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                          



Saladin's Castle

This castle, located on the coastal mountain range at 37 Km away from Latakia, is often considered one of the most prestigious castles of the medieval period, especially the most romantic. 

It is situated at the top of a very difficult route up the mountains. Its strategic position goes back in history to the Phoenicians who controlled this site in the 1st Millennium BC, and were still holding it when Alexander the Great arrived in 333 BC. Not much is known about what happened to it between this period and the return of the Byzantines in the 10th century AD. The Byzantines under Emperor John Zimisces occupied it from the Aleppan Hamdanid dynasty, and built the first of its defensive structures. It then fell in the hands of the Crusaders at around the beginning of the 12th century. It is mentioned that in 1119 it was owned by Robert of Saone who was given control of it by Roger, Prince of Antioch. Most of what is evident was built at this time. In 1188 Saladin succeeded in occupying it and it stayed in Muslim hands from Saladin to Baibars to Qalaun. 

One of the most magnificent features of this fortress is the 28m deep ditch, which was cut into living rock probably by the Byzantines (it might have been completed by the crusaders). This ditch, which runs 156 meters along the east side, is 14 to 20 meters wide and has a lonely 28-meter high needle to support the drawbridge. It is best to see this needle at noon when the sun is right above. 

The entrance to the castle is through an entrance on the south side of the fortress. On the right of the entrance is a tower which is a crusader bastion. There is another a few meters further. There is a cistern for water storage and some stables just next to a massive keep that overlooks the ditch. This keep has walls of 5m thick and it covers an area of nearly 24 sq meters. Further on to the north you can see the gate where the drawbridge used to be. Also evident are the Byzantine citadel which is at the center of this large fortress, another large cistern, the crusader tea house, and a crusader church adjoining one of two Byzantine chapels. 

As for the Arab additions to the fortress they include a mosque, which dates back to Sultan Qalaun and a palace, which includes baths with courtyards and iwans. This has been slightly restored.

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