Syria: Tartus, Krak des Chevaliers, Qalat Marqab, Serjilla, Christian Valley, Bosra, Maalula

pictures of the World: Syria: Tartus, Krak des Chevaliers, Qalat Marqab, Serjilla, Christian Valley, Bosra, Maalula

Tartus, Tartous, Tortusa

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






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 m² 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 faחade 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

Maalula, Maaloula


created 28 April 2011

on Google site since 18 December 2012

updated 18 December 2012