Before becoming the capital of the Arab World during the
Umayyad period , Damascus had played a prominent part in the ancient
history of the near east . Coming into existence in a fertile oasis and
developed through the labors of its first inhabitants who cultivated the
soil and made the site habitable , Damascus has behind it a prodigious
past which has made it one of the oldest cities in the world .
Famous for its Quarters of Ancient Damascus , Museums , Markets , the
Historical and Archaeological Sites .
It is a city which readily leads you back into the past , a
sort of time continuum in which flashes of the past , rather than
dissipating with time , accumulate in the present .
It is still an animated Arab Bazaar city where the traditions of the
Arab middle ages do not seem all that remote .
Less evident is the period of Byzantine , Roman or Greek occupation ,
though their stamp is there in the present street layout and the basic
shape of the walled city and citadel .
A strange site whose provenance is still contested ; a neo-
Phoenician religious center which is heavily influenced in its
architectural style by the Achaemenid Persians . It is the only extent
site in Syria whose remains , though fragmentary , convey this mixture
of civilizations reflecting the ability of the Phoenicians to absorb and
syncretise outside influences .
From Apamea , nestled on the East side of the Orontes Plain
before the green starts to fade towards the desert to the east , you
look out on a stunning sight , over the rich farmlands reclaimed from
swamp towards the hazy skein of the Jebel Ansariye to the west .
Palmyra is one of the great sites of the ancient world . The
remains of this oasis city , midway between the Mediterranean seaboard
and the thin cultivated zone of the Euphrates , seem suspended in time
in this harsh desert environment . An elusive and highly romanticized
goal of European travelers over the centuries , even today a visit to
Palmyra is an experience which alone makes the trip to Syria worthwhile
After Palmyra , Bosra is the most important site of the roman
period in Syria , primarily because of the magnificent and exceptionally
intact Roman Theatre ( Early 2C AD ) . The
somber and unyielding basalt of this volcanic region may dull for many
the impact of the Roman remains but if you visit on a sunny day ,
especially in winter , the effect can be memorable .
Dura Europos :
When the first wall paintings at Dura were uncovered by
accident by a British expeditionary force in April 1290
, few could have expected that the incident was about to provide a new
perspective on early Christian and Judaic art . For Dura's remains would
not only illustrate the part it played in the drawn-out struggle between
cultural , political and military influences of the east and the west
but shed an unexpected new light on early representational art of the
Christian and Jewish traditions . This part of the Syrian desert is thus
of major historical and artistic interest .
This may be one of the most important Bronze Age sites
discovered since the Second World War but it yields few of its secrets
to the naked eye . Some impression can be gained , during an hour's walk
around the site , of the scale of the ancient city and the siting of its
main defensive works , including the citadel area . The impact of Ebla ,
however , is more to be judged in the material slowly emerging from
In the past , Hama enjoyed a reputation as one of the more
charming of the Syrian towns , more successful than most in making of
its environment a pleasant and picturesque setting through the use of
the Orontes River as the city's lungs and cooling device .
Homs is strategically placed on the natural access route from
the Syrian desert to the coast by the break in the coastal mountain
chains known as the Homs Gap . Its siting is also determined by the
Orontes River which flows through the city . Today it is the key point
in the Syrian Road and rail networks and the base for several major
Krak Des Chevaliers :
As the Parthenon is to Greek temples and Charters to Gothic
cathedrals , so is the Krak Des Chevaliers to Medieval castles , the
supreme example , one of the great buildings of all times .
Many superlatives have been spent on this building but few do it full
justice . The difficulty of finding the apt description is that , no
matter how many times you visit the great fortress , it never presents
the same face . In tempests or the winter gales that seem to want to
rend it apart , it is glowering and forbidding ; on a springy day , its
lovely warm stone hues blend with the wildflowers and the gentle light ;
in the heat of summer it broods , indifferent to the sun-blasted bare
Like most other sites of the Levantine coast , Lattakia has
played its role in entertaining all of Syria's conquerors . Little of
that wanton quality remains but there is a residual trace of
Mediterranean and Levantine air in the older quarter , conveying a whiff
of the Alexandria-or Beirut-that-might-have-been when the sea breeze
sweeps through it in the late afternoon .
Though rich in historical and religious associations ,
Maalula preserves only a few remains of its past . It is , however , a
village of some charm , its tempered houses piled up the lower slopes of
an escarpment rising sheer above the village .There is an uncompromising
beauty to the setting and the gorge that cuts into the escarpment at the
Ugarit is one of the few Bronze Age sites in the Middle East
which offers identifiable remains to the casual visitor and not simply
to the specialist scholar or those who have the time to familiarize
themselves with the wealth of published information extracted from the
site . Unlike other centers of the period , the palace and religious
buildings were built in stone .
Seidnaya is more notable as the place of religious pilgrimage
than for any outstanding remains . In fact , few reminders of its
origins can be distilled from centuries of legends .
The Chapel and Convent is perched on an outcrop of rock , looking rather
like a castle from some angles .
Qalaat Saladin :
While its defenses are less intact than the unstudied
symmetry of the Krak Des Chevaliers and it is less sombre and brooding
in its aspect than Marqab , this is an example of Crusader castle -
building at its most romantic. Much of this is due to the site . a ridge
between two spectacular ravines leading down from the commanding reaches
of the Jebel Ansariye . The fall of the land takes the eye down to the
coastal plain and beyond it the Mediterranean sparkling in the distance
Mari is a site of central importance . Discovered in 1933
, the excavation of this rare example of a Mesopotamian palace found
with its accoutrements and archives virtually intact has been one of the
keys to the unraveling of the history of Syria / Mesopotamia region
during the early millennia of recorded history .
It is located south of the Euphrates and north of the Syrian
semi - desert , 160 Km south east of Aleppo
. Rasafeh palace was originally a church , built to commemorate a Roman