Standing at the top of the hill in Syria.
First thing after breakfast heading on a 10 minute walk down the hill to Krak de Chevaliers. It is the most famous medieval citadel in the world. It is an amazing castle within a castle. The small original castle was built by the Kurds and then enlarged by the Arabs then became the castle it is today when the crusaders occupied it in the 1100's. It has 13 huge towers and could accommodate 5000 soldiers.
It was a place where Richard the Lion Hearted fortified himself along with the Knights of the Round table with the parts of the table still intact. The castle was never taken by force because it was protected by being built upon a steep mountain top and had an outer and inner defense wall. The Sultan Beybars recovered the castle from the Crusaders in 1271 by surrounding the castle and cutting off the supply line. The Crusaders left the castle for good.
The castle has the look of the Normandy castles of northern Europe and has been restored. It is the best castle we have ever seen.
Our time here has been short but we will have fond memories of this
We travel by bus for about 3 hours to arrive at Aleppo, Syria. It is the financial and trading center of Syria for centuries. It was the crossroad for caravans traveling east/west and north/south. It is a melting pot of cultures, mainly, Arab Muslims, Armenians, Russians, and Greek Orthodox Christians. The city sits on a grand plateau and has about 4 million people.
Our hotel site right in the middle of a souk. Can you imagine us in the middle of the shopping area. But to our surprise we are tired of shopping and our time here is spent doing other things we enjoy. The food is good and we have some fine Syrian pastries from the market to snack.
In the evening we decide to have a drink at the famous Baron Hotel. It was the hotel were Agatha Christie wrote, “Murder on the Orient Express; and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) stayed there and the original unpaid hotel bill framed in the lobby is the proof..
This morning we have a tour of the old city with . He is a man in his 70's and a very colourful
A Model of the castle
character. He is also mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide as a very knowledgeable tour guide. He stopped a tourist along the way when he saw that the man was carrying a Syria guide and turned to page 187 and had Wendy ready the blurb about him. He is very proud of that fact.
We take a walk around the old city and were given much information on Aleppo. We then visited the ancient Citadel.
The Citadel of Aleppo is the most prominent historic architectural site in Aleppo. It was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
It was also surrounded by a moat filled with water to protect against intruders. The Citadel hovers over the city in a uniqueness that rivals the larger Citadel of Cairo and the more massive Citadel of Damascus.
Although the Citadel is an Islamic landmark, archeological digs have uncovered Roman and Byzantine ruins dating back to the 9th century BC. The Citadel was originally a Neo-Hittite acropolis built on a natural hill; this provided a strategic site for a military fortress to guard and protect the surrounding agricultural areas.
Sayf al-Dawla (944-967), the first Hamdanid ruler of
WHICH WAY DO I GO?
Complicated maze of hallways and stairs
Aleppo, built the fortress and used the citadel as a military center of power over his region. The Citadel went through major reconstruction, fortification and addition of new structures that create the complex of the Citadel in its current form.
The most prominent renovation is the entrance block that al-Ghazi rebuilt in 1213. Eight large arches structure the bridge that leads up to the Citadel over the moat.
This after is free and we take a wander through the maze of streets in the souk. The alleys are packed mostly local people with much hustle and bustle. Once again there are all manner of things to buy. The butcher shops have their meat displayed by hanging the carcasses in the doorways and with trays of offal on the counter. Spices, fruits, vegetables etc everywhere.
The merchants are much different to other countries like Egypt and Morocco. They try to attract you into their shops, although are not aggressively pursuing you. If you say no thank you, they accept your answer and leave you alone to window shop. To our surprise and everyone else's, we did not buy anything, except some pastries and a falafel roll. Bet you're
Today, the weather is warmer without much of a breeze. We seek out shady places to stand and the covered souk doesn't offer much respite. Even our hotel is warm. We eventually sit in the reception are where there are heavy stone walls and marble steps.
Our hotel is within the walls of the old city and souk, along a side street and is full of character. It is an old house from the Ottoman era. Heavy stone walls, open courtyard, surrounded by rooms. It has two floors and extends through three houses. Our room was in third house on the second floor and there were only a couple, our tour leader and us in the house. We had French doors opening onto the terrace overlooking the courtyard.
This evening wander up to the end of the souk and out onto promenade with the old citadel watching over us. There are many restaurants and we dine al fresco. As we commence our return to the hotel we discover that the large wooden doors have been locked for the evening. It is 10m and we joke that we have missed curfew. There are still many people
out for the evening, families with children also. We walk down a side street and along past the Mosque. There are many still saying prayers. In a side alley to the souk and we were in the maze. It is mostly deserted except for a few shopkeepers, a totally different feel from the day time. It allows us to have a feel and appreciation for the age of the buildings and its history. A bit eerie too.
We finally found our way back to our hotel.
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