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Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Umayyad Mosque	Syria
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria

other names:
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  • The Great Mosque of Damascus

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    Umayyad Mosque of Damascus is the first monumental work of architecture in Islamic history; the building served as a central gathering point after Mecca.
    It is considered the fourth-holiest place in Islam
    Is built on site of an ancient Aramaic temple dedicated to the god Hadad, then in Roman period, circa dedicated to Jupiter . In 4th century was transformed to a church, expanded to the Cathedral of St. John, situated on the western side of the older temple. After the Islamic conquest of Damascus in 661, during the reign of the first Umayyad caliph Mu'awiya Ibn Abi Sufyan, the Muslims shared the church with the Christians. The Muslims prayed in the eastern section of the ancient temple structure and the Christians in the western side. This collective use continued until Walid bin Abdul Malek's reign, when the prayer space became inadequate both in terms of capacity and the need for an architectural monument to represent the new religion. The caliph negotiated with Christian leaders to take over the space, and in return al-Walid promised that all the other churches around the city would be safe, with the addition of a new church dedicated to the Virgin granted to the Christians as compensation.
    When the project began all remaining fragments on the site from Roman to Byzantine periods were removed to accommodate a large innovative mosque planned according to Islamic principles.
    During his 10-year reign as caliph in the beginning of the eighth century al-Walid bin Abd al-Malik addressed the citizens of Damascus:
    'Inhabitants of Damascus, four things give you marked superiority over the rest of the world: your climate, your water, your fruits and your baths. To these I wanted to add a fifth: this mosque.'

    Umayyad Mosque, Johanan (John the Baptist, Yahya) Tomb

    After the Arab conquest of Damascus in 634, the mosque was built on the site of a Christian basilica dedicated to Johanan, John the Baptist (Yahya) since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine I. The mosque holds a shrine which today may still contain the head of John the Baptist, honored as a prophet by both Christians and Muslims.

    Umayyad Mosque, Saladin Tomb

    The tomb of Saladin (Selahedin) is located in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the Umayyad Mosque.
    The tomb is recognisable by it's distinctive red dome.
    Saladin (Selahedin, Salah ad-Din Yusuf) was born in Tikrit in 1137, joined the military at age 15 and became a prominent military leader, famous from the battle at Sde Hitim.

    Umayyad mosaic

    other historic sites in Damascus

    Rescuing Moses

    National Museum, Damascus
    Mother of Moses puts her son in a wooden basket and the wife of the Pharaoh finds him while bathing.
    Dura Europos 245 A.D. Synagogue.

    	Azam Palace Syria	Damascus,
    Azam Palace Damascus, Syria

    Citadel of Aleppo - Qalaat Halab - 12th/13th Century

    Qalaat Halab
    Citadel of Aleppo

    Sant Simon Monastry, Aleppo

    Saint Simon Monastry

    Saint-Simon Monastry, in Arabic �Qalaat Seman� is located 30 km from Aleppo.
    The monastry is in the name of the ascetic Saint Simon (Sant Simon, Sint Simon) from 4th century AD, who spent forty-two years of his life here.
    Shimon Ish HaAmud (in Hebrew �Shimon � men of the pillar�) � Simon Stilitis (in Latin) was 36 years on the top of the 20 meters high pillar never going down.

    15 centuries ago, Emperor Zenon built this important cathedral to honor Saint Simeon who lived on a pillar preaching his students.


    This church is an example of the beauty attained by the Syrian architecture and was imitate in Europe three centuries later.
    This church also influenced the Italian architect Berlucci when rebuilding the Church of all Nations at Mt. Tabor in 1924.


    At the foot of the Saint-Simon Hill, is a village: Deir Semaan, connected to the monastery by a processional road, also housed many pilgrims.

    Tartus, Tartous, Tortusa


    Tartus (Tartous, Tortusa) is the second most important Syria seaport on the Mediterranean ( 90 km to the south of Latakia ) . It was called Antaradus by the Phoenicians and Tortusa by the Byzantines . Tortusa was to become one of the main supply spots for the Crusaders and a military base of considerable importance . It was held by the templares, recovered by Saldin in 1188. The arches , wall-towers and narrow lanes in Tartus evoke what the town must have been like in medieval times . A jewel of Romanesque art is the cathedral of Tartus , which is now a museum containing relics from various Syria civilizations.

    Krak des Chevaliers, Qalaat al-Hosn, Fortress of Knights

    Krak des Chevaliers

    Krak des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle in Syria, one of the most important preserved medieval military castles in the world. In Arabic, the fortress is called Qalaat al-Hosn. The word Krak coming from the Syriac karak, means fortress. It is located approximately 40 km west of the city of Homs, close to the border of Lebanon.
    Since 2006, the castls of Krak des Chevaliers and Qal�at Salah El-Din have been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
    The original castle was built in 1031 for the emir of Aleppo. During the First Crusade in 1099 it was captured by Raymond IV of Toulouse, but then abandoned when the Crusaders continued their march towards Jerusalem. It was reoccupied again by Tancred, Prince of Galilee in 1110. The early castle was very different to the extant remains. It originally consisted of a single enclosure, coterminous with the inner ward (fortified enclosure) of the present castle. In 1142 it was given by Raymond II, count of Tripoli, to the Knights Hospitaller. It remained in their possession until it fell in 1271.
    Krak des Chevaliers was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. It was expanded between 1150 and 1250 and eventually housed a garrison of 2,000.
    In 1163 the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Nur ad-Din Zengi, after which the Hospitallers became an essentially independent force on the Tripolitanian frontier. By 1170 the Hospitallers' modifications were complete. In the late 12th and early 13th century numerous earthquakes caused some damage and required further rebuilding.
    Saladin unsuccessfully besieged the castle in 1188. During the siege the castellan was captured and taken by Saladin's men to the castle gates where he was told to order the gates opened.
    In 1217, during the Fifth Crusade, king Andrew II of Hungary strengthened the outer walls and financed the guarding troops. In 1271 the fortress was captured by Mamluk Sultan Beybar (Baibars) on April 8 with the aid of heavy trebuchets and mangonels, at least one of which was later used to attack Acre in 1291. However, to conquer the castle, Baibars used a trick, by presenting a forged letter from the Crusader Commander in Tripoli, ordering the defenders to surrender the castle. Otherwise, this immensely strong castle would probably never have fallen. Baibars refortified the castle and used it as a base against Tripoli. He also converted the Hospitaller chapel to a mosque

    Wtiter Paul Theroux described it as the dream castle of childhood fantasies, while T.E. Lawrence called it "the finest castle in the world."
    The remarkably well-preserved Crusader castle looks almost exactly as it did during the Crusades.

    Qalat Marqab


    Marqarb is Syria's 3rd most impressive castle after Crac des Chevaliers and Qalat Saladin. Marqarb gives a slightly evil impression due to the fact that it is built of black basalt rock. Marqarb was a Muslim stronghold and was possibly founded as early as 1062. In the 12th century the castle was passed to the Crusaders and with this became a part of the Principality of Antioch. In 1168, Marqarb was sold to the Knights of Hopsitaller who strengthened and better designed the castle allowing it to stand up to 2 major assaults in the 13th century.
    Marqarb fell in 1285 to the Mamlukes after Mamluke Sultan Qalaun and his soldiers dug under the castle foundations and set fire to all the supporting beams bringing the castle foundations down. The Mamlukes repaired the castle and continued to use it until they lost power to the Ottomans who used Marqarb as a prison.



    Serjilla is one of the best preserved of the Dead Cities in northwestern Syria. It is located in the Jebel Riha, approx. 65 km north from Hama and approx. 80 km southwest from Aleppo, very close to ruins of another "dead city" of Bara. A bath complex indicates the wealth of the community. Unusually, it was built in 473, already during the time of Christianity. In 1899 an archeological team from the Princeton University discovered a large mosaic on the main hall floor but it had disappeared when the team returned six years later.
    Like most other of the "Dead Cities", Serjilla was abandoned in the seventh century when the Arabs conquered the region and discontinued merchant routes between Antioch and Apamea.

    They're remarkable remnants of Byzantine farming villages that flourished in the 4th and 5th centuries. Although they are ruins, the "dead cities," as they're often called, are not piles of rock or relics that require you to stretch your imagination. Many are remarkably intact. In some areas, pomegranate and fig trees grow in and around the buildings. Some of the villages have a ghostlike quality, as if they were abruptly abandoned and then slowly crumbled into the landscape.
    A fully intact pyramidal burial chamber stands near remnants of a 5th century church.
    One season the Byzantines could come in, and in the next season the Umayyads would attack. It was almost like annual training exercises. Byzantine farmers and their families were caught in the middle. The majority likely were forced to eventually migrate back to Byzantium proper. The villages slowly dwindled in size and importance. Drought and rising temperatures, it is believed, made the once-fertile area undesirable. Maybe that's why we have complete houses still standing, people left, and there was just no attraction anymore to come to the area.
    A visit to the dead cities is not for everyone. You'll have to make your way around some fallen walls and rock piles, and through some underbrush. Be careful. Small children, the elderly and people with disabilities may have trouble accessing some areas.
    Serjilla (Sarjella) has been deserted for almost 1500 years, but its stone buildings remain sharp-edged and the surrounding area is carpeted in short grass. In many ways it looks as if the villagers have only just left.
    The center of the town has a two-storey tavern and a large bathhouse. The bathhouse, built 473 AD, is austere and stripped of its original mosaics, but is unique and interesting.
    Serjilla is located in the Jebel Riha, 65 km north of Hama and 80 km southwest of Aleppo, close to the ruins of Al-Bara.

    Honeycomb typical structure in old Syria

    St. Georges Monastery (Gregos), Christian Valley, Syria

    St. Georges Monastery, Christian Valley, Syria

    Saint George Monastery of Homeyra (Gregos, Deir Mar Jirjis) is a historic Antiochian Orthodox monastery located in northwestern Syria's "Valley of the Christians" (Wadi al-Nasara) in the town of Meshtaye, between Homs and Tripoli.
    It is said that the monastery was built over remains of an ancient statue of the god Homerus by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I sometime in the 5th century. The monastery occupies a 6,000 m� land and was built entirely from Byzantine styled stone. The modern church was rebuilt in 1857.
    A historical big stone with religious carvings can be found in the monastery's southern gate. The wooden iconostasis found inside the church are decorated with impressive carvings and are magnificent presentations of art, its gold painted icons.
    The monastery is busiest during pilgrimages at the feast of Saint George (May 6) and the feast of the elevation of the Holy Cross on (September 14).

    It was consecrated to St. George, the glorious martyr (Jirjis according to the historian al Tabari), called by non Christians as "lord al-Khodr Abu al-Abbas".
    The name of the monastery "Homeyra" is probably related to an ancient village which bore this name in regard to the god of rain among the primitive peoples. Some scholars say that the word "Homeyra" derives from the Greek "Homyros" which means the "torrent" and we know that, during winter, the region is open to heavy rains and to great torrents.
    The monastery was originally a cave surrounded by some cells of simple monks. It has a southern Byzantine fa�ade with the main entrance. The gate and the fresh olds are sculptured from black stone.
    Near the gate, there is a stone window used by monks to distribute bread and food to the needy and to those passing-by. On the other hand, the monks used the same window to teach the gathered people the basics of ethics and religion.
    The second floor was built in the 12th century during the Crusades.
    On this floor, there is a church called the "old" in regard to the new one, the third floor, this old church has a semi-circular arch and a wooden Iconostasis, accurately and strictly carved, has a group of Icons painted by an 18th century Arabic school of painting which inherited the Byzantine art, giving it a local tint. This art attracted a group of Icon admires who stole the Icon of St. George and sold it in London. Fortunately the Scotland Yard found the Icon and a few years ago, it was brought back to the monastery.
    The modern third floor has a splendid church which goes back to the 19th century. The church has a magnificent wooden Iconostasis, considered one of the most important in Syria and Lebanon. It took 34 years to be carved and its Icons are painted by the Jerusalem school in the 19th century.
    Among the treasures of the monastery, there are manuscripts, documents, decrees and privileges from the Arabic era and gifts from the Armenian, Georgian and Russian kings.

    Bosra (Bozrah, Bostra, Busra ash-Sham, Bushra) Roman Theater

    Bosra Roman Theater
    Bosra Roman Theater

    Bosra (also called Bozrah or Bostra, in Arabic: Busra ash-Sham) is an ancient city 108 km south of Damascus. Once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, Bosra was an important stopover on the ancient caravan route to Mecca.
    Bosra's most impressive feature is its superbly well-preserved Roman theater, complete with tall stage buildings.
    There are also early Christian ruins and several old mosques to be found within its great walls.
    Originally a Nabataean city, Bosra was conquered by the Roman emperor Trajan and made the capital of the Roman Province of Arabia. The city achieved the title "metropolis" under the Roman emperor Philip, who was a native of the city.
    The city fell to the Muslims in 634/635.
    The Crusaders captured Bosra in the 12th century but failed to hold it. In the same century earthquakes, together with Turkish misrule, hastened its decline.

    Maalula, Maaloula


    Maaloula is one of the most scenic villages in Syria and is of particular interest as the only place in the world where Aramaic is still used as a living language.
    The word Maaloula means entrance in Aramaic.
    Maaloula is situated at an altitude of more than 1500 meters; with its little houses cling to the face of an enormous rock; making it look suspended in mid-air.
    There are two important monasteries in Maaloula: Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla. Mar Sarkis Monastery was built in the 4th century on remains of a heathen temple, designed on the model of martyries, which have a simple, plain appearance. It was named after St. Sarkis, one of Syrian horsemen who fell in the reign of king Maximanus in 297.
    The renowned Mar Taqla Monastery holds remains of St. Taqla, daughter of one of Selucid princes, and pupil of St. Paul.
    This is Maaloula, the unique village, still genuine in this whole world, a magnificent plaque that contains a strange mixture of past and present, reality and legend, sanctity and beauty.

    Hama, Hamath, Khamat, Amat, Hamata

    Hama Syria


    Hama (Biblical: Hamath = "fortress") is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in central Syria north of Damascus. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria - behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs.
    The ancient settlement of Hamath was occupied from the early Neolithic to the Iron Age.
    The Amorite people colonized the area during the third millennium B.C. The Amorites came from Mari on the River Euphrates.
    The name appears to stem from Phoenician khamat = fort.
    At 1000 BC Hama was the capital of a prosperous Aramaean Kingdom known from the Bible as Hamath which traded extensively, particularly with what is now Israel. The Aramaean lived comparatively peacefully, co-existing with other states in the region. Gradually Aramaic became the most widely used language of the Near East.
    When the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (AD 858-824) conquered the north of Syria he reached Hamath (Assyrian: Amat or Hamata) in 835 BC.
    After the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 738 BC, Hamath's king Ilu-Bi'di (Jau-Bi'di) led a failed revolt of the newly organized Assyrian provinces. It was this revolt which led to the deportation of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
    Few Biblical reports state that Hamath was the capital of a Canaanite Kingdom, whose king congratulated King David on his victory over Hadadezer, king of Soba. Solomon took possession of Hamath and its territory and built store cities. Assyria's defeat of Hamath made a profound impression on Isaiah. The prophet Amos called the town "Hamath the Great."
    Alexander the Great's campaign from 334 to 323 BC brought Syria under Hellenic influence. The Aramaeans were allowed to return to the city, which was renamed Epiphania, after the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes
    In Byzantine days (330 AD) Hama was known as Emath.

    Noria in Hama Syria
    Noria in Hama, Syria

    The norias, initially started during the rule of the Ayyubid dynasty (1175).
    During Mamluk (1342), the norias were reconditioned and enlarged.
    Currently, only seventeen norias remain, unused.


    A noria (Arabic and Syriac: na�ura) is a machine for lifting water into a small aqueduct, for the purpose of irrigation.
    A noria can raise water to somewhat less than its full height. The largest noria in the world, with a diameter of about 20 meters, is located in the Syrian city of Hama.

    Noria in Hama, Syria

    Palmira, Tadmor


    Palmyra (Tadmor) was an ancient city in Syria. In the age of antiquity, it was an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus.
    The earliest documented reference to the city by its Semitic name Tadmor, Tadmur or Tudmur, which means "the town that repels" in Amorite and "the indomitable town" in Aramaicis recorded in Babylonian tablets found in Mari. It is still known as Tadmor in Arabic, and there is a newer town next to the ruins of the same name. The Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale monuments containing funerary art such as limestone slabs with human busts representing the deceased.
    The exact etymology of the name "Palmyra" is unknown, although some scholars believe it was related to the palm trees in the area. Others, however, believe it may have come out of an incorrect translation of the name "Tadmor". The city was first mentioned in the archives of Mari in the second millennium BC. It was another trading city in the extensive trade network that linked Mesopotamia and northern Syria. Tadmor is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a desert city built by the King Solomon of Judea.
    There had been a temple at Palmyra for 2000 years before the Romans ever saw it. Its form, a large stone-walled chamber with columns outside, is much closer to the sort of thing attributed to Solomon than to anything Roman. It is mentioned in the Bible as part of Solomon's Kingdom. In fact, it says he built it.
    Flavius Josephus also attributes the founding of Tadmor to Solomon in his Antiquities of the Jews, along with the Greek name of Palmyra, although this must be a confusion with biblical 'Tamara'. Several citations in the tractates of the Talmud and of the Midrash also refer to the city in the Syrian desert (sometimes interchanging the letters "d" and "t" - "Tatmor" instead of "Tadmor").
    When the Seleucids took control of Syria in 323 BC, the city was left to itself and it became independent. The city flourished as a caravan halt in the 1st century BC. In 41 BCE, Mark Antony sent a raiding party to Palmyra but the Palmyrans had received intelligence of their approach and escaped to the other side of the Euphrates, demonstrating that at that time Palmyra was still a nomadic settlement and its valuables could be removed at short notice.[7]
    In the mid 1st century AD, Palmyra, a wealthy and elegant city located along the caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria and Phoenicia, came under Roman control. During the following period of great prosperity. Jones and Erieira note that Palmyran merchants owned ships in Italian waters and controlled the Indian silk trade. Palmyra became one of the richest cities of the Near East. The Palmyrans had really pulled off a great trick, they were the only people who managed to live alongside Rome without being Romanized. They simply pretended to be Romans.
    Palmyra was made part of the Roman province of Syria during the reign of Tiberius (14 �37 AD). It steadily grew in importance as a trade route linking Persia, India, China, and the Roman empire. In 129, Hadrian visited the city and was so enthralled by it that he proclaimed it a free city and renamed it Palmyra Hadriana.
    Beginning in 212, Palmyra's trade diminished as the Sassanids occupied the mouth of the Tigris and the Euphrates.
    Zenobia rebelled against Roman authority with the help of Cassius Longinus and took over Bosra and lands as far to the west as Egypt, establishing the short-lived Palmyrene Empire. Next, she took Antioch and large sections of Asia Minor to the north. In 272, the Roman Emperor Aurelian finally restored Roman control and Palmyra was besieged and sacked, never to recover her former glory.
    The city was captured by the Muslim Arabs under Khalid ibn Walid in 634. Palmyra was kept intact. After the year 800 and the civil wars which followed the fall of the Umayyad caliphs, people started abandoning the city.
    In 1132 the Burids had the Temple of Ba'al turned into a fortress.
    In 1401, it was sacked by Tamerlan (Timurlan, Amir), but it recovered quickly, so that in the 15th century it was described as boasting "vast gardens, flourishing trades and bizarre monuments" by Ibn Fadlallah al-Omari.

    Palmyra, Syria

    In the 16th century, Qala'at ibn Maan castle was built on top of a mountain, overlooking the oasis, by Fakhr ad-Din al-Maan II, a Lebanese prince who tried to control the Syrian Desert. The castle was surrounded by a moat, with access only available through a drawbridge. It is possible that earlier fortifications existed on the hill well before then.
    The villagers who had settled in the Temple of Ba'al were dislodged in 1929 by the French authority.
    The Temple of Ba'al-Shamin
    The most striking building in Palmyra is the huge temple of Ba'al considered "the most important religious building of the first century AD in the Middle East". It originated as a Hellenistic temple, of which only fragments of stones survive. The temple measures 205 x 210 m.
    The second most noteworthy remain in Palmyra is the theater, today having nine rows of seating, dated to the early 1st century AD. Behind the theater were a small Senate, where the local nobility discussed laws and political decisions, and the so-called "Tariff Court", which an inscription led to think to be a custom for caravans' payments.
    Nearby are the Temple of the Syrian goddess Allat (2nd century AD), the Damascus Gate and the Temple of Ba'al-Shamin, erected in AD 17 and later expanded under the reign of Odenathus.
    Outside the ancient walls, the Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale funerary monuments, which now form the so-called Valley of the Tombs, a 1 km long necropolis, with a series of large structures with rich decorations. These reliefs represented the "personality" or "soul" of the person.
    In May 2005, a Polish team excavating at the Lat temple discovered a highly-detailed stone statue of the winged goddess of victory Nike.
    Recently, archaeologists in central Syria have unearthed the remnants of a 1,200-year-old church believed to be the largest ever discovered in Syria.



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