Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Second Stop Palmyra

On our third day in Syria we travelled to Palmyra (the City of Palms) one of the world's great historical sites. Today the city is known as Tadmor (the City of Dates) and there are date palms everywhere. The Lonely Planet Guide states"If you are only going to see one thing in Syria, make it Palmyra." The city (an oasis of green in a sea of desert) certainly lives up to its reputation. Palmyra was an important link on the Silk Road trade route from China and India to Europe. The ancient city generated most of its revenues through the taxes they charged the caravans passing through. In 212 CE Palmyra became a Roman Colony, it was during this period that much of the grand building works that we saw were constructed. By the 6th century CE the city had lost most of its wealth due to a decline in caravan traffic. The city fell to the Muslims in 634 CE. Despite the building of an Islamic castle (Qala'at ibn Maan) the city dwindled to a small village, which was all but destroyed in the earthquake of 1089. The city was rediscovered in 1678 by two English merchants who were visiting from Aleppo. The site covers over 50 hectares and it has been extensively excavated by the Germans and the French.. The archaeological site of Palymra is broken down into three main sections for visiting: The Main Street, Temple of Bel, and the Tombs. Both the guide book and our friend BAP from ACOR suggested that we should go up to the Arab castle Qala'at ibn Maan to view the sunset over Palmyra. The castle was built in the 17th century by Fakr ad-Din. After our sunset (Yo, A and B waiting for the sunset) we went back to town for dinner and some bear beer (8% more like a malt beverage than a beer).

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