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
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.
I visited Sergilla and othe villages in the reagon for 3 days from 18th till 21st August 2010. I was not aware of it's existance and I was surprised. The society, that built thiese villages roughly 1500 years back, were using skills long forgotten. Till date building fully made of rock exist.
Sergilla is also an earthquake area, still many building are standing after such a long time.
Maybe it was not the best time to travell, August is the hotest month and it was Ramadan aswell. Late fall or spring must be better.
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