Image Gallery

Syria Overview

Syria is a little-known reclusive state with some blockbuster crusader castles, ruins and Islamic tradition while also being the cheapest country to travel through in the region. Bordered by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea and controversially Israel, you can travel overland from most countries except Israel. Domestic transport consists of bus, mini bus and the rare train opportunity. Officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, this country is cheap and has some amazing history to explore in the form of castles, ruins and ancient cities. Ensure you visit the Roman desert city of Palmyra, the creaking water wheels of Hama and at least a couple of the many Crusader Castles that dot the land. If you can only focus on a couple places, do Palmyra and try to swing out west to hit a Crusader Castle on the way to the ancient city of Aleppo. Following the "Arab Spring" uprising in many middle eastern countries in 2011 the Syrian government cracked down early and hard on their population to restrict protests. As of mid 2013 Syria has been embroiled in a civil war with rebels holding large areas of the country while government forces cling to power. Syria is now a no go zone for travellers much like Iraq and only time will tell how much damage has been done to its once friendly people and its important historical sites.

Aleppo
Apamea
Damascus
Hama
Krad des Chevaliers
Qalat Salah al-Din
Palmyra
 

Syr

Image Gallery

Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra
Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers
Noria, Hama, Syria
Noria, Hama
Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo
Qalaat al-Marqab, Syria
Qalaat al-Marqab
Qal'at Salah al-Din, Syria
Qal'at Salah al-Din
Aleppo Souq, Syria
Aleppo Souq
Palmyra Backflip, Syria
Palmyra Backflip
Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra
Hama Sunset, Syria
Hama Sunset
Aleppo Citadel, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Umayyad Mosque, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
Al-Azem Palace, Syria
Al-Azem Palace
Aleppo Citadel Backflip, Syria
Aleppo Citadel Backflip
Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra
Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers
Qalaat al-Marqab, Syria
Qalaat al-Marqab
Decumanus Maximus, Palmyra, Syria
Decumanus Maximus, Palmyra
Apamea, Syria
Apamea
Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo
Damascus, Syria
Damascus
Latakia Train Station, Syria
Latakia Train Station
Sheesha Bar, Aleppo, Syria
Sheesha Bar, Aleppo
Bedouin, Palmyra, Syria
Bedouin, Palmyra
View overlooking the ruins and oases of Palmyra from Fakhr al-Din Castle, Syria
View overlooking the ruins and oases of Palmyra from Fakhr al-Din Castle
View from Qalaat al-Marqab looking inland from the Mediterranean Coast, Syria
View from Qalaat al-Marqab looking inland from the Mediterranean Coast
View of the Cardo Maximus at the ruin site of Apamea, Syria
View of the Cardo Maximus at the ruin site of Apamea
Temple of Bel or the Temple of Ba'al, the largest structure at Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel or the Temple of Ba'al, the largest structure at Palmyra
Krak des Chevaliers from neighbouring hill, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers from neighbouring hill
Qal'at Salah al-Din from the main tower, Syria
Qal'at Salah al-Din from the main tower
Aleppo Citadel at night, Syria
Aleppo Citadel at night
Ruins with Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Ruins with Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra
Tower Tombs, Palmyra, Syria
Tower Tombs, Palmyra
Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel, Palmyra
Tetrapylon, Palmyra, Syria
Tetrapylon, Palmyra
Aleppo Citadel, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Syrian President, Aleppo, Syria
Syrian President, Aleppo
Aleppo Citadel, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Aleppo Citadel, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip
Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers
Apamea, Syria
Apamea
Apamea, Syria
Apamea
Cardo Maximus at Apamea, Syria
Cardo Maximus at Apamea
Apamea Backflip, Syria
Apamea Backflip
Norias, Hama, Syria
Norias, Hama
Noria, Hama, Syria
Noria, Hama
Entrance to Al-Hamidiyah Souq, Damscus, Syria
Entrance to Al-Hamidiyah Souq, Damscus
Al-Hejaz Station, Damscus, Syria
Al-Hejaz Station, Damscus
Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria
Great Mosque of Aleppo
Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers
Palmyra Gate, Syria
Palmyra Gate
Temple of Yarchabol, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Yarchabol, Palmyra
Interior of Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Syria
Interior of Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din
Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Syria
Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din
Qalaat al-Marqab, Syria
Qalaat al-Marqab
Qalaat al-Marqab, Syria
Qalaat al-Marqab

Palmyra

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Palmyra Backflip, Palmyra, Syria
Palymra Backflip
Tetrapylon, Palmyra, Syria
Tetrapylon
Palmyra Facade and Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Facade and Castle
Decumanus Maximus, Palmyra, Syria
Decumanus Maximus
Monumental Arch, Palmyra, Syria
Monumental Arch
Palmyra Sunset, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Sunset

Palmyra is a spectacularly situated ancient Roman city located in an oasis in the harsh and barren Syrian Desert. The city was a key stop on the caravan trade routes that connected ancient Babylonia, Persia and India with the Mediterranean. Palmyra, also known as Tadmor in the Hebrew bible, is first mentioned in ancient documents and tablets around 2000 BC. This sand and sun beaten ruin was more of a nomadic, semi-permanent location in the surrounding oasis before increased trade brought the wealth, elegance and prestige to build from stone the city that you see today. Palmyra was a rare example of a city-state that was part of the Roman empire but never really became fully Roman. Due to its proximity on the fringe of the empire and the money it still attracted, the city had freedoms most parts of the empire did not. This ended up being its downfall, when an upstart queen proclaimed her own empire and started claiming large sections of the surrounding Roman provinces. Rome eventually quelled this rebellion in 272 AD, sieging and sacking the city in the process, never regaining its former prominence after that. The site now boasts a long colonnaded street or Decumanus Maximus, a restored amphitheatre, a massive temple to the god Bel (Ba'al) and various other building remains. Palmyra is a massive site and although much has been reclaimed from the shifting sands in this desert location, there is much that remains buried. With recent unrest in the country of Syria, who knows how long it will take to unearth everything to be offered from under the sand. Palmyra offers hours of exploring what was once a wealthy and elegant city of the ancients. Nearby, an Arab castle stands watch over the site giving stunning views over the ruined city and the hostile desert landscape that stretches off towards neighbouring Iraq.

View overlooking the ruins and oases of Palmyra from Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
View overlooking the ruins and oases of Palmyra from Fakhr al-Din Castle
The end of the Decumanus Maximus, Palmyra, Syria
The end of the Decumanus Maximus
Inscription of Queen Zenobia, Palmyra, Syria
Inscription of Queen Zenobia
Tombs of Palmyra, Syria
Tombs of Palmyra
Entrance to Palmyra, Syria
Entrance to Palmyra
Ruins with Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Ruins with Fakhr al-Din Castle
Tetrapylon, Palmyra, Syria
Tetrapylon
Palmyra Backflip, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Backflip
Temple of Bel, Temple of Ba'al, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel (Ba'al)
View from Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
View from Fakhr al-Din Castle
Temple of Yarchabol, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Yarchabol
Palmyra Pillars, Syria
Palmyra Pillars
View from Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
View from Fakhr al-Din Castle
Temple of Bel or the Temple of Ba'al, the largest structure at Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel or the Temple of Ba'al, the largest structure at Palmyra
Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Fakhr al-Din Castle
Ruined Temple, Palmyra, Syria
Ruined Temple
Palmyra at Sunrise, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra at Sunrise
Palmyra at Sunrise, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra at Sunrise
Tetrapylon, Palmyra, Syria
Tetrapylon
Palmyra Tombs, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Tombs
Entrance to Palmyra, Syria
Entrance to Palmyra
Tetrapylon, Palmyra, Syria
Tetrapylon
Tetrapylon, Palmyra, Syria
Tetrapylon
Temple of Bel, Temple of Ba'al, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel, Temple of Ba'al, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel
Temple of Bel, Temple of Ba'al, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel
Palmyra at Sunrise, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra at Sunrise
Palmyra at Sunset, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra at Sunset
Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel
Palmyra at Sunrise from the Tombs over looking the ruins, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra at Sunrise from the Tombs over looking the ruins
Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel
Palmyra Sunset, Syria
Palmyra Sunset
Palmyra Arch, Syria
Palmyra Arch
End of the Decumanus Maximus, Palmyra, Syria
End of the Decumanus Maximus
View of site from Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
View of site from Fakhr al-Din Castle
Palmyra at Sunrise, Syria
Palmyra at Sunrise
Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Fakhr al-Din Castle
Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Fakhr al-Din Castle
Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Fakhr al-Din Castle
Decumanus Maximus, Palmyra, Syria
Decumanus Maximus
Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
Fakhr al-Din Castle
View of the Tombs of Palmyra, Syria
View of the Tombs of Palmyra
Entrance to Palmyra, Syria
Entrance to Palmyra
Palmyra at Night, Syria
Palmyra at Night
Palmyra at Sunrise, Syria
Palmyra at Sunrise
Ruin Jumps, Palmyra, Syria
Ruin Jumps
Ruin Jumps, Palmyra, Syria
Ruin Jumps
Palmyra Bedouin, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Bedouin
Palmyra Inscription, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Inscription
View from Fakhr al-Din Castle, Palmyra, Syria
View from Fakhr al-Din Castle
Local Vehicle, Palmyra, Syria
Local Vehicle
Town of Palmyra, Syria
Town of Palmyra
Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Syria
Temple of Bel
Palmyra Columns, Palmyra, Syria
Palmyra Columns

Krak des Chevaliers

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

South face of the Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
South face of the Inner Ward
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
Entrance, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Entrance
Inner Arches, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Arches
View from Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward

Krak des Chevaliers is an intimidating Crusader Castle in the hills close to the Syrian border with Lebanon. The Krak is one of the most important structures of medieval military architecture in the world and was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. The castle is situated on a 650 metre high hill that offers commanding 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. It sits right in a prime defensible position of the Homs Gap, the key trade artery open year round through the mountains that gives access to the interior of Syria from the coastal areas. There was a castle first built on this site in 1030 by local Kurds. It was permanently occupied by the crusaders in 1110 as the Christian kingdom started to expand after the first Crusade in 1099 AD. Krak des Chevaliers is an example of a spur castle (due to its defensive position) and a concentric castle (due to its multiple layers of defensive walls). The inner ward of the castle was the first structure the Knights Hospitaller built and improved, starting in 1142. Subsequent construction took place which lasted almost the entire time the Knights held this key fortress. There are four massive round towers, a large chapel that had frescoes, and an interior moat. By the 13th century the outer ward, or second concentric ring of walls, was built. Standing almost 10 metres tall, these walls added the extra layer to the already formidable castle design. Also added was a switch back, or "bent", entry gate complete with all sorts of arrow slits and murder holes to punish would-be attackers. There are passages leading to stairwells that descend deep into the pitch black depths of the castle. Regular tourists and guides never venture to these isolated tunnels. Watch where you step, if you make a wrong move down there it can be fatal. Numerous sieges were undertaken to capture this strategically positioned castle by hostile Muslim armies. None succeeded until 1271 when the castle's downfall, along with the rest of the Christian kingdom in the Holy Land, fell to the Mamluk Sultan Baibars. Krak des Chevaliers was a key military and administrative location during the roughly 200 years of the Crusades and its loss was a massive blow to the fragile Christian kingdom in the Holy Land. Within twenty years, all the crusaders were gone but the building legacy they left at Krak des Chevaliers is one of history's finest. No trip to Syria is complete without exploring the Krak.

View from outer walls of the inner ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
View from outer walls of the inner ward, Krak des Chevaliers
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
View from Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Outer Walls
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
View from the South West, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from the South West
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward
Outer Wall Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Wall Tower
Inner and Outer Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner and Outer Ward
Inside Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inside Outer Walls
View from Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward
Gallery of the Hall of the Knights, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Gallery of the Hall of the Knights
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip
Top of the Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Top of the Inner Ward
View from Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward
Inner Ward Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward Tower
The South Face of the Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
The South Face of the Inner Ward
Krak des Chevaliers from neighbouring hill, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers from neighbouring hill
The Inner Court from the top tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
The Inner Court from the top tower
View of the castle from the South, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View of the castle from the South
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
View from Inner Ward Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward Tower
Inner Ward and Moat, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward and Moat
Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls
Damaged Wall of Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Damaged Wall of Inner Ward
Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls
Hall of the Knights, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Hall of the Knights
View of the castle from the South, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View of the castle from the South
Inner Ward Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward Tower
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
Entrance Tunnel, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Entrance Tunnel
View of the castle from the South West, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View of the castle from the South West
View from Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Outer Walls
Outer Walls and Moat, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls and Moat

Aleppo

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Aleppo Citadel Backflip, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel Backflip
View of Aleppo from Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
View of Aleppo from Citadel
Aleppo Old Town, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Old Town
Aleppo Souq, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Souq
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Poster of Syrian President, Aleppo, Syria
Poster of Syrian President

Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The city was an important trading hub for thousands of years until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 because it was a key endpoint of the Silk Road that ran across Asia. Excavations near the old town have proven the area has been occupied since at least 5000 BC. Due to its key location on trade routes, and the wealth that it generated, Aleppo has been occupied by a number of Empires over its long history including the Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans. Even with the many invaders that have come and gone over the centuries, the city retains its own distinct cultural traditions that clearly differentiate itself from the rest of Syria and specifically the capital Damascus. The old town is a stunning example of medieval Islamic architecture that still survives alongside more modern buildings. The covered market, or "souq", of the old town is still a key focal point of the city and remains pretty much unchanged from how life would have been hundreds of years ago. The city is dominated by its Lord of the Rings style Citadel that towers over a huge dry moat. Imposing and intimidating by day, at night the fortress becomes something sinister with an eerie orange glow illuminating the structure. Aleppo is a huge thriving city with a long history and plenty to see and do. Unlike Damascus, it has its own distinct charm and still boasts much of its architectural history.

Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Sheesha Bar, Aleppo, Syria
Sheesha Bar
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Covered Souq, Aleppo, Syria
Covered Souq
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Covered Souq, Aleppo, Syria
Covered Souq
Covered Souq, Aleppo, Syria
Covered Souq
Near Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Near Citadel
View from Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
View from Citadel
Aleppo Old Town, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Old Town
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Great Mosque of Aleppo, Aleppo, Syria
Great Mosque of Aleppo
Aleppo Citadel at night, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel at night
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Aleppo Citadel Entrance, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel Entrance
Great Mosque of Aleppo, Aleppo, Syria
Great Mosque of Aleppo
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
President Picture, Aleppo, Syria
President Picture
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
View from Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
View from Aleppo Citadel
Covered Souq, Aleppo, Syria
Covered Souq
Throne Room, Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Throne Room, Aleppo Citadel
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel
Covered Souq, Aleppo, Syria
Covered Souq
Aleppo Citadel Backflip, Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo Citadel Backflip

Qal'at Salah al-Din

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Main Keep
Interior of Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Interior of Main Keep
View from Keep Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Keep Tower
View from Road to the Castle, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Road to the Castle
Tower Staircase, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Tower Staircase
Castle from entrance, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Castle from entrance

Saladin Castle, or Qal'at Salah al-Din in Arabic, is a castle in northwest Syria that used to guard the road between Latakia and Antioch. There was originally a Byzantine castle on this site built in the early 10th century before it was taken over by the crusaders in 1108 AD. The castle is strategically located on a ridge some 700 metres high between two deep gorges with steep sides. Known as Saone when it was a Byzantine and crusader castle, the huge fortress looks to be near impossible to take on. Based on its high perch, the size of the castle meant there were not enough defenders and the castle fell to Saladin in a mere three days in 1188 AD. From then on, it was known as Qal'at Salah al-Din. Most of the castle is a no-go zone of ruined walls and foundations surrounded by vegetation infested with snakes. However, the inner keep and main structural points reinforced by the Crusaders can still be climbed and explored. The site is large and visitors are few so you can have a whole section of the castle hill to yourself which is a unique opportunity. This castle can be visited as an easy day trip from either Latakia or Hama and is easy to combine with other day trip sites in the area.

Qal'at Salah al-Din from the main tower, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Qal'at Salah al-Din from the main tower
Original Entrance where drawbridge stood, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Original Entrance where drawbridge stood
View of Small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Small Tower
View of Keep Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Keep Tower
Keep Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Keep Tower
Original Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Original Walls
Secondary Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Secondary Keep
Outer Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Outer Walls
View of Small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Small Tower
View of Wall over the Gorge, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Wall over the Gorge
View of Qal'at Salah al-Din from the road to the Castle, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Qal'at Salah al-Din from the road to the Castle
View from Castle Walls overlooking the surrounding gorges, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Castle Walls overlooking the surrounding gorges
Castle Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Castle Walls
View up the valley from Castle Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View up the valley from Castle Walls
Top of the Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Top of the Keep
View from Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Keep
View from Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Walls
View from Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Tower
Entrance to small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Entrance to small Tower
View from below castle, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from below castle
Small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Small Tower

Apamea

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Apamea Pillars
Cardo Maximus at Apamea
Temple of Bacchus

Apamea is a now-ruined city that once belonged to the Seleucid Kings that ruled this area, northwest of present day Hama, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. The city was apparently a key area where elephants, horses and other livestock were raised during the Seleucid reign before the Romans took over by sacking the city in 64 BC. From then on it became part of the Roman Empire and what you see today is the remains of the Roman period of rule. The city numbered some 500,000 people in the second century BC and must have been hugely important before the Roman conquest. The city continued to have at least regional importance through the Islamic conquest of the area, and even during the Crusades, before a massive earthquake destroyed the city and it fell into ruin. Remarkably, many columns of the main Roman street remain standing and attest to the size this ancient city once had. What is left of Apamea now is essentially the main Roman street and some other remnants of buildings. It is worth the brief time it takes to view the site because of its location in lush rolling green fields that contrast so dramatically with the desert Roman city of Palmyra.

View of the Cardo Maximus at the ruin site of Apamea, Apamea, Syria
View of the Cardo Maximus at the ruin site of Apamea
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Cardo Maximus, Apamea, Syria
Cardo Maximus
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Apamea Backflip, Syria
Apamea Backflip
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Cardo Maximus, Apamea, Syria
Cardo Maximus
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Cardo Maximus, Apamea, Syria
Cardo Maximus
Cardo Maximus, Apamea, Syria
Cardo Maximus
Cardo Maximus, Apamea, Syria
Cardo Maximus
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Apamea Backflip, Syria
Apamea Backflip
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins
Apamea Ruins, Syria
Apamea Ruins

Damascus

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
President Billboard at Old Town entrance, Damascus, Syria
President Billboard at Old Town entrance
Al-Hejaz Station, Damascus, Syria
Al-Hejaz Station

Damascus is the capital of Syria and has been an important cultural and political centre of power in the wider middle east since at least 1000 BC. The city has evidence of being continuously inhabited since 6000 BC, with records showing that the city became large enough to be considered a metropolis by 200 AD. Its power only grew with the spread of Islam and the Umayyad Caliphate that chose the city as its capital. It remained prominent until the Ottoman Empire took over and the seats of power it once enjoyed transferred to Constantinople and Cairo. Damascus is an in your face seething mass of traffic, pollution and noise, not unlike Cairo. However it lacks the blockbuster sites that Cairo and Istanbul can offer. You will not be able to visit Syria without going to Damascus as it is a focal point for transportation, yet wandering the enormous markets in the old town and touring the national museum is still worth your time. Disappointingly, the old town, which once was the focal point of the city, has seen a population decline meaning buildings have been abandoned and left in disrepair or even worse, they have been replaced by breeze block concrete structures. There are still areas in Damascus that offer glimpses of the history of this city but be warned that the modern aspects of a big capital city has started to replace the old aspects.

Damascus Old Town, Damascus, Syria
Damascus Old Town
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
Damascus Old Town, Damascus, Syria
Damascus Old Town
View from bridge to Old Town, Damascus, Syria
View from bridge to Old Town
Umayyad Mosque Interior, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque Interior
Entrance to Al-Hamidiyah Souq, Damascus, Syria
Entrance to Al-Hamidiyah Souq
Al-Azem Palace Courtyard, Damascus, Syria
Al-Azem Palace Courtyard
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
Al-Azem Palace Courtyard, Damascus, Syria
Al-Azem Palace Courtyard
Damascus Markets, Damascus, Syria
Damascus Markets
Damascus Old Town, Damascus, Syria
Damascus Old Town
Al-Azem Palace, Damascus, Syria
Al-Azem Palace
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
Umayyad Mosque Courtyard, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque Courtyard
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque
 

Hama

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Noria, Hama, Syria
Noria
Hama at sunset, Hama, Syria
Hama at sunset
Noria at night, Hama, Syria
Noria at night

Hama is the nicest and most pleasant city in Syria, offering a welcome change of pace from the two busy cities, Damascus and Aleppo, which it is located between. Hama is located on the banks of the Orontes River in central Syria and is renowned for its Norias, giant wooden waterwheels that creek and groan while they rotate day and night. Historically the Norias were used for watering the city's gardens and irrigating crops in the surrounding fields. Now they are mainly for show but locals claim that a few have been turning almost constantly for over 700 years. Hama is a great place to use as a base for key surrounding sites such as Krak des Chevaliers, Apamea and other Crusader castles. Hama has a great provincial feel about it even though its the fourth largest city in Syria. Strolling the banks of the river among the local families, with the Norias creaking in the background, is one of the more relaxing moments you will find in large Syrian cities. Hama also has some of the finest falafels and cheap bakeries found in Syria. You can easily lose a couple of days slowing down, eating well and exploring the winding old streets.

Nur Al-Din Mosque, Hama, Syria
Nur Al-Din Mosque
Norias on the Orontes River, Hama, Syria
Norias on the Orontes River
Norias on the Orontes River, Hama, Syria
Norias on the Orontes River