Breaking News

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





Ancient theaters in South Syria

The size and capacity of the theater always complied with the size and administrative importance of the city.

The theater of Busra is the most beautiful and integrated theater of its kind in the world.

Ancient theaters served sport, cultural, artistic and political activities of the city. South Syria is one of the richest areas in the world with ancient ruins and artifacts that witnessed the development of arts, architecture and monuments of past civilizations. The region is especially famous for its numerous theaters spread in most of its cities, towns and, sometimes, small villages.

Eleven of the fifty theaters discovered in Syria are located in Shahba, Qanawat, Daraa, Sweidaa, Busra and Sahar in South Syria. When the Romans entered Syria in 64 BC they found civilized and lavish cities.

Queen Zenoubia



In A. B. Daniel's book "Zenoubia's Legend", issued by the Parisian Cleric Publishing House, 2005, we can read many details of the life of Queen Zenoubia who ruled the Arabian Kingdom of Palmyra between 266 and 272AD, continued the march of her assassinated husband, King Uzaina, in liberating Syria from the Romans. Palmyra, in Zenoubia's term, reached the culmination of its power and prosperity.

In one of the chapters of his book, Daniel wonders about the nature of this woman who occupied the hearts of her people and the pages of books written about her story. He said: "Was Zenoubia, Queen of Palmyra, a real woman of flesh and blood? She was of sharp intelligence and rare bravery, of charming beauty and great power. Yes she was a queen, but not like other queens. She obliged the Roman Empire to kneel down in respect to her although she was in her thirties. All we know with certainty about Zenoubia is that in 260AD she was the wife of Uzaina, (Udanat) the famous king of Palmyra, who defeated the Persians and was appointed by the Roman Emperor Galliano, in 262, Commander in Chief of the Orient which was under the Roman Rule. In ten years time this king could build a new empire, Palmyra, which extended from the Mediterranean in the west to the Euphrates in the east and to Egypt in the west.

Souk al-Hamidiya

 A Contemporary eye witness on events and traditions

 Souk al Hamidiya is the most famous historical bazaar in the heart of Damascus. It  extends north east inside the old city, from the tips of the western wall of the Damascus citadel, to reach al Miskiye ; that is, from al Nasr street to Bab al Breed near the columns of the temple of Jupiter.

The souk was built in two stages:

The first stage was finished during the rule of sultan Abdul Hamid I, when Mohammad Pasha al Azem was the govorner of Damascus. The souk started from al Darwishia and ended in al Asrouniyeh. This stage was finished in 1780, after which the souk was named the “new bazaar“.