Discovering The Beauty Of Syria: A Tour Of The Country’s Most Stunning Castles, Mosques & Ruins
For many years, Syria stood tall as one of the region’s most exquisite countries when it comes to history, architecture and thriving civilization. With it being Syria’s Armed Forces Day, we wanted to honor and celebrate the occasion by exploring the most breathtaking spots across the country seeped in history and culture.
Krak Des Chevaliers
Located 40 kilometers from the city of Homs is one of the most iconic fortresses. Sitting above an expansive 650-meter hill, surrounded endless countryside is Krak Des Chevaliers. It is considered one of the most preserved medieval castles in the world. Back in the 12th century, it was built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem then came the Mamluks in the late 13th century who continued its construction. This fortified structure is equipped for any type of war or attack. Not only does it have the capacity to accommodate a garrison of 2000 soldiers, it also houses a 120 meter long storeroom that could hold enough supplies to allow its inhabitants to survive a 5-year long siege.
Also known as the grand mosque of Damascus, not only is it one of the oldest and largest mosques in the world, but it is considered the fourth holiest site following the sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina as well as the Al-Aqsa mosque. It was built back in the 8th Century by the Umayyad caliph, al-Walid IIon on the site of the Christian basilica that’s dedicated to John the Baptist. At that time, the caliph envisioned a beautiful mosque at the heart of his new capital city and he was able to turn that vision into a reality by using state tax revenue raised over the course of seven years to build the mosque. Today, it stands tall with its exquisite interiors of marble and mosaic.
Stepping way back to the time of the ancient Romans, back in the 2nd Century AD, a massive amphitheater was erected, one that could accommodate 15,000 spectators. It has a large stage, almost 45 meters long and about 8 meters deep. Back then, the Romans designed it in a such a way that every audience member can hear the actors without having to use any special equipment. Also back during its prime, a mist of scented water used to get sprayed at the audience members to cool them off from the surrounding desert heat. As a piece of Roman architecture, the Bosra amphitheater is quite special because it was one of the few freestanding amphitheaters ever built by the Romans.
Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi Castle
Built 410 meters high, atop a rocky spur is the towering citadel of Salah Ed-Din, located 30 km east of Latakia. It is a partly-preserved fortress that exemplifies a typical Crusade fortification. Built by the Byzantines becoming a stronghold for the crusaders up until it was captured by the Ayyubid sultan Saladin in 1188. Today, it stands tall as a UNESCO World Heritage site that can be visited by taking a steep drive up its ridge and once at the top, guests can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding lush landscape.
Stately, prestigious and one of the masterpieces of 18th century Islamic architecture is Qasr Al Azm. It is one of the largest and oldest completely preserved private residences in Damascus. Built back in 1749 by the Ottoman governor of Damascus As’ad al-Azem, the palace exudes the quintessential elements of Ottoman domestic architecture as not only are its interiors divided into private (haremlik) and public spaces (selamlik), it also houses a small courtyard with an iwan (a vaulted hall) on the south wall. It also represents traditional Damascene architecture of alternating dark and light ablaq masonry and windows adorned with ornate lattice work.
Its incredible how these landmarks and monuments barely scratch the surface when it comes to what Syria has to offer. Learning about all these local spots showcases the rich history and culture that the country experienced through the eons of its special existence.