April 15, 2011 Friday
Day 03   Ebla, Appemea, in and quickly out of Homs,
Could not quite  get to Aleppo, back to Al Ma'arratan Nu Man
Submitted  by Michael  Pictures - Meli

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We were on the bus early after too brief a stay at our beautiful hotel and the white limestone of Aleppo. Mary Kay was sad to leave her handsome porter behind. Once in our seats, we were treated to a talk on Syrian Middle East history and politics from Aiman and Meli.

Our first stop was Ebla, a large 5000-year-old ruin of a city that was planned and built in a few decades, not a piecemeal construction. The site had several large excavated gates named for the direction in which they faced. The Bagdad Gate was characterized by massive closely-fitted cut stones. A tall mound in the center dominated the site, with a view of the lush countryside, green with wheat this time of year.

Next on the agenda was the Mosaic Museum at …. with many beautiful tile mosaics, mostly Byzantine. Unfortunately, the majority of the larger pieces had been mutilated and cut in pieces when they were removed from their original locations. Hopefully, newer technology and effort will prevent this kind of destruction in the future. Among the more notable pieces was a mosaic portrait of the ever-present Assad, greeting visitors as they come through the front door of the museum. Scenes represented in the mosaics were of hunting, landscapes, birds and animals, mythology and domestic life. In the courtyard were pieces of columns and friezes, stone tombs and basalt doors.

The  nomads were all over the green pastures. We stopped to visit a nomad family who was getting ready to deliver their milk. The women were washing and the kids were playing with their puppies.

On to Serjilla, a small Byzantine site built of large mortar-less stone blocks, damaged by earthquakes. On our way, we stopped at a Bedouin encampment beside the roads that had a lot of sheep and goats, some large trucks and water tanks and many happy and beautiful children. While we were there, the milkman came in his small truck and the women transferred their collected milk to the barrels in the truck. They were a handsome group of people. At Serjilla, we stopped for an unplanned lunch of pizzas and drinks, very tasty, cooked in an outdoor wood-fired clay oven. There were many piled stone walls snaking through the rocky landscape, built to contain the herds of sheep and goats, and here and there were small stone-cleared fields among the rocks, planted with olive trees and wheat in the rust-red soil.




We pressed on to Apamea, another huge Roman site with a massive colonnaded promenade. It is difficult to describe the size of the area without photos. It is a truly impressive site and unknown to this history major, one of the surprises of this trip and an example of the under-rated beauty of Syria.

The area is surrounded by vast, lush fields of wheat, potatoes, nut and olive trees, and has a multi-millenia history of agriculture.


Our final tour attempt was a visit to Homs to see the waterwheels, but we were turned back by a police barricade because of the potential for demonstrations. Rather than try to drive around the police lines, our Syrian driver and guide took us back up the road to the north where we stopped at somewhat seedy hotel in Maarat Al Numan – peeling wallpaper but with a hearty dinner of mezzes, spaghetti and lamb-tomato casserole, something for both of our vegetarians and “meat as murder” carnivores.

And so to bed.



Click here for Day 4 in Syria - Krak de Chevalier and Palmyra

Table of Content    Syria tour Itinerary     Home page   Syria 2011 group journal