What to See in Syria

Damascus is located in the southwestern part of Syria at the foot of Mount Qasyun (1155 m) on the Barada River. This is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. For the first time in the annals it is mentioned in the 15th century BC, in addition, Damascus and its environs are described more than once in the Bible. Damascus throughout its history was a major trading center, which was located at the crossroads of important trade routes.

Old city of Damascus included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, because there are many monuments that belong to different eras of the rich history of the city. The old city is surrounded by 5 km of the fortress wall, which was built under the Romans. Inside the walls are narrow streets, bustling markets, mosques, churches and other attractions. Along the perimeter of the fortress wall, 7 gates have been preserved, the most ancient of which date back to the Roman period. According to TOP-MEDICAL-SCHOOLS, these are Al-Faraj, Al-Faradis, Al-Salam, Al-Jabiya, Tuma, Shargi and Kisan. The Kisan gate is located in the southeastern part of the fortress wall. It is believed that it was through them that the Apostle Paul left Damascus. Today, passage through the gate is closed, and the chapel of St. Paul installed here reminds of the past of these places. Tuma Gate is the entrance to the main craft district of the city, through which King Faisal Street runs. Behind the Al-Jabiya gate, which are located in the southwestern part of the fortress wall, is the Midhat Pasha market – the main trading square of the capital, which was named after the famous Turkish governor.

From the market originates Shargi Avenue, dotted with shops, which in turn rests on the gate of the same name. Under the Romans, the Midhat Pasha market and Shargi Avenue were a long street stretching from west to east. This street was called Via Recta, which in Latin means “Straight Street”, and was the main street of the city. Many biblical events took place on it. At the end of Shargi Avenue is the underground church of St. Ananias of the 1st century, where the Apostle Paul was baptized. Paul was converted to the faith by the Christian Jew Ananias, who delivered Paul from the blindness sent to him by God for the persecution of Christians. This is the only Christian church that has survived from the 1st century AD. A little to the north is the old Christian quarter Tuma, next to which are the gates of the same name. Tuma is the Arabic version of Thomas. The Tuma quarter is the oldest quarter of the capital, it was named after the Apostle Thomas. Today, the Christian Quarter is home to many bars and restaurants.

In the very center of the Old City is one of the largest mosques in the world – the Umayyad Mosque. It was built on the site of the ancient church of John the Baptist between 706 and 715, after the conquest of Damascus by the Arabs. Its prototype was the Mohammed Mosque in Medina. Today it is one of the main shrines of the Arab world and a place of pilgrimage for Muslims. Inside the mosque is decorated with mosaics, among which are fragments of ancient golden mosaics, and carpets are spread on its floor. Next to the mosque is a sacred place where, according to legend, the head of Imam Hussein (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) is buried, and the mausoleum of Saladin, which stopped the advance of the crusaders to the east in the 12th century. In the Old City, it is also worth seeing the 1749 Al-Azem Palace,the tomb of Zeynab, where the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad is buried, and the tomb of Seyida, the great-granddaughter of Muhammad. Be sure to check out the bustling markets of Damascus, which are called souk in Arabic. There are a myriad of them here.

One of the main attractions of the New Town is the National Museum, where the entire history of the country can be traced. Also in the New City, the Taqiya al-Suleimania Mosque of the mid-16th century will be of interest. In Damascus, excursions to the top of Mount Qasyun are offered. In the mountain there is a cave Magarat ad-Damm, where, according to legend, the biblical character Cain killed his brother Abel.

Close to In the mountains of Damascus, there are small resorts where Syrians and residents of neighboring countries like to relax both in summer and in winter. The most popular resorts are Zabadani, Bludan, Madaya and Bukayn. In summer, there is no sweltering heat, and the nearby forests with numerous springs are perfect for relaxing. In winter, from late December to early March, these resorts attract skiers, despite the fact that there are no equipped slopes and ski lifts.

22 km from Damascus in the city of Saednaya at an altitude of 1450 m is the Orthodox monastery of the Saednaya Mother of God, where the miraculous icon is kept, which, according to legend, was painted by St. Luke. Not far from here is the small town of Maalula, mostly Christians live here, and this is the only place in the world where Western Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is still spoken. In Maaloula, on a rock, stands the convent of St. Thekla. On the territory of the monastery there is a cave, inside of which there is a chapel, where, according to legend, Saint Thekla is buried. Also interesting in Maalula is the Church of St. Sergius of the 4th century with icons of Arab saints of the 17th-18th centuries. Suwayda is located

90 km southeast of Damascus., famous for its surrounding vineyards. Suwayda is located at an altitude of 1100 m. From the Nabataean language, the name of the city is translated as “a small black town”, because in ancient times all its buildings were built of black basalt. The city museum contains mosaics of the 6th century, which were found here during archaeological excavations. Also in Suweida, the ruins of a Roman temple from the 3rd century and the colonnade surrounding it have been preserved. Not far from here, about 20 km, is the city of Daraa. The first mention of it dates back to the 15th century BC. Ancient dwellings, a Roman amphitheater, the remains of Roman baths and black basalt sculptures have been found in the city. From Dara you can go to the ruins of the ancient city of Bosra, which are located near the border with Jordan. It was the first city Syria who converted to Islam. Bosra has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1980. Built from black basalt, the city was once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia. The main attraction of Bosra is the Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century AD. for 15 thousand seats. In the 5th century, it was fortified with 9 towers and a moat, that is, it turned into a citadel. Every summer, the amphitheater of Bosra hosts the Folklore Festival.

200 km north of Damascus is the city of Hama . Hama has been known since ancient times as a rich fertile land where agriculture flourished. One of the main attractions of the city are the old wooden water-lifting wheels “Norias”, which were installed on the Orontes River about 3,000 years ago to irrigate agricultural land. To date, about 20 of these wheels have been preserved in their original form, the largest of which reaches a diameter of 20 m. Also of interest in the city is the Al-Jami mosque of the 14th century, where two emirs who ruled in the 13th century are buried, the Abu al-Fida mosque, named after one of the sultans of Hama, who became famous for his geographical and historical research, the 12th century Al-Nuri Mosque with surviving Arabic and Greek inscriptions and the 18th century Azem Palace, which was built for the future governor of Damascus – Azem. Be sure to visit the Turkish caravanserai of the 16th century, which now houses Archaeological Museum with mosaics from the nearby ancient city of Apamea.

To the west of Hama is the Mudik fortress with huge towers, and a little to the south is the Shayzar fortress, above the entrance to which Mamluk inscriptions have been preserved.

55 km northwest of Hama lie the ruins of the ancient city of Apamea, built during the reign of the Seleucid dynasty in 300 BC. e. He was named after the wife of Seleucus I – Athama. Most of the surviving ruins date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods. Archaeologists excavated the central street of the city, about 2 km long and 87 m wide, along which there are colonnades and walls. Also in Apamea are the ruins of a Roman theater from the 2nd century.

Homs is located 50 km south of Hama on the banks of the Orontes River.. It is the third largest city in the country. In ancient times, it was one of the points of the Silk Road. Homs was badly damaged during numerous earthquakes. The oldest surviving building in the city is the Al-Fadael Mosque built in 1062. In addition, in Homs you can see the mosque of Ibn al-Walid, inside which is the tomb of the great Arab commander Ibn al-Walid; the 12th century Al-Nuri Mosque, on the site of which the Temple of the Sun was located under the Romans; one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the world – the church of Kanis umm-Zunnar 50 AD, which means “Girdle of the Mother of God” in translation, and the Basilica of St. Elian of the 8th century AD. with unique frescoes and inscriptions in Greek and Arabic. It is worth visiting the municipal museum, where many archaeological exhibits are exhibited.

15 km from Homs is lake Kattina, on which the remains of a dam dating back to the 2nd millennium BC have been preserved.

Not far from the border with Lebanon, 65 km west of Homs, is one of the most famous crusader castles in the world, Krak des Chevaliers. Due to its historical significance, the castle was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Krak des Chevaliers was built on the site of the castle of the Emir of Aleppo 11th century between 1150 and 1250, after being captured by the crusaders. It was located on a 650 m high hill and became the main castle of the Order of Malta, which controlled important trade routes. The fortress covers an area of 3000 sq. m, has 13 towers, of which 7 are 10 m in diameter, and its inner walls at the base reach a thickness of more than 3 m. In one of the towers of Krak des Chevaliers, the Grand Master of the Order of Malta lived. The fortress could accommodate about 5,000 soldiers and was the largest Crusader castle in the Holy Land. To date, this is one of the few places on earth where the frescoes of the Crusader era have been preserved.

In the northern part of the country, 360 km from Damascus, is the second largest city in Syria, the so-called second capital of the state – Aleppo (Aleppo). Aleppo is an Arabic name, while Aleppo is a French one. The history of the city has more than 5 thousand years, which makes it one of the oldest still inhabited settlements in the world. The Old City of Aleppo was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986. Its central part is occupied by a 50 m high hill, on which stands an ancient citadel .. The fortress was built in the 12th century, during its history it was rebuilt more than once, was destroyed by earthquakes, but still survived to this day and now serves as an excellent example of Arab fortification architecture. A moat 20 m deep and 30 m wide runs along its perimeter. You can enter the citadel via a massive arched bridge built by the Mamluks in the 16th century. The fortress wall has 8 entrance gates: Al-Hadid, Al-Magam, Antakeya (one of the most ancient gates of the city, in the tower of which is the tomb of Sheikh Ali al-Rumi), Nasr, located next to the Christian quarter, Al-Faraj (main entrance to the Old City), Qinnasrin, Al Jnean and Al Ahmar. Inside the fortress walls, the remains of various buildings have been preserved: a throne room, an armory room, a Byzantine hall, a bathhouse,

Another attraction of the Old City that you must visit is the ancient shopping districts of Aleppo – Jayda and Tayba with medieval houses, where life is in full swing to this day. Here you will see many caravanserais and markets. In addition, the al-Jami al-Kabir mosque of 1090 and the Jami-Kykan mosque of the 13th century, in which a stone block with Hittite inscriptions was found, are interesting in the Old City. The Aleppo Archaeological Museum contains unique artifacts found during the excavations of ancient cities such as Ebla and Mari, while the Museum of Popular Art and Tradition contains an extensive ethnographic collection.

50 km southwest of Aleppo are the ruins of the ancient city-state of Ebla, which flourished here in the 3rd millennium BC. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of the royal palace, several temples and gates. But the most important find was the royal library, where more than 17 thousand clay tablets and their fragments with cuneiform writing in Eblaite and Sumerian were stored, among which is the oldest dictionary in the world.

In the vicinity of Aleppo, the remains of the basilica of Simeon the Stylite (Kalat-Samaan) are interesting. It was built 60 km west of Aleppo in 490 under Emperor Zeno in memory of the first Christian Stylite Simeon. It became one of the largest basilicas of the ancient period. The project was original: the center of the cathedral was a pillar where Simeon prayed for 40 years. To this day, only a small fragment of the pillar and its base have survived. In the 10th century, fortifications were built around it, together with the basilica they were called the fortress of Simeon the Stylite.

What to See in Syria