Resafa Dead City
Resafa Dead City Raqqa Reviews
Medieval Walled Ghost City in the Desert Jun 26, 2011
Resafa Dead Christian City in Syria
Resafa is a dead city, albeit a very unique one. The city walls proudly stand in a complete circuit, stalwart on the edge of the desert, yet its interior is barren and empty. During Roman times Resafa was a desert outpost fortified to defend against the Sassanids. It flourished as its location was on the caravan routes linking Aleppo, Dura Europos, and Palmyra was ideal for trade. Lonely Planet states that the Mongols put the final end to this once great city.
It is hard to capture the glory of Resafa in photographs. Walking amongst the ruins, of this truly unique ruin is a spine tingling experience. Even the arrival to Resafa is memorable - after driving through barren desert for hours on end, a perfect long wall comes into view - a lost city of the sands.
Resafa’s long, rectangular city walls are in very good contrition. In places it is possible to walk along the high ramparts, and glance down from the broad, frequent towers. The ornate city gate, in the south east of the walls is exquisitely detailed. Inside the city walls an area the size of Old Jerusalem appears bleak and ravaged, as if razed by an invading army. The ground is peppered with holes from looters searching for artefacts. Two ruined cathedrals can be visited, one has stairs up to a non-existent tower affording excellent views.
My biggest surprise at Resafa came when I saw a small dark doorway and decided to peer through it. The doorway is at ground level, but a huge black pit plunged before me like an eerie cathedral. Resafe has four massive underground cisterns, each one empty and silent. Looking down into the behemoths I had to catch my breath, one more step forward and I would have fallen in. After exploring the edge of the east most, I found a half overgrown staircase leading down inside, that gave access to a second cistern also. Being in the belly of the beast, looking at the solid columns reaching upwards, with no other sounds in the world was very uncomfortable. The cisterns are the largest that I have seen on my travels.
Resafa city walls run for approximately three miles. The wall circuit is one hundred percent complete. The quality of the wall’s state varies, with the eastern section being in the best condition. Here it is possible to walk along the wall.
Resafa is located in the desert between Palmyra and Raqqa. To get there take a taxi from either of the two cities mentioned, which both have accommodation. It is a bit far for a daytrip, so it is better to visit Resafa in a loop between Damascus and Aleppo. The road to Resafa is ridiculously poor, so it isn’t passable for the larger coach tours. Places of interest near Resafa include desert palaces, and the castles of Jabar and Najm (see reviews). The ticket office to see Resafa is the café in the north-east edge of the wall. They have good postcards there, and it is so cheap for an entrance ticket it would be criminal to sneak in without contributing to the monument’s upkeep.
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