Umm el-Marra

Umm el-Marra ‎, east of modern Aleppo in the Jabbul Plain of northern Syria, was one of the ancient Near East's oldest cities, located on a crossroads of two trade routes northwest of Ebla, in a landscape that was much more fertile than it is today. Possibly this is the city of Tuba mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions listing cities that were defeated or destroyed in the Pharaoh Thutmose III's north Syrian campaign. The city of Tuba is also mentioned in epigraphic remains from Ebla and Mari.

Umm el-Marra probably had three to five thousand inhabitants between 2800 BC and about 2100/2000 BC, when Tuba and other cities in the Jabbul Plain experienced a mysterious collapse of central authority that lasted about 200 years. Partial answers to the question, why these early centers were so brittle, may lie in the effects of sustained drought on overstressed primitive agriculture. Dr Glenn Schwartz who has been doing field archaeology at Umm el-Marra, suggested in 1994 that "they placed extensive demands on their environments, continually intensifying their agriculture to feed more people. The added stress from a few dry years may have been the straw that broke the camel's back." Simple daily life went on in Tuba, for the site was never completely abandoned, but at the renaissance of the city in 1800 BC, Amoritic names were now in control. Tuba went on to enjoy a second period of prosperity and power, as a "subsidiary capital" of the still shadowy kingdom of Yamkhad.

After a long period of abandonment, the site was re-occupied in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The site covers around 25 hectares. It was surrounded with a city wall with 3 gates and a defensive ditch. Excavation of Umm el-Marra began in the late 1970s and early 1980s with soundings by a Belgian team led by Roland Tefnin. Since 1995, a joint archaeological team from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Amsterdam have been working at Umm el-Marra.

A rare intact, unlooted tomb, ca. 2300 BC, uncovered by Dr. Schwartz's team in 2000 at the site, made science press headlines, for it contained five richly-adorned adults and three babies, some of whom were ornamented head-to-toe in gold and silver.

It may be the oldest intact possibly royal tomb yet to be found in Syria. Dr. Schwartz noted of peculiar aspects in the burial that they 'may hint at ritual characteristics, rather than a tomb simply reserved for royalty or elite individuals.' The interment, which was above ground in ancient times, included three layers of skeletons in wooden coffins lined with textiles. The top layer includes traces of two coffins, each containing a young woman in her twenties and a baby. The women were the most richly ornamented of all the occupants of the tomb, with jewelry of silver, gold and lapis lazuli. Also of interest on this level was an accompanying lump of iron, possibly from a meteorite. One of the babies appeared to be wearing a bronze torque, or collar.


Compiled by:Maysa Wassouf


It is a very ancient town,being mentioned in tablets by "Thutmose the Third" and "Akhnatoun", in the 14th century B.C.

Bosra is situated on the plain of Horan,140kms.south of Damascus.It has been one of the first Nabathean cities in the second century B.C. named "Bohara" whereas in the Hellinistic period it bore the name "Bostra". Then the Romans arrived,and during the King Trojan days made it a capital of the State of the Djezire under the name of "Niatrojana Bostra".

At that time the city underwent a great housing development being an important center for caravans as well as the seat of the emperial ruler.Even after the Roman domination,Bosra maintained its role during the early Christianity as well as at the rise of Islam.

In this place lived a Nestorian monk named "Buheira". One day he met a young man named "Mohammed ben Abdullah", who was passing with his caravan and predicted his prophecy,and his call for Islam.

The most spectacular site of Bosra,most certainly, would be its famous Roman theatre that dates back to the 2nd century, and is considered to be as one of the most intact and the most beautiful Roman theatres known to us.

It seats fifteen thousand spectators. Its stage is 45 m long and attains 8 m.An annual festival is held in which local entertainments as well as Pan Arabic and international ones are shown.

The town has many other vestiges such as Nabathean ruins (remnants of walls), Roman ones (a Triumph Arch and public baths), Byzantine traces(a cathedral and remnants of the church of "Buheira" the monk) and finally some Islamic vestiges such as the Mabrak and the Arous mosques, the citadel and the pool. The most ancient Islamic square minarets can be seen in this town.

A new international hotel has been inaugurated to welcome visitors.

Hanan Shamout

Arwad island


Arwad island is like a gem in the middle of the sea, with its amazing castle and its wall. Is located 3 KLM from tartus city
The population is about 10,000.
The Island is full of restaurants and bars and is crowded in the summer, The island is divided in 2 parts south and north and people from those parts speak different accents.

It is a Mediterranean island, just off the coast of Tartus. Its ancient roots as a Canaanite coastal settlement are described in Egyptian documents dating to the 2nd millennium BC. Arwad's strategic location and trade-based economy made it a key colony in the Phoenician empire. The island was subsequently passed on to the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greek and finally the Romans under Alexander the Great. During the Roman period, however, the island's strategic value was no longer nurtured, as such, the Arwad's importance diminished while its onshore twin Tartus gained in stature.

Arwad was the last Crusader stronghold in the region and fell to the Arabs in the thirteenth century. Antique and medieval architectural remains denote a rich historic past. There are still fragments of the Phoenician walls, some parts of which have been used for squatter housing. Two main castles still stand on the island; the most visible being the Crusader defense fortress that stands at the center of Arwad. This citadel was used as a prison for Syrian nationalists fighting against the French mandate of Syria (1920-1946); traces of the resistance still mark the cells' stonewalls. The second, an Arab castle located on the port side of the island, was used as a main trade point. This Arab castle has been recently renovated and converted into a museum.

The fabric of Arwad is dense, with narrow winding streets between the tight residential quarters. Today the isolated island is mainly a tourist site that is reached by a 20-minute boat ride from Tartus. Its economy depends on tourism, local crafts and maritime occupations (small trade and fishing).

The special nature of Arwad Island makes it more distinct in the life style of its people whose memories are full of sea legends and stories. Surrounded by the sea, Arwad inhabitants found in fishing and boat manufacturing the main source of livelihood. They worked hard to preserve the handicrafts and skill of their forefathers, the Phoenician, day after day, boat manufacturing, decorative shell industry, fishing and sponge fishing, were flourishing.
The sea constitutes an essential part of the inhabitants' life where 70 % of them mastered the major professions, handicrafts and hobbies related to the sea.
Shell industry, in the first place, depends on collecting shells and corals, after which they are shaped in different kinds of presents and souvenirs.
The island represents an architectural sculpture. It has always been described as the five-storey city. It is located 3 km from Tartous, Syria's largest port.

At last I say :Arwad is a marvelous island, everyone must visit, it is not a big city, the people there are very kind and helpful, and the beach side in Tartous new made. Best thing you do is going in sea trip it is very cheap, and you can see (Arwad castle) go up and see the city and the ships there small and big, it is a very nice view you will remember the end of your life. You must eat fish there, it is very tasty, and all the food are very good, by the way I am sure you are going to buy some souvenirs, to your friends and family, because they are handmade and cheap, most of them are made from shell ,when you go back to your home, I am sure you will wish to come back to Arwad, I went there many times and I wish, and ready to go more.

Butheina Alnounou  



Ugaritic alphabet inscribed on clay tablets

Ugarit was an ancient port city on the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland; some 11 kilometres (7 mi) north of Latakia in northern Syria near modern Burj al-Qasab. Ugarit sent tribute to Egypt and maintained trade and diplomatic connections with Cyprus, documented in the archives recovered from the site and corroborated by Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery found there. The polity was at its height from ca. 1450 BC until 1200 BC.

Though the site is thought to have been inhabited earlier, Neolithic Ugarit was already important enough to be fortified with a wall early on, perhaps by 6000 BC. Ugarit was important perhaps because it was both a port and at the entrance of the inland trade route to the Euphrates and Tigris lands.

The first written evidence mentioning the city comes from the nearby city of Ebla, 1800 BC. Ugarit passed into the sphere of influence of Egypt, which deeply influenced its art. The earliest Ugaritic contact with Egypt (and the first exact dating of Ugaritic civilization) comes from a carnelian bead identified with the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Senusret I, 1971 BC – 1926 BC. A stela and a statuette from the Egyptian pharaohs Senusret III and Amenemhet III have also been found. However, it is unclear at what time these monuments got to Ugarit. Amarna letters from Ugarit 1350 BC record one letter each from Ammittamru I, Niqmaddu II, and his queen.

From the 16th to the 13th century BC Ugarit remained in constant touch with Egypt and Cyprus.

In the second millennium BC Ugarit's population was Amorite, and the Ugaritic language probably has a direct Amoritic origin. The kingdom of Ugarit may have controlled about 2,000 km2 on average.

During some of its history it would have been in close proximity to, if not directly within the Hittite Empire.

The last Bronze Age king of Ugarit, Ammurapi, (circa 1215 to 1180 BC) was a contemporary of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma II. The exact dates of his reign are unknown.   

Scribes in Ugarit appear to have originated the "Ugaritic alphabet" around 1400 BC: 30 letters, corresponding to sounds, were inscribed on clay tablets; although they are cuneiform in appearance, that is, impressed in clay with the end of a stylus, they bear no relation to Mesopotamian cuneiform signs. A debate exists as to whether the Phoenician or Ugaritic "alphabet" was first. While the letters show little or no formal similarity, the standard letter order (preserved in the Latin alphabet as A, B, C, D, etc.) shows strong similarities between the two, suggesting that the Phoenician and Ugaritic systems were not wholly independent inventions.


Maysa Wasouf

Ma’alula is a unique city in Syria




Ma’alula means the entrance in the Aramic language. It is a rocky village located in the middle of the Syrian countryside, nestled in the Qalamoun mountains 1500 meters above sea level, Maaloula is one of the most scenic villages in Syria, up till now it’s people still speak Aramic, the language of Jesus Christ . It is historically the home of the First Martyr, St Takla, daughter of a Roman prince who was converted to Christianity by St Paul. The story goes that after St Takla’s pagan father learned of her conversion, he sent his soldiers to execute her but each time she was miraculously saved. Fleeing to Syria, St Takla found herself confronted by the impassable Qalamoun mountains. After praying to God to save her, the mountain was miraculously split in half so she could escape her persecutors.

Arriving in Maaloula you feel this ancient history in the air. It’s pregnant with religion. There are crosses hidden in every cave and painted on every wall. Some are carved, some are lit at night, and more still are plain – just simple remembrances of the town’s pervasive Christianity. At the top of the mountains there’s another reminder; a statue of the Blessed Mother overlooking the village with her loving gaze. Christianity isn’t something that’s just talked about here, it’s in the air, the earth, and the very breath of each of its 2,000 inhabitants.

In Ma’alula you won’t find the usual hustle and bustle of other Middle Eastern towns; there’s a vibe of pilgrimage. A place where adventurous Christians and Muslims alike can follow the steep mountain road up to the Monastery of St Takla, home to the miraculous waterfall created by God for the pursued martyr.

The village has two famous monasteries:

Mar Sarkis

Mar Sarkis was built in the 4th century on the site of a pagen temple. It is considered one of the oldest surviving monasteries in the Christian world. This ancient Greek Catholic monastery of St Sergius, with its beautiful decoration pieces dating back from the Byzantine period, is the one of the reasons why Christian pilgrims from all over the world come to Ma’alula. They come seeking blessings and to wonder on this religious marvel.

Mar Taqla

Mar Takla is the other ancient and equally important Christian monastery in Ma’alula. This Greek Orthodox  monastery of St. Taqla houses some of the Christian religious relics considered highly sacred to the Christian world.

Archaeologists have discovered a number of rock-carved temples and halls from the 1st millennium before Christ as well as some Roman and Byzantine cemeteries dating back to the period between the 1 st and 4 th centuries after the birth of Christ   

Ma’alula Not just is one of the oldest towns in the world, It is the only city where its 2,000 inhabitants still speak Aramaic – (the language of Jesus ) .It is a unique city and is by far.

Compiled by

Butheina Alnounou