Dead Cities Travel Guide

Browse travel reviews, 2 travel blogs and 170 travel photos from real travelers to Dead Cities.

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Dead Cities Overview

The Dead Cities (or Forgotten Cities) are a group of 700 abandoned settlements in northwest Syria between Aleppo, Hama and Idleb. They date back to before the fifth century B.C and contain many remains of Christian Byzantine architecture (about 2000 ancient and ruined church). Important dead cities include Qal'at Sim'an, Serjilla and al Bara, Brad.

The Dead Cities are situated in an elevated area of limestone known as Belus Massif. These ancient settlements cover an area 20–40 km (12–25 mi) wide and some 140 km (87 mi) long.

Chris Wickham, in the authoritative survey of the post-Roman world, Framing the Early Middle Ages (2006) argues that these were settlements of prosperous peasants which have few or no specifically urban features. The impressive remains of domestic architecture are the result of the prosperity of peasants who benefited from a strong international trade in olive oil at the end of Antiquity.

The other arguments are that these were prosperous cities that flourished as they were located along major trade routes in the Byzantine Empire, and not merely prosperous peasant settlements. When the area was conquered by the Arabs, the trade routes changed and these towns lost the majority of the business that their economies depended on.

The settlers eventually abandoned their towns and headed for other cities that were flourishing under the Arabs and the Umayyads as increasing urbanisation took its toll.

The majority of the dead cities are very well preserved and tourists can access the sites quite freely despite the ongoing archaeological excavations and some restoration work, though some of the Dead Cities are quite difficult to reach without a guide.

Relatively few of the Dead Cities have any type of archaeological excavations taking place, and unfortunately the majority of people living in close proximity to them have no understanding of their importance. However, the local inhabitants are always welcoming to visitors.

Most sites are now easily accessible and within the last two or three years many roads have been asphalted. There is a guidebook with a detailed map that is extremely useful for finding the lesser known sites: " The Church of St. Simeon Stylites and Other Archaeological Sites in the Mountains of Simeon and Halaqa"

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