Syria is a Middle Eastern country with rich cultures and traditions and a beautiful mediterranean weather. Since the beginning of history, Syria has been the center of numerous fascinating cultures and civilizations. Those different civilizations adorned Syria with important magnificent historical sites; some of them were even added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. All of that and more made Syria a must-go travel destination for millions of tourists from around the world. Some of the most interesting historical sites that can be found in Syria:
The Citadel of Aleppo
One of the oldest and largest castles in the world, the Citadel of Aleppo overlooks the city from a hill that helped defend Aleppo and its people from different attacks throughout its history. The location of the castle was used by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans, however most of the Castle today was constructed during the Mamluks period. The Citadel of Aleppo has many fascinating ornate halls and passages that were built during different historical eras, which makes the Citadel of Aleppo an important attraction for tourists and archaeologists. One of the main features of the Castle is its gate that can be reached through an arched bridge. The Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Leaving the Citadel, one can walk through the open-air local bazaars and narrow alleys experiencing the local everyday life of this majestic city.
Al Azm Palace
Built in 1749 during the Ottoman Empire, the Azm Palace today is one of the most beautiful historical Islamic palaces in the world. It is nestled in the Ancient City of Damascus, close to the Great Umayyad Mosque, Al-Buzuriyah Souq and Al-Hamidiyah Souq. It was the residence for the Governor of Damascus As’ad Pasha Al-Azm in the 18th century. The architectural beauty of the Palace embodies the traditional Damascene house with its colorful marbles, cascading fountain, peaceful courtyard and different quarters. Today the Azm Palace houses the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions in Damascus. The museum has many halls showcasing syrian cultural traditions and interesting historical monument and it is a popular destination for Syrians and tourists.
Along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea lies the ancient city of Ugarit, modern day Ras Shamra. Discovered accidentally by a farmer in 1928, Ugarit was one of the wealthiest and strongest cities in the region. It was the center for the Ugaritic Kingdom in 7500 BCE. Many remarkable findings were discovered in the area but he most important is the Ugaritic Alphabet which the oldest alphabet in the world. Ugarit today is an interesting and unique site to discover for many tourists from around the world.
The Temple of Bel
In the heart of the Syrian Desert and in an oasis surrounded by palm trees, the ruins of Palmyra are scattered as proud remains of a great empire that was once ruled by the iconic Queen Zenobia. The city of Palmyra contain many ancient sites including the Valley of Tombs, the Arch of Triumph, the Theater of Palmyra and the Castle of Fakhr-Al-Din Al-Maani. Palmyra also has a famous temple that was built in 32 AD and dedicated for Bel the chief-god of Palmyra alongside the lunar god and the sun god. The Temple of Bel was turned into a church during the Byzantine Era and was later turned into a mosque after the Arab conquest, however in the 1920s the Temple of Bel was restored to its original form and has been an important travel destination in Syria ever since then.
Crac des Chevaliers (The Castle of the Kurds)
It is one of the most important and well-preserved medieval military castles in the world. Crac des Chevaliers, alongside the Fortress of Salah Al-Din, was added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2006. The Crac des Chevaliers was constructed by the order of Saint John of Jerusalem during the 12th and 13th centuries on the outskirts of Homs, Syria. It has gothic architectural elements and houses two medieval churches with crusader frescoes adorning their walls.
The Dead Cities
The Dead Cities, also known as the Forgotten Cities, are 40 Byzantine towns scattered between Aleppo and Idlib in the northeast of Syria. The cities were built between the first and the 7th centuries and were abandoned between the 8th and the 10th centuries. They include well-preserved pagan temples, churches, cisterns, bathhouse sand pyramid-roofed tombs. The most important architectural remains are the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites and the Ain Dara Temple amongst many others. In 2011, The Dead cities were also added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The cities are archaeological wonders that are very interesting to visit and discover.
The Convent of Our Lady of Saidnaya
According to some legends, when the Virgin Mary appeared to Emperor Justinian in a vision first as a gazelle and then as an icon asking him to build a monastery in her honor, he did not hesitate and soon the monastery was founded in 547 AD. That rumored miracle made the chapel widley famous and it became the second most famous pilgrimage destination in the east, after Jerusalem. The chapel has many icons and iconostasis but the most famous is the Icon of the Holy Virgin Mary “Al Shaghoura”. The city of Saidnaya also has many other important chapel, monasteries and churches.
Since 2011, the situation in Syria has not been safe due to the Syrian crisis and it has been heavily discouraged to visit the country.
Furthermore, some of the mentioned sites has been unfortunately damaged or destructed because of the Syrian civil war.