The Mighty Euphrates
Dayr az Zawr Travel Blog› entry 7 of 8 › view all entries
Heading east today we journey through a landscape of arid, barren desert, stopping off to visit the expansive waters of Lake Assad and the Euphrates Dam, before following the course of the great river down towards the town of Rasafa. Dramatically located amidst a seemingly inhospitable land, the town’s origins are vague, but during the 3rd century AD the Romans established an outpost here to protect the ancient caravan routes between Damascus and the Euphrates.
The town’s fame came about through the martyrdom of Sergius, a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity and was executed for his beliefs. Following the Edict of Milan in 313, Sergius was canonised and his grave became a major pilgrimage site, whilst the town itself went on to become a major defensive bulwark (along with Halabiye and Zalabiye) against the ever-growing threat of the Sassanids. Built from shimmering white gypsum these imposing fortified garrisons must have presented an impressive site to invading armies, but it didn’t stop them finally falling to the Persians in the 8th century.
Continuing on to Halabiye, strategically located along the Euphrates to protect a narrow gorge, we stop to take in its surprisingly well-preserved 6th century re-mains, before completing our journey to Deir ez-Zor, an important transport hub on the Euphrates whose Armenian church retains some haunting memorials to the 1915 geno-cide by the Ottoman Turks.