Look on Aleppo’s Ruins

Aleppo museum

All historical periods are exhibited in this museum, however the greatest emphasis is put on the Iron Age, while there is quite a big Islamic section. At the museum you will witness, starting at the main entrance, a temple gateway and a female sphinx from the Iron Age Neo Hittite settlement in Tell Khallaf. The first hall exhibits statues and cuneiform slates from Mari in the Bronze Age, including some pieces discovered by Agatha Christie’s husband, Max Mallowan, at the site of Tell Brak (Tell Khouwayra). Further on, you will find a room containing Bronze Age objects from Hama and Ugarit.

Damascene Sword

 

The Damascene sword has more sincere reports than western media. Its essence is hair braids, its handle is the ivory strength, its color is silver purity, its decorations are golden surviving, its inscriptions are from the holy Quran, its makers are Damascene, and its lasting is forever.

“No sword, but Zulfiqar”

Between a handle and a sheath… its blade has glory:

The hilt of the Damascene sword is made either of elephant tusks “ivory”, or of buffalo horns, for the strength of these two objects and their agreement with the structure and shape of the blade. The sheath is made of walnut and beech wood. Precious metals are added to the Damascene sword through a process called “Altakfit” which is inserting strings of gold and silver to the surface of the blade, sheath, and handle, it is also decorated and studded with precious stones.

Mari, An Exclusive Ancient City

When professor Andre Barrow described Mari as a “fabulous capital“hewas not far from the truth. The location of Mari, on Tall al Hariri in the central Euphrates region, (about 2 km from Abou Kamal), leads us to certain conclusions about the cultural importance of this city.

The Tall al Hariri itself is 1000X 600 m only, but the various discoveries and the results of excavations give a clear view about the deep mentality of ancient Syrians.

The city itself did not start as a small village to grow gradually, but, rather, it was preplanned: mock ups were made (as we do now a days), preparation swere started to build the city altogether, then it was constructed according to the plans. That was 2900 year before Christ, which means that the staff of the social administration and /or the municipal authority at that time, intended to build the city according to a pre-planned architectural style, taking in to consideration that this city should fulfill a historical, economical, and industrial role in that early stage of human history .

Krak Des Chevaliers / Qalaat Al Husn

A Unique Citadel And A Distinguished Tourist Site

 As high as 2300 feet above sea level stands what is much considered the greatest fortress in the world, Krak Des Chevaliers (Castle of the Knights). With its command over the valley between Homs and Tripoli, and being a model of perfection of medieval fortification, this Castle was never besieged or taken by storm. It only fell through Baibars unique plan involving trickery.

The history of this magnificent fortress is not very well known, it was given as a  garrison by the Amir of Aleppo in 1031. This has been proven through Muslim chronicles, which named it Castle of the Kurds (Husn Al Akrad). The castle that the Kurds erected was taken over by the Count of Toulouse in 1099 and then by the Latin prince Tancred in 1110.

Palaces Of The Badia of Homs

 Neither of the Umayyad caliphs who succeeded al Walid Bin Abdul Malik lived permanently in the capital Damascus. Rather they lived in palaces (Often called Desert palaces) scattered across the desert, not far from agricultural areas, where they sought tranquility and peace of mind, and practiced hunting.

There still remain few of these palaces mainly:

- Qasr Al Hir Al Sharki (Eastern) Located approximately 120 Km east of Palmyra, is the first of these two castles, Qasr Al Hir Al Sharki. This Castle’s grounds actually consist of two separate castles, which are situated 43 meters apart, a large garden area and a small village. Although there is much speculation as to what this castle’s purpose was for, the most probable theory is that it was the site of a large agricultural settlement, with some defensive purpose against some of the desert tribes and the threat of Mesopotamia. It seems at first sight to have some Byzantine or Roman origin, although most believe that the Roman capitals were taken from nearby sites or were carved by Christian craftsmen. It was most probably built in the 700s under the Umayyad Caliph Hisham. After the Umayyads were overturned, the Abbassids found some use in keeping it flourishing (by then it had become a center for controlling caravan traffic, hence commercial wealth), however only on a small scale. It was later resettled in the 11th century till the 13th and with the Mongol invasion was abandoned.

The Castle grounds were surrounded by a mud brick wall, which can still be seen at some points. You can also see very little of the garden area and the village. As for the two castle buildings, their gateways face each other at a distance of 43 meters and have a minaret in between, this minaret could be the third oldest minaret in Islam. The gateways are well designed with a mixture of Byzantine, Arab and Mesopotamian architecture and have on both sides large cylindrical towers. The smaller eastern half of the couple is the most beautiful feature of this site. The western castle is by far the larger of the two and has a large area for habitation. There are also some remains of baths to the north of the site.

- Qasr Al Hir Al Gharbi (Western) This palace, located 80 Km away from Palmyra on the Damascus road, is the second of the Desert palaces. Built by the Umayyad Caliph Hisham Bin Abd Al Malik in 727 AD.

It was used as an outpost to Damascus, to keep eye on the Desert tribes and defensive arrangements as well as being a hunting lodge. It was used by the Ayyubids and the Mamlouks but was deserted permanently after the Mongol invasion. About 5 km before reaching the site, remains of the outer walls of the settlement can be seen; their circumference would have stretched some 18 km, encircling a huge area of gardens, as well as a civilian town and the castle buildings that survive today.

Once at the main site you will find two enclosures facing each other, the smaller the better preserved to the east of which, is thought to have served as a khan. The interior is mere ruins. Between the buildings stands a minaret, may be the third in Islam and it might have started life as a watch tower, as there is no mosque attached to it.

The western enclosure, some six times larger than the eastern one, contains a grid of streets in the center of which there is a small square and a cistern.

The castle itself is square in shape with 70-meter sides. The central gateway to this castle is very beautiful, and has been moved to be used as the entrance to the National museum in Damascus. With its semi-cylindrical towers on the sides of the gateway, pillars, and the geometric shapes, it reflected a mixture of Persian, Byzantine and Arab architecture.

As for the rest of the castle, not much remains except for the cistern to collect water from the Harbaqa dam, a Hammam and the nearby khan.

 

Haifaa Mafalani