Aleppo (Haleb) (Syria)
Aleppo is located 360 km from Damascus. This is the second largest city in Syria, the so-called second capital of the state. The Arabic version of the city’s name is Aleppo. The history of the city goes back more than 5 thousand years, which makes it one of the oldest still inhabited settlements in the world. In the 3rd millennium BC. Aleppo was a unique settlement in its location. It stood at the crossroads of the most important trade routes between Mesopotamia, the fertile lands of the Middle East and Egypt. Later Aleppo became one of the main points of the Silk Road. In connection with this situation, the city was periodically attacked by various peoples. It reached its heyday during the Christian era. During this period, Aleppo became the residence of the archbishop, a huge cathedral was built here, which, under the Arabs, was rebuilt into a madrasah. In the 5th century, the city was almost completely destroyed by the Persians. Under the Arabs, it regained its importance as a major trading center. In 944 Aleppo became the capital of Syria. Under the Turks, Aleppo began to trade with France, England and Holland. It was at this time that European motifs began to appear in the architecture of the city, which made it even more attractive.
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, a small mosque of Ibrahim and the Great Mosque of 1213 with a square minaret 21 m high. There is also a small museum with finds that were collected during the restoration of the fortress. Under the citadel there is a network of secret passages, some of which are located at a depth of about 125 m.
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.
Palmyra (Tadmor) (Syria)
According to Sportsqna.com, the village of Tadmor is located 210 km northeast of Damascus. In ancient times, the flourishing city of Palmyra was located here. Its name is translated as “the city of Palms”. Palmyra was called the “rival of Rome in the East”, as it was a rich Roman settlement, a major trading center, linking West and East, rising among the desert sands. The first mention of Palmyra dates back to the 20th century BC. Under the Arabs, the city lost its commercial importance. Palmyra owes its appearance to the source Afka. Only on the basis of it was it possible to form a rich oasis in the desert. It is believed that the sulfate waters of the source also have a healing effect. They help in the treatment of skin diseases, diseases of the respiratory tract, digestive organs and anemia, stimulate digestion and blood circulation.
The archaeological park near Tadmor covers an area of 6 square meters. km. In 1980 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The ruins of Palmyra of the Roman period and structures erected in the 3rd century AD have been preserved here. under the Syrian queen Zenobia, who gave her life to fight against Rome. On the hill are the ruins of the 17th century Arab watch fortress Fakhr al-Din al-Maani. The main street, surrounded by a colonnade, runs through the whole city. Also in the park you can see the Bela (Baala) temple complex, the trading square, the Senate, the amphitheater, the triumphal arch, the ruins of residential buildings, the baths and the valley of the tombs with unique burials located in several layers.
Of interest is the Palmyra Museum with an extensive collection of art from various periods (sculptures, mosaics, gold, bronze and pottery) and an ethnographic collection that tells about the folklore of Palmyra and the Syrian desert in general.
Every year in the first week of May, the park hosts a festival during which camel races, folklore evenings with dances and songs, displays of costumes and products of local artisans are held.
From Tadmor, you can go on a trip through the desert on camels.
45 km southwest of Tadmor is the Al-Khir al-Gharbi Palace of the 8th century, and 110 km northeast of Tadmor is the Al-Khir al-Shargi Palace of the 8th century with a small mosque like the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. Also of interest are the ruins of the Rasafa Palace, 160 km north of Palmyra.. The palace served as the residence of Caliph Hisham, who built the two palaces listed above. The residence of the Caliph was built on the site of the Church of St. Sergius, around which the ancient city of Sergiopolis flourished several centuries before.