Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Dead Cities and Apamea... then Jordan all in one day!


2000 (local time)

Wow, the Dead Cities are pretty awesome. I organised a tour through the hostel, which I know is kinda cheating but I was tired of getting told the wrong information to get to places. So the hostel struck up a relatively cheap deal to take me and 2 other girls from Ireland and Germany (I think) to visit Serjilla, Al-Bara and Apamea.

The Dead Cities are a series of ‘ghost towns’ scattered around the area of Aleppo and Hama. These cities date back to the Byzantine era as you can see by some of the distinct markings that are on the doorways of buildings. The great mystery about these cities is why the towns were abandon. Sites such as Serjilla that I went to have a bit of a eerie quality about them. The latest theory states that these villages were emptied by demographic shifts; trade roots changed and the people moved with them.

‘Dead’ Cities probably isn’t the best way to describe the cities at the moment, because people are currently living some of the houses as you can see from the rubbish and the abandon fire sites.

Serjilla is the most complete ‘dead city’ in the area, and we were fortunate to visit this first. Although it has been deserted here for about 15 centuries the buildings are still sharp and you are always half expecting a villager from the Byzantine times to come walking out of one of the buildings.

It was really good fun to go exploring and walking around the ruins!

Anyway, our time was up, so we jumped back into the car and took a quick visit to Al-Bara, although we didn’t stay long at Al-Bara it was still nice to see some of the ruins and houses to be surrounded by olive trees. It is known that Al-Bara was used for its Wine and Olive Oil trading. We stayed here for about 15 minutes, had a quick walk around took some photos and were again on our way to Apamea.

I would have been happy to head home from here and save some money on the tour, but as it were, it was included with the tour. So we drove for about 45-60 minutes where I dosed off for a bit. I was woken to the sounds of doors opening, we were here.

We bought our tickets and started out walking down the straight road that was once owned by a former General of Alexander the Great. Apemea became a important trading post for one of the four key settlements which was Lattakia (the port). Many years went on, then Apamea was seized by the General Pompey for the Romans in 64BC. In 115AD the city was mostly rebuilt after a severe earthquake tore down most of the city. Years went by and the city that once boasted a population of 500,000 was taken over by numerous different empires , until around 1150AD the city was flattened by another severe earthquake.

Now days the city looks very similar to Palmera except without the tourists, its nice to walk down the street and look at all the Roman pillars to either side of us.

After strolling through the 3 kilometre street, we turned left at the road and admired another nice Roman Villa, that would have looked beautiful back in its heyday.

We walked back to the car, and was then driven 2 kilometres down the road to the west, to an ancient Roman theatre. It was nice to sit here and relax for a bit. I did my standard bit of exploring, then it was time to leave so we got back into the car and headed off back to Hama. It was a good day. Everyone fell asleep in the car lucky for us the driver Abdul stayed awake and got us home safely.

We were back at home for no longer than 20-30 minutes before I convinced a young couple from England and a girl who was also from England to come with me down to Hama water wheels also known as the Norias. The Norias are Hama’s most distinctive attractions, they are water wheels that are up to 20metres in diameter, which is equivalent to an four or five story building. These wheels have graced the city form the 5th century. The Norias were constructed to scoop the water for the river and then deposit it into a nearby aqueduct which then distributes the water to the near by farms.

Unfortunately at the time that I visited them, the Norias were inactive due to insufficient water, but during the spring and summer times the water wheels still turn and the sound of them echo’s throughout the city.

The group of us visited the Four Norias of Bechriyyat, took some photos. I jumped the fence to chat to some of the locals that were fixing them and tried my Arabic on them. We ended up getting quite chatty, and they let me climb up one, get a ton of photos and then let the wheel take me down to the ground again. We have a movie of the whole thing, so ill be putting it up on You Tube asap.

After all of this, it was getting late and I was tired so we walked back to the hostel stopping by at the local supermarket so I could cook up a rice and vegies dish!

After dinner I found out that I can get a direct bus from Hama to Amman (Jordan) for 600SP ($13AUD) that leaves at 12 midnight and gets me to Amman at around about 9 in the morning on the 21st. Looking forward to it. I know have everything organised, it was a hassle because I didn’t want to withdraw anymore Syrian so I exchanged some Lebanese Lira instead for a decent rate.

Update: 21st, well I am now in Amman, and I made it all the way through. I didn’t take into account that I may have needed some extra Syrian Pounds so I could pay for the Departure Tax. So I did an asleep border crossing with the help of a angry Syrian man I was luckily able to pay for my departure tax in Jordanian Diner (9JD), I think it was supposed to be 10JD? But never mind! I MADE IT!

The next few days will involve a lot of RELAXING!

Dead Cities

Tomb robbers have raided the tombs!

The buildings are still all complete!

One of the old houses that are still being occupied, look at all the rubbish!

Makes me sad... rubbish graffiti on some amazing ruins!

I think this may have been the town hall, or someones house! Still so complete!

This is at Al-Bara, Notice the byzantine marking on the door frame!

Standing in front of the start of Apemea!

Another roman column shot!

Whilst walking around, a Shepard guided his sheep through the ruins!

A nice group shot with the girls... (do you think i can look any brighter)

The shot out of the lonely planet!


The Four Norias of Huma

How amazing does it look!

Unfortunatly the lake is not deep enough yet... Maybe in a months time!

So i climbed up to the top! The movie is quite amusing! But i cant upload it!

The 4 workers there!

The End!

Till next time!

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