached the apogee of its glory during the Hellenistic period and later in the roman period when it became the capital of the province of Arabia. Bosra continued to play a significant role during the days of early Christianity. It was also linked with the rise of Islam, because one of its inhabitants, Anestorian monk called Bahira, once met the young man Mohammed Ibn Abdullah who was passing with his caravan at Bosra, and predicted his prophecy and the faith he was going to initiate.

The most important site in Bosra is its famous roman theatre which is considered as one of the most beautiful and well-preserved roman amphitheaters in the world. The theatre, dating back to the second century A.D, seats 15 thousand spectators, its stage is 45 meters long and 8 meters deep. The city also contains:
- Al Mabrak mosque and Omar mosque which is the only mosque remaining from the early days of Islam and retaining its primitive form.
- The Moslem Ayyoubite citadel, which now houses two museums one for antiquities and the other for traditional arts.
- Parts of the Bahira church , dating back to the Byzantine period.
- A cathedral from the Byzantine period with its square dome of 512 meters.
- Remains of walls “Nabatean”, a triumphal arch “roman” and the baths “roman”.

Dimashq ( Damascus ), the capital of Syria, is the oldest continuously inhabited city the world.

The earliest reference to the city appeared in Ebla tablets which confirmed that “Dameskq: ( i.e. Damascus ) existed in the third millennium B.C since then the city has occupied a prominent position in history. 

The earliest reference to the city appeared in Ebla tablets which confirmed that “Dameskq: ( i.e. Damascus ) existed in the third millennium B.C since then the city has occupied a prominent position in history. 

It became the center of an Aramaic kingdom during the 2nd millennium B.C in the roman era, Damascus was first among the ten most prominent cities. then it became the center of the Christian faith, where saint Paul lived. it witnessed remarkable prosperity and a number of churches and monasteries were built in it, some of which have survived to the present day.

The year 661 A.D marked the beginning of the golden epoch for Dimashq (Damascus), when it became the capital of the Omayyad state and for a whole century it was the center of the youthful Islamic empire, stretching from the borders of china to the south of France. the Omayyads took genuine interest in building the city, organizing its souqs, streets, Ghouta and erecting palaces, hospital and schools in it.

Following the fall of the Omayyads, the city went through periods of deterioration and prosperity in the Abbassids, the Fatemite, the Ayoubite, the Mamluk and the ottoman periods and during the French mandate.

After independence was achieved in 1946, the city started to regain its importance as a significant national and cultural center in the Arab world. it was named, and rightly so, “ the beating heart of the Arab nation “.

The Azem palace:
It also stands in the heart of the old city and its Souqs, on the southern side of the Omayyad mosque. The palace was built in the mid- eighteenth century for governor of Dimashq. Masons and builders made of the palace a great example of the damascene architecture. the palace now houses the museum of arts and popular traditions.

The Omayyad mosque:
They were built during the ottoman period, the most Important of which are: Souq al Hamidiyeh, Souq Midhat pasha, Souq al Harir and Souq al Bzourieh. Other sites include: Hammam al Noury, Bimaristan al Noury, the tomb of Saladin Ayoubi, St. Paul’s church, the national museum, al Takieh al Suleimaniyeh, Dimashq museum and St. Hananias church.

This famous village is some 56 km. from Dimashq (Damascus, 1500 meters above sea level. its houses are engraved in the mountain link a beehive, and they look as if suspended in mid-air. there are two monasteries in Maalula. Deir Mar Sarkis “ the monastery of St. Sergius” built in the 3rd century A.D . at the top of the valley overlooking the village, and the monastery of mar Taqla. located at the foot of the village.
The inhabitants of Maalula still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. Two neighboring villages. Jabadeen and Naja’a also speak same language.

Tadmor (Palmyra) is situated in the heart of the Syrian desert near a hot water spring called “Afqa”. it was mentioned in the tablets of Mari and in the Assyrian tablets. In the 18th centuries B.C the city was inhabited by the Arameans, the Amorites, and the Nabateans and because of its strategic position, it formed an important economic center and was turned into a kingdom starting from the 2nd century B.C.

Tadmor (Palmyra) could easily coexist with its two great neighbors, the Persian and the roman empires. It gained control over lands very far from its center and flourished as a luxurious city with its ruler Auzaina acquiring a great status, but he was assassinated in mysterious circumstances, and his wife Zenobia took power. Zenobia was very ambitious and dreamt of conquering all the territories of the roman and seizing Rome itself. indeed, Zenobia managed in 270 A.D to take over the whole of Syria, conquer Egypt and her soldiers reached the Bosphorus strait blocking the sea ways to Rome, but, later the roman emperor Aurelian defeated her and she was killed in mysterious circumstances, and great parts of her capital were destroyed. Tadmor (Palmyra) is located 150 km to the east of Homs.

The most important sites in it are:
- the Baal temple, the arch of triumph, the agora, the baths, the straight street, the congress council, and the Afqa spring with its hot sulphurous water. the remains of Palmyra are on display at the Tadmor museum, the Dimashq (Damascus) museum and the louver in Paris.

Situated in Tal Hariri to the south of Deir-Ezzor, Mari was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mari. It was discovered by the French archaeologist Andes parrot in 1935 after decades of excavations. Discoveries in Mari include the royal palace and its huge library which contained 15000 tablets written in the Akkadian language describing the political and diplomatic life in the 18th century B.C . The remains of Mari also contain the famous statue of the Goddess of sources, the statue of the governor , the statue of the singer of Mari and other artistic works which are now distributed among the museum of Dimashq, Halab (Aleppo) and Paris (louver).

Like Petra and Palmyra, Homs became an Arab emirate in the 2nd century B.C it was also called the city of the famous Arab Moslem leader Khaled Ibn al Walid, who conquered Homs and spent the last seven years of his life in it.

The most important sites in Homs are:

  • The remains of the citadel erected on a rocky spur to the south of the city.

  • Two gates of the city’s ancient wall, namely Damascus and Palmyra gates.

  • The mosque of the Arab leader Khaled Ibn Al Walid and his tomb.

  • The church of IM Iznar, and church of St. Elien.
  • The Nouri Mousque.
  • The museum of Homs.

Situated near Al – Haffah (4km. away from it) 35km to the east of Lattakia and 410 meters above sea level, Qal’Aat Salah Dddin stands on a rocky spur surrounded by two natural ditches which make it completely isolated if the drawbridge leading to it is drawn.

The citadel dating back to the prosperous days of the Phoenician era (10th century B.C) contains some remains from the Byzantine period. It was the subject of conflict between the Byzantine and the Hamadanis until the crusaders captured it.

The citadel was described as the most impregnable crusaders fortress and the citadel that could not be conquered, till great Arab Salah Al Ayoubi managed to restore it in 1182 A.D.

The citadel contains a small mosque and a minaret. there is a small church near the Byzantine fortification. Later on new artistic ornaments of the Ayoubit architecture were added to it.

The most famous medieval citadel in the world, Qal’aat Al Hosn is 65km to the west of Homs, 75 km to the south east of Tartus and 650 m above sea level.

Qal’aat Al Hosn is considered to be unique for its architecture and its strategic position which overlooks the passage linking the Syrian valleys with the sea. The crusaders therefor rebuilt it in 1142 A.D and they tried to keep control over it until the Arabs under the leadership of sultan Beybars captured it in 1271.

The citadel, known in the European literatures by the name “Crac Des Chevaliers” still retains the magnificence of its architecture, its greatness and most of its original parts. Its vastness reflects its strategic importance for it can accommodate two thousand soldiers, their horses and enough provisions to last them five years of siege.

Hama is a very ancient city which has known most of the successive civilizations of Syria. It was a prosperous kingdom during the Aramian age. The city is famous for its numerous water wheels (Noriahs) which were built by its inhabitants during the roman and Seleucide ages to irrigate its lands and the nearby plains. Therefore, the city was surrounded by rich orchards.

The most important ruins of Hama, other than water wheels are Al Jami’ Al Kabir (the great mosque) dating back to the 14th century. Another mosque is that of AbulFida, the famous Arab geographer and historian, with whose name the city is often linked. A third mosque is al Nouri mosque there is also the Azem palace which was built by the governor of Hama in the 18th century A.D The palace is now a museum of traditional arts.

Apamia was built by Saluqos Nikator, the first king of the Seleucids in Syria in 300 B.C .He named it after his wife Apamia. The city flourished to an extent that its population numbered half a million in the early days of Christianity. Most of the uncovered ruins in it date back to the roman and Byzantine ages. It is distinguished for its long walls. Its main street and its theater, one of the greatest ancient theaters known in the world. To the west of Apamia stands the Madieo citadel. It has huge towers overlooking the Ghab plain. The citadel witnessed fierce battles during the crusades until Nur Al Din finally conquered it in 1149 A.D The citadel has a khan built by the ottomans. It has recently been transformed into a museum which houses Apamia Ruins and mosaica.

The word Ugarit (the sit-of Ras Shamra near Lattakia) is always associated with the great gift Ugarit offered humanity, namely its alphabet, the first alphabet in the world.

This alphabet consists of 28 signs, in comparison with the earlier syllabic cuneiform writing, which employed more than 200 syllables and 300 symbols. It is also worth mentioning that the first “written” melody in history (written by using letters each signifying a special tune) was discovered in Ugarit in the 1950’s when a mud tablet containing the Ugarit worship song was found. The tablet is divided into two parts, one for the words of the song, the other for its melody. This tablet, dating back to the 2nd millenium B.C is now on display at Dimashq (Damascus) museum.

The art of architecture in Ugarit proves the continuity of the style of the Arab traditional house as we know it today. Its language is closely linked to the Akkadian and the Aramic Languges, hence its close relation to the Arabic language.

Al Lathiqiyeh (Lattakia)
Al Lathiqiyeh is Syria’s major sea port on the Mediterranean. The city has retained its importance as a sea port since ancient times. It was one of the five cities built by Saluqos Nicator in the 3rd century B.C he named it after his mother, Laudetia.

Not many ancient remains have survived in al Lathiqiyeh, but there are four columns and a roman arch from the time of Septimius Severus, in addition to a beautiful ottoman construction called “Khan Al Dukhan“ , which is now an important museum.

It is the second most important Syrian Sea port. The old part of it is stamped with the Phoenician culture and architecture, yet the remaining ruins only date back to the Byzantine and roman eras. The Canaanite, Phoenician. Roman role in Tartus was closely linked with their role in Arwad, the small island 3 km. from Tartus. The island was mentioned in the cuneiform texts dating back to the 2nd millenium B.C and it became one of the Phoenicians most important ports in the first millenium B.C.

Tartus close connection with this period is affirmed by the discovery of the Aramean Phoenician city of Amrit to the south of the city.

Tartus takes pride in containing the oldest church devoted to the Virgin Mary. Its famous cathedral (now a museum) and its citadel are living proof of the great importance the city acquired during the Christian, the Byzantine and the Arab periods.

Aleppo is the capital of northern Syria 350 km. to the north of Dimashq (Damascus). Ever since the 3rd millennium B.C, Aleppo has been a flourishing city. it reached the apogee of its glory in the Amorite period (the twelfth century B.C) when it was known as the greater kingdom of Yamhad according to the Hittite cuneiform documents.

The city was subject to many invasions because of its strategic importance and position as the meeting point of several commercial roads linking the west, and the east. it was invaded by the Hittites, the pharaohs, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans. It also played a prominent role in the Christian era, when it became parish. A huge cathedral was built in it, which is still standing up till now.

Life in Halab (Aleppo) prospered after the Arab Islamic conquest, starting from the Omayyad period, and passing through the Abbasid, the Fatemite, the Ayoubite and the Mamluk periods, until it became the capital of the Hamadani state which was established in 944 A.D by Sayf Al Dawla who rebuilt Aleppo’s famous citadel, which is described as the accumulation of the earlier civilizations.

Two great disasters befell the city of Halab (Aleppo), the first when it was invaded by the Mongols in 1260 A.D and the second when it was invaded by Temorlink in 1400 A.D, but it soon regained its prosperity and rebuilt what had been destroyed. As a result, buildings of distinguished architecture were built in it such as the mosques, the schools, the baths, the churches, the khans, the tombs and the “Tkiehs”. Starting from the Mamluk and the ottoman periods, Halab (Aleppo) developed its trade relations with Italy, France, England and Holland. This caused various types of European architecture to be adopted in Halab (Aleppo), especially the “baroque decoration which can still be seen in many buildings today, on the doors, the ceilings, and the windows together with the yellowish fine stones which had been used to build the city since the Hellenistic era up till now. The most important touristic sites in Halab (Aleppo) are:
- The citadel, which is considered one of the most important Islamic military buildings. The main parts of the citadel are: the throne room, the bath room, the small mosque and the great mosque.
- The walls and the gates dating back to the Islamic eras with their fortified gates such as Bab Hadid, Antakia and Qinnisrin.
- The covered Souqs and the commercial khans: dating back to the 15th and 16th century and extending for more than 10 km, the Souqs are named after the various crafts such as the Souq of Siyagh (gold) the Souq of Saboun (soap) the Souq of Attaareen (perfume) etc. and gathered to form what in known as Souq Al Madeena (the city Souq).

The khans, which flourished in the Mamluk and the Ottoman periods are in the same area as the Souqs since they were used for the accommodation of traders and their goods, the most important of these khans are: Jumruk (customs) Wazir (minister) and Saboun (soap).

Other places to visit in Aleppo include:
- The national museum.
- The museum of popular arts and traditions.
- Al Jami al Kabir (the great Omayyad mosque).
- The old schools, churches, mosques, bathes, and ancient houses.
- Hammam Yalbougha al Nasiri.
- Khan Esh’shouneh (the Souq for traditional handicrafts).

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