Crusaders and Water wheels
Krak des Chevaliers Travel Blog› entry 2 of 8 › view all entries
Departing Damascus this morning, a two and a half hour drive brings us to the formidable citadel of the Krak des Chevaliers, probably the best-preserved Crusader castle in the Middle East. With its dramatic setting on top of Jebel Khalil, the impregnable turrets and towers stand as a defiant reminder of the holy crusades against the forces of Islam by the Christian knights of northern Europe, who went on to establish the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1100-1290). Even though we are in early May it is freezing cold up on top of the hill.Those Crusaders must have been hardy souls.
During a guided tour of the site we will take in the multilayered fortifications, long dark passages, inner galleries and chambers at the heart of this mighty fortress, before moving on to the famous 13th century waterwheels at Hama, many of which are still used today to irrigate the surrounding farmland.
Heading into the Ghab depression, one of Syria’s most fertile areas, we then enter a land irrigated by the life giving waters of the Orontes River, where we find the great city of Apamea, founded here in the 2nd Century BC by Seleucus I. During the rise of the Seleucids the city prospered, until at its height its population numbered in excess of 120,000 people and the vast stud housed no fewer that 30,000 mares and 300 stallions (the Seleucids even kept 600 ele-phants here that were trained in the art of warfare). Over the centuries the city fell under the control of Rome and Byzantium, Christianity and Islam, before it was practically destroyed by an earthquake in 1157AD.
Continuing along the coast we finish our day’s journey in the busy port city of Lattakia, Syria’s most important access into the Mediterranean. We walk along the sea front and find a restaurant for dinner. We try a bottle of local red wine which was to put it politely a little dissapointing! Our second is a nice vintage from neighbouring Lebanon.