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.


Oak trees in Sweida; an ancestral memory

Thousands acres of evergreen oak forests have been protected for a long time, creating a rare natural painting and an ancestral memory for the people of Sweida.

The tree which has been grown in the area since about two hundred years, offers a refreshing healthy air saturated with Oxygen. This characteristic makes oak a symbol of purity, a destination for visitors to enjoy the beautiful sites and a natural hospital to the skin and pictorial diseases.

Oak tree farms occupy wide area in Sweida governorate, with more than three Million trees, representing 70 % of the prevalent trees of the governorate natural forest.

Besides, resisting the cold, growing in the poor lands and light- intimate, the oak tree lives more than 300 hundred years.

Its heavy, solid and harsh wood is used particularly in blackening, when extracted; its bark is used in tanning and for the medical and food usages.

 Apart from the charm beauty it gives to the sight, oak trees play an important role in bringing rains, purifying the air and preserving the environmental balance.  Every one hectare of oaks absorbs 13 to 17 tons of carbon dioxide per year, gives 10 to 13 tons of oxygen and reduces the evaporation in soil from 700 to 1000 cubic meters per year and the speed of the wind from 30 to 60%.

Thanks to all these merits, the oak tree is deeply rooted in the land and the memory of our ancestors. 

Khaled falhoot

Three Tourism Projects Ratified at SP 1.5 Billion

DAMASCUS,(ST)_ The Ministry of Tourism has  ratified three tourism projects to be implemented in Damascus and Lattakia at a total cost of 1.5 billion Syrian pounds.

The ratified projects include Abu Khalil al-Qabbani house at a cost of SP 36 million, Jableh Moll and Hotel at SP 555 million and Jableh Sleib site at SP 933.481, according to tourism projects director Ghiath al-Farrah.

He explained that Abu Khalil Qabbani will be rehabilitated by running a cultural and social section and a cafeteria Jableh Moll and restaurant will be carried out within one year and rented for 20 others while Jableh Sleib site, including four-star hotel, three restaurants, multi purpose halls and 14 chalets, and be completed within 3 years will be rented for 45 years.



New Archaeological Discoveries

Excavations in Sweida resulted in important new discoveries, the most important is the lower left part of the ancient western archaeological gate of Sweida city dating back to the end of the first century AD. It is a rectangular basaltic rocks, carved well and relatively large in size.

Head of  Sweida Antiquities Bureau, Hussein Zeineddin, said that this part is located north of the road leading to al- Najmeh(star) Palace down more than two meters from its level and has a height of 2.45 meters, a length of 2.5 meters and a width of 2.5 meters. The work will continue to uncover the right lower part of the gate where the upper portions of it appeared broken (by man). 

"The excavation works at the site of Breakah Hill in Sweida, date back mainly to the Middle Bronze 2000/1500 BC, also resulted in detecting ruins of  a residential house back to the Aramaic period "700 BC". The house was built of basalt stone in addition to a group of earthen wine jugs, pottery jars belonging to the same period," Zeineddin said.

"These discoveries are added to the ones that have been found in the processes of previous excavations which included two rooms, one of them included nine earthen wine jugs of large size that were arranged in three rows and were used to save wine in addition to a floor paved with small stones, and a foundation of two rooms, one of them contained a pottery basin and the second contained a large jar," Zeineddin stressed. 

 "Several stone tools and broken bones, pottery vessels and a mold for pouring gold ornaments that included elaborate inscriptions and decorations made also have been discovered," Zeineddin added.
"The other room contained artifacts made of colored pebbles taken from river in addition to a stone basin to crush the dyes, small silky basaltic stone for waxing threads, a chamber to save the earthen wine jugs, as well as a piece of unique ivory a tube shaped with diameter of about "5 cm". This evidence reflects a boom in the ivory industry in the Aramean period during the first three centuries of the first thousand BC," head of  the Antiquities Bureau clarified. 

" Some of  excavation missions operating at Breakah Hill site also discovered architectural ruins date back to the eighteenth century BC. Beside the site, there were  graveyards in the form of pottery jars and a number of oil pitchers that were used for  transporting olive oil and other sorts of oils  to different parts of Bilad As Sham, and  Egypt.  Among the finds, there was a "beetle" shaped seal that belonged to an Egyptian traders. They  left this legacy at this site near a spring of water," he pointed out.
 "The National Excavation Mission also found, in the area of temples at the archaeological site of Sea,i specifically in the eastern courtyard of Ze al Sharat  Temple, located between the temples of Baal Shamin in the West and the Great Temple in the east, the Haram wall of this temple on the southern- eastern side and found a "corridor" paved with basalt tones leads from the end of the eastern Haram area and west of the Nabatiyeh gate to the area of south  the southern Chapel in addition to a number of pottery saddles and coins belonging to the two Nabatiyeh and Romanian eras, noting that work will continue at the two archaeological sites of  Breakah Hill and Sea,i in the future due to their historic significance," Zeineddin concluded. 

Sh. Kh.