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Published: June 10th 2010
Hama is most well known for the massacre that took place there in the 80s. It’s the single most violent act an Arab government has taken against its own people. At the time there was a growing movement to turn Syria into an Islamic state. The movement’s supporters captured government buildings in the town. In response the government shelled the town, killing up to 40,000 people and completely destroying the old town. Faced with this it’s hardly surprising there’s no appetite for political change in Syria.
The town’s main attraction now is the many water wheels. The water wheels were built to scoop up water then drop it into aqueducts where it could be transferred to nearby fields. They’re actually pretty impressive and the town’s a great place to chill out, with lots of parks by the riverside.
I was sitting on a bench by one of the wheels and a Syrian guy sat down beside me and started chatting to me. He was in the middle of his compulsory military service (for which he’s paid $10 a month!). Every since Egypt I automatically assume any Arab who speaks to me is trying to sell something/con me, but Syrian
people aren’t like that at all. This guy actually invited me to visit his village. However he’d previously told me dozens of men from his village had gone to Iraq to fight as insurgents. I decided to decline the friendly invitation...
The next day I went to Krak Des Chevaliers the best preserved crusader castle in the world. Everyone I’ve spoken to who went there has said the same thing: it’s exactly what you imagine a castle is when you’re a kid! It even has a moat. Making things even better there are also almost no railings or signs so you can just wander/climb/pretend you’re a knight anywhere you want.
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