THE NATIONAL MUSEUM - Damascus It is the most important museum of Syria. It houses an extensive and eclectic but fascinating collection: cylindrical seals of the 16th century B.C. from Ugarit and the oldest alphabet of the world. Numerous statues are also exhibited such as statues of the 3rd and 2nd millennium B.C from Mari, clay and marble statues from Palmyra as well as many statues from the Hauran area, which are made of black basalt. A Palmyra tomb and frescos from Dura Europos have also been reconstructed in the Museum. Between many other interesting things, there stand a whole room completely decorated in the Azem Palace ‘style of the 18th century.. THE OLD TOWN There can be seen the most interesting monuments. Its original Roman walls that have been rebuilt many times surround it. From the seven doors of Damascus, the most beautiful and important one historically is obviously Bab Charqui. SALADIN’S TOMB Built in 1193 and renovated thank to the German Emperor Guillaume the 2nd during his visit in Damascus in 1898 and surmounted by a red dome, it stands in a small garden next to the Umayyad Mosque. The richly decorated wooden cenotaph contains Saladin’s remains; the marble tomb was also a present from Guillaume the 2nd. THE UMEYYAD MOSQUE It is an impressive building that evokes three thousand years of history … It was originally a temple dedicated to the God Hadad (9th century BC) until the Romans came and turned it into the Temple of Jupiter at the 1st century AD. During the Christian expansion, it became the church of St Baptist. When the Muslims conquered Damascus in 636, they divided the church in two. The oriental part was then used as a mosque while the Christians still performed their cult in the occidental part. In 705, the sixth Umayyad caliph, Al Walid, decided to turn it into one of the most beautiful mosque of the world. He enlarged it and redecorated it with marble and the famous and magnificent gilded mosaics. THE AZEM PALACE Damascus’ governor Assad Pasha El Azem built it in 1749. Its gardens and the interior decoration confer a discreet charm and beauty to this building. SAINT ANANIA’S CHAPEL It is an old cellar in Anania’s house. Anania was one of the first Christian disciple who was sent by God to ‘’ the straight street and search in Judas’ house for a man named Saul of Tarse (Saint Paul) and at the same time, Saul saw in his dreams a man named Ananie who was laying on his hands to help him recover sight’’. BOSRA’S THEATER Built during the 2nd century, it is one of the rare ones not to stand against a hill or some natural slope. It is also famous for being one of the best-preserved Roman theaters of the world. SHAHBA This town owns its glory to the Roman Emperor Philip the Arab who built it during the five years of his reign in Roma. The town remained prosperous for long time after his death as the magnificent mosaics discovered there shows it. QANAWAT Quoted several times in the Holy Bible, it was one of the prestigious cities of the Roman Decapolis that included then Jerash, Amman and Gadara in Jordan. From its black basalt temple, dedicated to the God of sun Helios, one has a wonderful view on the Hermon Mount. SUWEIDA Named Dionysus by the Romans, it is now the county town of the Druses. During the excavations, a very interesting collection of mosaics was found. It can be seen now in the museum of the town. MAALOULA It is a small village holding on the slopes of mount Qalamoun and whose houses are almost all painted in blue. It is the only place in the world where the Aramaic, language of the Christ, is still spoken. The village is still filled with the religious atmosphere because of the important role it had from the 4th to the 17th century as the convents of Saint Tacla and Saint George show it. The convent of Saint George would be the oldest church of the world and has beautiful icons. CRAC DES CHEVALIERS It is an impressive fortress erected at 650 meters of altitude by the Kurds. Possession of the Crusaders at the beginning of the 12th century, it was then placed in the Hospitaliers ‘ hands who kept improving its fortifications until Baibars overtook it at the end of the 13th century. AMRIT Two strange monuments stand in Amrit that was a prosperous Phoenician colony. TARTOUS The old town was built as a colony for the isle of Arwad (Arados). It was conquered by Alexander the Great and rebuilt by the Emperor Constantine. The cathedral that dates back to the 12th century houses a charming little museum where are displayed numerous objects mainly found in Ras Shamra and Amrit. THE CASTLE OF MARQAB Muslim fortress at the origin, it was founded in 1062. The Crusaders took it over at the 12th century, and then the Hospitaliers enlarged it and strengthened its fortifications. Saladin failed to conquer it and it is only in 1285 that Egyptian Mamelukes overcame it. UGARIT Its golden period took place between the 16th century and the 12th century BC. Important excavations allowed the discovery of clay tablets on which were engraved the pictograms of the first alphabet of the world (16th century BC). THE CASTLE OF SALADIN Also named ‘’ château de Saône ‘’, it was taken by the Crusaders who made of it one of the mightiest stronghold of the Antioch Principality … until Saladin recaptured it in 1198. THE CASTLE AL MUDIQ It is an impressive city whose fortifications were built on the acropolis of the Roman town and date back to the 13th century. APHAMIA It was built at the 5th century BC – during the Hellenistic period – on the original site of the city of Pharnake. Seleucos the 1st named it after his wife Apama. It became one of the most important cities of the area. The monuments that still stand mainly date back to the Roman period. Its colonnade that is stretched on about two kilometers is unique in the world for its architectural diversity. EBLA It is a very important historical site discovered in 1964 by a mission of the University of Roma led by Paolo Matthiae. Eleven years of excavations revealed a fabulous treasure: in the royals archives were 17 000 clay tablets engraved with characters of a Sumerian dialect. These tablets gave numerous informations about the local administrative organization of the 2nd millennium BC. SAINT SIMEON’S MONASTERY Saint Simeon, legendary monk in the history of Syria, spent 40 years of his life on the top of a column. After his death, a huge church – the biggest of the world at the 5th century – was built around an octagonal yard where stood the holy column. It was a building made of four basilicas built as to form a crux. THE MUSEUM OF MAARET AL NUMAN There are beautiful Roman and Byzantine mosaics. In fact, this museum is the old Mourad Pasha’s caravanserai. It was built in 1653 and is the largest caravanserai so well preserved until now in Syria. SERGILLA This city is without doubt the most evocative and the most beautiful of the Dead Cites of the North. Built between the 5ht and the 6th century AD, it has an outstanding Byzantine architecture. KIRK BIZE It is one of the numerous Dead Cities of the North. It is famous for housing one of the oldest sanctuary of the Christian history as well as what specialists call a ‘’ nome’’, that is to say a churchhouse. CYRHUS In this town founded by Seleucos the 1st at the beginning of the 3rd century was celebrated saint Cosme and saint Damien. At the 5th century, Theodore became its bishop and, in 637, the Arabs took it. AIN DARA The temple of Ain Dara dates backs to the 10th century BC, at the Hittite period. At that time, walls were adorned with a row of blocks of stone surmounted by lions facing sphinx with wings. QALB LOZE Masterpiece of the Christian architecture at its beginning, its church has been a model for the others of the area. Built at the 6th century and dedicated to saint Michel and saint Gabriel, it remains one of the most important churches of Syria. BIMARISTAN ARGHOUN Founded by the Mameluke Governor Arghour Al Kamili in 1354 to be used as a hospital and a lunatic asylum, it was built on the remains of a very old palace. MADRASSA HALAWIEH Built on the site of the cathedral of St Sophie, this Koran school was named after Constantine’s mother. It has a beautiful wooden mirhab, carved and inlaid with ivory. THE CITADEL OF ALEPPO Aleppo’s citadel overlooks the town and has a deep ditch of 20-meters deep and 30-meter width. Inside, one can discovered a real mini-town with its palace, its mosque and its theater. THE GREAT MOSQUE Built during the Umayyad period in 715 by Caliph Al Walid, it was enlarged by its successors. In 1169, Nuredin decided to rebuild it. What is presently visible dates back to the Mameluke period except for the 45-meter-high minaret that was erected between 1090 and 1092. THE MUSEUM OF ALEPPO It possesses a beautiful collection of sculptures from Hama, Tell Brak, Mari and Ebla, the former capital city of a kingdom that exerted an important politic power over the north of Syria. The black basaltic statues standing at the entrance door come from the temple of Tell Halaf’s palace. RASSAFA Former Sergiopolis, it was built as a pilgrimage center at the 5th century BC and is presently one of the most beautiful and impressive sites of Syria. The walls of the old city are made of gypsum in a quadrilateral shape. When the Umayyad Caliph Hisham conquered the town, he renovated it and built there his summer home. RAQQA According to the legend, Alexander the Great founded this town but, in reality, it would have been by his general Seleucos Nicator. Located between the Persian and the Christian empires, it was a strategic place during the Byzantine period and it lasted until the Mongol invasion in 1258. It became glorious when the Abbasid caliph Al Mansour entitled it the second capital of the Abbasid kingdom in 772. Later, at the 9th century, Haroun Al Rashid built his summer palaces. THE DOOR OF BAGDAD IN RAQQA This monumental entrance, exclusively made of bricks at the 12th century, reveals a very elaborated front. The disposition of the bricks is astonishing and confers elegancy to the blind niches. HALABIYEH Founded in 270 on the Euphrates River by the famous queen Zenobia, this twin city with Zalabiyeh was controlling navigation and the road to Aleppo. MARI Located on the left bank of the Euphrates River, Mari was a rich town on the commercial roads to Khabour River, Mesopotamia and occidental Syria. It was one of the Mesopotamia major cities at the 3rd millennium BC. QASR EL HAIR EAST It was built during the Umayyad period, in 728, under the caliph Hisham and it remains a beautiful sample of Muslim architecture. THE TEMPLE OF BEL Bel is the Palmyrean version of the Babylonian God Baal, which means ‘’ master’’. The temple, which was built in 32 AD, is the oldest monument in Palmyra. Inside, two ‘’thalamos’’ (inside yard) remind its occidental origins. THE NECROPOLIS - Palmyra It is the widest and the richest of the Greek-Roman world. The tombs of Palmyra are divided into three categories: the tower-tombs like the Tomb of Elabel built in 103, the underground tombs like the tomb of the Three Brothers built in 156 and the temple tombs like the Funerary Temple built between 143 and 251. PALMYRA MUSEUM It is a charming little museum where is displayed a beautiful collection of well-preserved statues discovered on the site of Palmyra as well as mosaics discovered in private houses. SEDNAYA Built on a rocky peak, the convent of Sednaya is quite impressive behind its high walls. It would date back to Justinian ( 547 ). The name of Sednaya means ‘’Our Lady’’ in Syriac and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was a welknown pilgrimage center, the Orient’s greatest one after Jerusalem. One of the four icons of the Virgin, painted by saint Luke, is exposed there.