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World Heritage Site

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Ancient villages of Northern Syria

Ancient villages of Northern Syria

The Ancient villages of Northern Syria are the remains of rural societies from late Antiquity and early Christianity. Basilicas, pagan temples, bathouses, residential areas, pilgrims dwellings, inns, Roman tombs and temples are found among the ruins.

The inhabitants gradually converted to Christianity. They were inspired by hermits such as Saint Simeon, who drew lots of pilgrims. Subsequently a powerful monastic movement developed in the region.

The area is located in the Limestone Massif, close to Turkey. It covers 8 parks with some 40 villages. Notable elements are:

- Church of Saint Simeon Stylites

- Serjilla, an early Byzantine town

- Pyramidal tombs at Al-Bara

- Byzantine Bizzos Church at Rouweyha

- Qalb Loze Basilica

- 2nd century Roman temple at Baqirha

After the mid-6th century, the area gradually fell into decline due to food shortages and epidemics. From the 10th century on it became totally deserted. As it has been abandoned for nearly one thousand years since its occupation in ancient times, it has been called the region of "dead cities".

Map of Ancient villages of Northern Syria


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

Michael Novins United States 28-Nov-16

Ancient villages of Northern Syria by Michael Novins

I visited Syria largely by public transportation in May 2009. After taking a bus from Palmyra to Aleppo, with a stop in Homs, I checked into the Baron Hotel, the oldest hotel in Syria, where I stayed in room 203, the same room where Agatha Christie wrote the first part of "Murder on the Orient Express." Mr. Walid, the Baron's renowned manager, organized a car and driver for a day trip to several nearby sites, including Serjilla and al-Bara (and its Tombeaux pyramidaux), two of the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria. During that same day trip, I visited Apamea to see its Great Colonnade, the main colonnaded avenue which runs for more than a mile and is among the longest and best preserved ancient Roman streets, and Hama to see its Norias, enormous water power wheels. Apamée (Afamia) and the Noréas de Hama are on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For anyone interested in World Heritage Sites, there are very few days that can rival this day trip from Aleppo (itself a World Heritage Site), but it may be a long time before it can be safely repeated.

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Site Info

Full name: Ancient villages of Northern Syria

Unesco ID: 1348

Inscribed: 2011 In Danger

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 3   4   5  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2013 - In Danger Together with all 5 other Syrian WHS, due to Civil War
  • 2011 - Inscribed 
  • 2010 - Revision Includes former TWHS Qal' at Sem'an (Saint-Syméon) (1999)
  • 2010 - Incomplete - not examined 


The site has 8 locations.

  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: Jebelal-A'la [QalbLoz
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelBarisha [Deiroun
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelSem'an1 [Qal'atSem'an]
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelSem'an2 [KafrNabo]
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelSem'an3 [Sinkhar]
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelWastani [KafrAqareb]
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelZawiy
  • Ancient villages of Northern Syria: JebelZawiy


The site has 14 connections.


  • Baths: several
  • Tombs: several
  • Cisterns: Relatively sophisticated hydraulic elements have been identified, notably large communal cisterns. (AB ev)
  • Pyramids: "Al-Bara.... is renowned for its 6th century pyramidal tombs" (AB ev)
  • Octagons: "an octagon surrounds the base of the column at the top of which Saint Simeon spent many years in prayer." (AB ev)


  • Damaged in War since WWII: Syrian Civil War "The ancient sites of northern Syria, comprising eight parks and a total of 40 villages, have suffered due to their close proximity to a key Turkish border crossing, used as the entry point for supplies.A number of Syrians who have been forced from their homes are also living in and among the ruins. Analysis of satellite images of the Jebel Barisha park show the creation of three compounds: two within the park boundaries and one just outside. They appear to have a military function," Link


  • Kurdistan: Most are within the Afrin Canton, which "seems to have seen Kurdish settlement by at least the 18th century" (wiki) and is under Kurdish autonomous control since 2014. Link


Religion and Belief


World Heritage Process