town is set in a desert oasis. The city was ruled by the legendary
Queen Zenobia, who stood against the two great empires of the Romans
and the Persians. Zenobia was taken captive to Rome when the Emperor
Aurelian conquered and destroyed the city in AD 272. The ruins of
the Valley of
Tombs, the Hypogeum of the Three Brothers,
the Temple of Baal and the Monumental Arch, now a
world UNESCO Heritage Site, are some of the fine remains found over
a wide area of the city, prized as some of the most famous monuments
to the Classical period in the Middle East.
third-largest city in Syria, Homs is known for its industry,
and is the site of Syria’s first oil refinery. Of historical
interest is the mausoleum of Khalid Ibn al-Walid.
65km (40 miles) outside Homs, Crac des
Chevaliers is the most famous crusader castle in the world. A
stronghold of the Hospitallers during the days of the Latin Kingdom
of Jerusalem (1100-1290), it maintained a garrison of a couple of
thousand soldiers in peacetime. The castle, rising from an altitude
of 670m (2200ft), was protected by watchtowers and supplied with
food from the surrounding fertile countryside. The crusader castles
of Salaheddin, near Latakia, and Markab, near Banyas,
also merit a visit.
Situated on the River Orontes, 45km
(28 miles) from Homs, Hama dates back to beyond 5000 BC. The Norias,
gigantic wooden waterwheels, are a unique feature, still used to
provide water for the city and to irrigate the many public gardens.
The orchards, the Great Mosque and the Al Azem Palace’s
Museum are also of interest.