St. Simeon the insane..!

Aleppo Travel Blog

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A typical syrian "bus"

After some days roaming about in Aleppo (including 2 days of sickness due to doing something stupid like eating a salad in a dirty backyard eatery..)   I decided to take a trip to the countyside to see the surrounding sights.....

The bus station in Aleppo is confusing, to say it very`s just a big parking lott with lots of people and something like 150 old rusty Toyota hiace vans with arabic scripts in the windows. These are the buses where they cram in as many people as possible without sitting on top of eachother.. I spent a month in Syria , and these "buses" never got any more understandable to me...... the approach in any place I went was always the same :

 go to the bus station - approach some locals stating out only the name of your destination (no point trying to converse as they probably won`t speak english) - get direction towards some buses that are wrong - approach some new people - get direction to one bus that is right - ask the driver for confirmation - and lastly squeeze yourself into the nice little van!

To complicate matters my destination which was the basillica of St.

My truck driver friends
Simeon(Qualat Samaan) was 8 km from the village where the bus arrived ( Daret`Azze) , and without any public transport through the hot dessert road , a desperate tourist is left with the choice of taxi, walking , or thumbs up. I had to depend on my thumb for this one, and got a ride with some local truck drivers. That was quite amusing ,as they spoke no english ,and my arabic was limited to "thank you". I tried explaining where i`m from....but got no response on the arabic word for Norway, or Scandinavia....but they had heard about Europe...and that was as far as I`s one step better then saying " I`m from the planet earth , or Tellus if you will"

The St. Simeon was a nice little ruin ,which I had all to surprise that no other tourist made the effort to get here.

The ruins of St.Simeon basilica with the octagonal arches

St.Simeon was one of the first christians in Syria, and in 423 he decided to sit on a 3 meter tall pillar for the next 42 years....that`s one for Guiniess book of records. This was something he did to be in total isolation and to lead a life of meditation and solitude. It had the complete opposite effect , as he soon gained a reputation for his extreme asceitism, and large numbers of pilgrims from far and near came to see him. To get closer to The Lord he loved so much , he kept building new and taller pillars with small platforms on them(his followers buildt them for him). The last pillar were he lived on was 17 meters tall. Most of the time on the pillar he was standing upright with his hands raised towards the sky, or else he was bowing repeatedly. Once a week(!) his disciples brought him a small meal using a ladder to reach him. Researchers are still debating on the subject of how he went to toilet. Women were refused to come anywhere near him or his beloved pillar, he even refused to see his own mother.... would`nt want to indulge in sinful thoughts obviously....

Pilgrims came from as far away as England and France and continued to arrive in ever growing numbers...and he would speak to the crowd to teach them about the right ways of life , but I seriously would`nt take advice from someone who lives on a pillar and spends his days reaching for the heavens in a place were the sun is strong and always 40 C ++...maybe it was skin cancer that finally got the best of him after those 42 years..  After his death many other religious people has followed his example of soing something insane in the name of their faith.  In 459 the church was buildt over the pillars and is a place of pilgrimage for christians in the region. It`s amazingly well preserved today with most of the structures in working order. The views of Afrine river valley to the northwest and the Amanus mountains of Turkey is a big bonus for going here.

if you go there , watch out for the local poison snakes...I almost got bit by an angry one in a big bush.

pbug31 says:
yes i definately think the 40c temp was messing with his thinking capabilities. Honestly on a pillar?
Posted on: Aug 18, 2011
z858978 says:
confusing bus stations with touts and drivers vying for my attention in a strange language scares me. thats why i only travel to big cities with lots of tourists or buy packaged tours to get me to the more exotic places. good thing they decided to make this a feature blog. i love reading about exotic places in the middle east that i'd love to visit as soon as i get a black belt in karate
Posted on: Mar 07, 2011
Stigen says:
It`s a good example of how extreme humans can actually choose to live...
Posted on: Aug 22, 2009
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A typical syrian bus
A typical syrian "bus"
My truck driver friends
My truck driver friends
The ruins of St.Simeon basilica wi…
The ruins of St.Simeon basilica w…
photo by: Stigen