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So hard to say goodbye
Written by Rebecca Torr   
Sunday, 08 June 2008 15:39

It was our last day in Syria and you could feel everyone's disappointment to be leaving. We packed our bags and headed to our last destination - Aleppo. This city is not to be missed; it is full of character and charm and is steeped in history.

On arrival we checked into Planet Hotel, located in the heart of the suq, and headed to Citadel of Aleppo. This grand castle was built between 12 and 16AD on a 50 metre high hill. It contains everything a city needs including a mosque, dungeons, amphitheatre, baths, water cisterns, store houses, a school and so on.

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A taste of Syrian hospitality
Written by The Friendship Arabia Team   
Friday, 06 June 2008 23:26

Friendship Arabia team members being interviewed on Syrian TV

 
Today we went for a leisurely drive in the cool coastal mountains of Latakia. The sights from here are truly breathtaking!

As we climbed the mountains we got to take in a panoramic view of the city and its deep blue lakes and golden and green countryside. Once when we stopped to get a close-up of the scenery we were spotted by a Syrian family who invited us to their house to share chai (tea) and stories of our trip. Jalal Abu Mohammed, a minibus driver, and his family were charming and typical examples of Syrian hospitality at its best.

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An air of excitement
Written by Rebecca Torr   
Thursday, 05 June 2008 23:23

We were all very excited at breakfast today as we knew we had two glorious days by the sea ahead of us.

Making our journey from Tartous to Latakia we stopped to visit Al Marqab Castle. The castle is perched on a 380 metre volcanic mountain and overlooks the city of Banias. It was built in 1062 by the Arabs and taken over by the Byzantines in 1117. It was then transferred to the Hospitallers in 1187 and later used by the crusaders. It was made into a prison by the Turkish between 1554 and 1914 and the French used it as a base from 1918 to 1946.

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More journeys into the past
Written by Rebecca Torr   
Thursday, 05 June 2008 13:36

We bid farewell to Palmyra today and headed for Tartous. On our way we stopped for lunch at Noria Restaurant in Hama. This is a beautiful pit stop since it overlooks a 14th century waterwheel which is still in operation to this day. 

It was originally built to provide water for the village but nowadays it is used to irrigate the land. The restaurant has superb food and I was particularly excited that they had Fata, a dish I am told is a must if you are visiting this area. 

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History is alive in Palmyra's ruins
Written by Rebecca Torr   
Wednesday, 04 June 2008 23:25
The coffee shop that provided basic internet across from our hotel in Palmyra. Mahmood, who runs the place, was very helpful. 
The coffee shop that provided basic internet across from our hotel in Palmyra. Mahmood, who runs the place, was very helpful.

 

It was a bright sunny morning in Palmyra as we headed out to explore the ancient city and its treasures. 

Our first stop was to see the Palmyra ruins, which cover about six square kilometres. We could feel ourselves being transported back in time to as we fixed our eyes on the Grand Colonnade, which was built by the Romans in the second century. 

It's a magnificent looking street, defined by its grand granite and limestone columns. Close to the street you can see Queen Zenobia's Baths. 

The tour led us on to the Temple Bel, which as its name suggests, was built for worshipping the god of Bel - you could still see the place where they use to sacrifice animals. In the 10th and 11th centuries the temple became a fortress for the crusaders. At different times it was also used as a church and then later as a mosque in the 12th century. (Click here for a 360º virtual tour of the temple). 

Near the temple is a Roman style theatre which was used for plays and animal wrestling – it is still a remarkable place and if you close your eyes tight enough, you can imagine the cheers and roars from the crowd.

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