The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          



Al Resafa

This site dates back to the 9th century BC when the Assyrians built a military camp here. It later became a minor center on the trade routes between the Euphrates, Damascus and Palmyra. 

In the Roman period it was used to build a fortress on the frontline, to guard against the threat of the Sassanians. It later became a center for Christian pilgrimmage due to the Martyrdom of Saint Sergius who was a Roman officer who had converted to Christianity. Sergius was executed by the Roman forces under Diocletian. He became the patron saint of the region and it was named Sergiopolis. 

It was taken from the Romans by the Sassanians in the 7th century and then it fell into Umayyad hands, under Caliph Hisham. Caliph Hisham was very interested in architectural structures and art, and Resafa was restored. It was destroyed by the Abbassids and then finally by the Mongols in 1247 who left it an abandoned city in the desert.

Of the most fantastic remains of Al Resafa is the beautiful wall that was erected by the Byzantine emperor Anastase. It is of Gypsum stone and is shiny and bright white. Al Resafa has four gates (one in the center of each wall), although the northern one is the main entrance (just a few minutes away is the Arab chieftains hall). It has three openings and is guarded by 2 square bastions, and this is where the Cardo Maximus (Main Street of the city) starts. Further along it is the Martyrion or Metropolitan church, and the saint Sergius Basilica. West of the Basilicas are the remains of a rectangular building which could have been the residence of Caliph Hisham, until his palace was ready. 

There are also the remains of a Byzantine caravanserai, and a group of cisterns that used to hold enormous amounts of water. They are quite well preserved and the southernmost is 58 meters long, 22 meters wide and used to hold water up to 13 meters deep.

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Toronto - Canada
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