Breaking News

New Touristic Projects in As-Sweida

AS-SEWEIDA, (ST) - Tourism Directorate of As-Sweida governorate has drawn up a new plan to implement a number of touristic projects in the governorate this year.

The plan came within the framework of the tourism ministry's policy to enhance tourism investment in As-Sweida, through carrying out several projects approved by the ministry.

Head of the Directorate Ya'roub Arbeid said that projects to be implemented include Ariqa Cave, al–Amer Hotel and Ugarit Center. In addition, a special study for implementing new restaurants, swimming pools and seven motels in Ain al–Marriage district is being prepared, he added.

For his part, investor Fayez Azzam, who is in charge of implementing Ariqa Cave project, said "we will concentrate on improving the cave entrance and setting up a restaurant with summer and winter halls.

He talked about a study aiming at expanding the tourist al–Atlal Complex and building a restaurant in al–Mneithra district.

It is to be noted that the directorate in cooperation with the tourism ministry is keen to launch a new book note on the governorate's touristic sites in English and to modernize the electronic site of the directorate so as to cope with the development of Information Technology.

Nahla Ma'az –AS-Sweida

Bab Kisan , where St. Paul escaped from Damascus

The Chapel of St. Paul, is a modern stone chapel in Damascus that incorporates materials from the Bab Kisan, the ancient city gate. After his baptism on the Street Called Straight in Damascus, St. Paul began the tireless preaching that would characterize the rest of his life, which led to a narrow escape from Damascus

The Jews conspired to kill him , but his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

Paul himself later says that it was through a window that he escaped from certain death . In Paul's time, the city of Damascus was surrounded by a wall pierced by seven gates. Bab Kisan is the gate on the southeastern side of Damascus and was dedicated to Saturn.

Bab Kisan, was the gate through which Paul escaped. This southeastern district of the city was not only very close to the start of the Roman road that St. Paul would have taken, but was also the part where, from the earliest times, the Christians used to live. Early Christian tradition identified a window beside the Kisan Gate.

The gate has been sealed and then reopened and restored several times. The blocks at the base of the gate are Roman, while the style of the arch is clearly typical of the Mameluke period. Bab Kisan originally was a church. It was seized in the year 1122 and converted into a mosque.

It was purchased together with the surrounding area by the Melkite Patriarch Gregory Joseph. On this land a chapel was erected, whose walls incorporate traces of the ancient gate and a small section of the wall.

The Chapel of St. Paul, go out the Eastern Gate from Straight Street and keep to the right. A 400-meter stretch of the ancient city wall stops at Bab Kisan, in front of the roundabout on the motorway to the airport.

The sober and austere design of the chapel blends in well with the antiquity of the walls. Two elegant and modern Chi-Rho monograms adorn the fortified towers that stand on other side of a fictitious window, similar in style to those of a medieval castle.

Source:Sacred Destination

Nada Haj Khider


The first thing that comes to one's mind when the Syrian city of Homs is the wonderful sense of humor that distinguishes its people, in addition to its strategic position, which intermediates the Syrian most important governorates.

Historically, Homs is an ancient city. It was called (Aamisa) in the Roman period.  Its construction dates back to the year 2300 BC. The ancient city is buried under the current one.

It was said that its name was taken from the word (Hmoth) which was the name of the tribe that inhabited the city in past periods. It was also said that the word (Homs) is Aramaic and it means the "soft ground". It was named so because the city was located on a plain. Some researchers said that the meaning of Homs in Aramaic was a description of the sun then it became a special name of the sun god. The sun god temple was very popular where people used to worship the Black Stone. The Roman Emperor Sptamos Sesfros transferred the Black Stone of Homs to Rome when he became an emperor in193 -211 AD. This is what made Homs famous of using black stones for building houses, commercial centers and palaces until the present day.

Homs reached its apogee during the Roman rule when the Homsi strain moved to rule the Roman Empire. Princess Julia Dumna, Karkalla (211- 217), Elio Tabal (218- 228), Alexander (229- 232), Oaela Kbaal and Philip the Arab, were among those great Homsi emperors who ruled Rome. Many residents of Homs took important Roman state positions, and enjoyed the membership of the Senate.

In (246- 273) Homs underwent the rule of Palmyra Kingdom. By the year (272- 633), Abu Obeida Ibn al-Jarrah conquered Homs so it became one of the major Arab soldiers' centers which were al-Kufa and al-Basra in Iraq, Damascus and Homs in Syria and Fustat in Egypt.

Then it was subjected to the Ottoman occupation for a long period of time during which it had offered a lot of martyrs who died in defense of their homeland such as scholar Sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Zahrawi, lawyer Rafiq Rizk Salloum and officer Azza al-Joundi who were martyred in 1916. After that Homs struggled bravely against the French colonialism and regained its independence along with other Syrian cities in April 1946.

 A lot of religious buildings, mosques, holy shrines and churches, were constructed in Homs during ancient times, particularly during the Islamic era. Among the most distinguished buildings were: The great Al-Nouri Mosque, which had been the temple of the sun god before Emperor Theodosius made it a church.  Half of the building was transformed into a mosque during the Arab rule and the other half remained as a church, Khalid Ibn al-Walid Mosque which contains the tomb of the heroic Arab leader Khalid Ibn al-Walid, St Allian Al- Homsi Church (432 AD), where the tomb of St. Allian exists, Homs Museum, the Castle and Homs Wall.

Homs is famous of its souks, heritage markets and modern compounds. It is really a distinguished commercial city. Many five-star hotels, luxury restaurants, casinos and cafes are built in this city. 

Amal Farhat                        


Ministry of Tourism 2013 plan for further tourism attraction

Despite the current crisis, the Ministry of Tourism seeks to make Syria a distinct tourist destination on the international tourist map.

In its 2013 plan, the Ministry is to reactivate cooperation programs with the Syrian airlines especially during festivals through sponsoring tourism events and organizing visits to sites of special religious and archeological significance.

Director of the Ministry’s marketing department Kawthar Mleisan said the ministry will print brochures about Damascus’s various gates and booklets on special Syrian products, Islamic civilization and the Syrian Cuisine.

In line with the “Go East ward” policy pursued by the Government, the ministry will take part in New Delhi, Moscow, and Beijing tourist exhibitions. More efforts are being exerted to organize certain tourism events in Latin American countries, especially Brazil and Venezuela where large Syrian communities live.

Khaled falhoot

Basilica of St. Sergius

The Basilica of St. Sergius is a ruined 5th-century Byzantine church dedicated to the famous saint St. Sergius, a Roman soldier martyred c.303 under Maximian. The church was a major pilgrimage site and was later shared with Muslims as a place of worship. It is located in Rasafa (or Risafe) in central Syria, which is now an isolated archaeological site, according to sacred destination.

Rasafa was probably inhabited in Assyrian times. In the Roman period (3rd century), a road ran through Rasafa from the Euphrates River to Palmyra. Diocletian built a fort here to defend against Persian attacks. It was also around this time that a Christian cult of St. Sergius developed in the town, centered on the site of his grave.

According to early Christian accounts, Sergius and Bacchus were officers in the Roman army on the Syrian frontier. They were favorites of the Roman emperor Maximian, but they incurred his wrath by refusing to sacrifice to the pagan god Jupiter because they were Christians. Maximian demoted Sergius and Bacchus, ordering them to be costumed in women's dress and marched through the streets. They were then sent to Rasafa, where they were scourged so severely that Bacchus died. The martyrology reports that boards were nailed to Sergius' feet, upon which he was forced to walk before being beheaded.

By the 5th century, Sergius and Bacchus were among the most popular and revered martyrs in the East. In 431 Alexander, archbishop of Hierapolis, restored the church over Sergius' grave and shortly afterward Rasafa became a bishopric. The Byzantine emperor Justinian I made Rasafa an archdiocese, changing its name to Sergiopolis, and had churches built in the saints' honor at Constantinople and Acre.

The church at Rasafa became a major pilgrimage site in the East. Sergius and Bacchus were designated protectors of the Byzantine army, and numerous Eastern sanctuaries and churches were dedicated to them. Their veneration reached the West as well: a mass ascribed to Pope St. Gelasius I is assigned to them. Christian desert nomads still regard Sergius as their patron saint.

Although Justinian had funded additional fortifications, Rasafa finally fell to the Persians in 616. After the Arab invasion, it was occupied by Hisham abd al-Malek, who added a large summer residence for himself.

After his death, the Abbasids razed the city to the ground; it remained occupied after that but the population was much reduced. Rasafa was finally abandoned in the 13th century, when the Mongols swept across northern Syria.