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December 28th 2004
Published: December 28th 2004
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Qa'lat al MarqabQa'lat al MarqabQa'lat al Marqab

I really tried hard to not pay the entrance fee at this crusader castle, climbing through a gap in the wall and trying my best to not be seen. Of course, I was caught at the very end while I was leaving (having missed parts of the castle in order to not be seen). The guy came up on a motorcycle asking why I climbed in through the wall and blah blah... I offered to pay for a ticket and after a moment's hesitation he offered to charge me 30% less in exchange for him not issuing a ticket (in other words, a bribe). I said yes. Nice castle, eh?
The coast was awesome, but all good things must come to an end, and I'm back in the heartland of Syria, seperated from the mediterranean by a range of mountains. I used to think it a bit lame when in geography class they'd talk about how the mountains would prevent the cool weather from the sea from reaching the hinterland... turns out it's true: I was running around the ruins of Crak des Chevaliers yesterday in a T-shirt, and although today the weather was fairly warm, it got pretty cold after sundown (true to desert style).

I head a bit south to Tartus after my stint in Latakia. Although Christmas was a letdown I got to go to a Syrian (Christian Maronite) wedding, and attend midnight mass in what is commonly thought of as a Muslim country, so I guess it was worthwhile. The much-heralded "street party" was basically a street packed with people, some of which were making an admirable effort at having fun, although the rainy weather was definitely making it hard for them. The one highlight of the night was "Jingle Bells" being played in Arabic and with a belly dancing beat... too bad the chicks weren't
Sun over TartousSun over TartousSun over Tartous

The shiny things you see are greenhouses which the coastal lowlands are covered with. View from Qa'lat al Marqab.
dancing. The coast apparently has a very high concentration of Alawites, which explains why so many of the chicks weren't covered: Alawites don't pray in mosques and their women don't cover up.

Tartus was a pretty cool town. It was much quieter than Latakia, but the Old City was cool, and the island of Arwad had some pretty cool views at sunset (unfortunately I couldn't capture very many of them since I didn't have my tripod with me). I met a couple of Alawite Palestinians who had fled from the fighting about 10 years ago... their father advised me that talking openly about Alawites vs Sunnis wasn't a good idea as it may cause problems for me. He had a picture of the leader of Hezbollah on his wall, a picture I then noticed again and again at various stores.

I'm currently planning on heading to Beirut for the New Year, so that means my days in Hama will be short... hopefully once I'm done checking out Lebanon I'll continue my trip in Syria (I haven't seen Damascus yet), and maybe re-visit some of the cooler sights that I didn't spend enough time at.

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


Island of ArwadIsland of Arwad
Island of Arwad

This tiny island is 3km from Arwad, which makes for an extremely fun trip getting there and back. The picture isn't very clear but the sea basically formed pools between the strange rock formations. Further along there were immense (and I mean it) rocks, the remnants of the battlements the Crusaders used to fortify the island.
Crak des ChevaliersCrak des Chevaliers
Crak des Chevaliers

Supposedly the most magnificent crusader castle ever, it was quite beautiful. Here's a view from one of its windows down to the village below. Its name in Arabic is Qa'lat al Hosn which sounds an awful lot like "huzun" in Turkish which means sorrow... must investigate.
Qasr ibn WardanQasr ibn Wardan
Qasr ibn Wardan

I took a trip out to the desert to see the landscape "turn into something closely resembling Mars", as the guidebook claimed. Nothing of the sort. I did, however get to walk out in the middle of nothing which was kind of cool. These ruins were my excuse for coming out, but I didn't even bother to go in. I thought these bedouin looked like they were posing for an album cover so I took the picture.
More of the QasrMore of the Qasr
More of the Qasr

The place was apparently built by the Byzantines as part of their fortifications against the Persians. The place is quite literally on the road to nowhere.
Waterwheels in HamaWaterwheels in Hama
Waterwheels in Hama

Hama is famous for these water wheels, initially built by the Romans in what must be one of the most impressive engineering feats I've seen in a while. The current turns the wheels which contain small buckets which fill up with water and then spill out over to the aqueduct to its side... basically how to pump water from the river without using a pump. Apparently the wheels are all a-spin in the summer when there's more water.
More waterwheelsMore waterwheels
More waterwheels

They're really quite beautiful and make loud groaning noises as they turn. Only the smaller wheels turn (and that slowly) due to the reduced water flow. There are over a dozen of them lining the river's banks.

28th December 2004

I guess that could be considered Kool. Next time somebody breaks into your house and steals YOUR identity don't get upset Mr. Your acknowledging the fact you are a rip off artist suggests you should stay home and play with ripped off music specials. PS How do you earn your living or does Mommy and Daddy sort of pay your way? Tsk Tsk - TRAVELGUY
3rd January 2005

I'm freebee
19th July 2009

Hama: Aqueducts introduced to Romans by Persians
Your photos are evocative; the posts about 4 years old, so I would suggest if you haven't done it already, to check out who created aqueducts (before the Romans). Romans borrowed them from the Persians. I don't know if you are a Middle-Eastern guy but sometimes I get really surprised and disillusioned when I realiz information, perceptions and dialogues, about your own neck of the woods not only was probably taught to you by European colonial education, but through laziness you are cut off from your own histories.
5th February 2010

i love the pics you have on here and its nice that you went to hama and lattakia and tartous hope u liked them :)
8th December 2010
Crak des Chevaliers

More pics from KRAK

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