Palmyra, Arab Castle
ibn Maan, the Arab Castle of Palmyra.
number one tourist attraction and one of the world's best ancient
sites, Palmyra, is a vast, picturesque oasis scattered with dilapidated
- but nevertheless beautiful - remnants of long dead civilisations
sandwiched between the Euphrates and Orontes rivers and surrounded
by featureless desert.
built around 2nd century AD but with traces from as long as 4,000
years ago, the area has been home to forces of Assyrians, Persians,
Greeks and of course Romans, who named the city Palmyra (City of Palms).
After a successful but weakening revolt against the Romans the city
was finally captured by Muslims in 634 AD and went downhill from that
though it is, Palmyra does not experience the invasion of tourists
of other great Mid-East ancient sites as Syria has a less developed
travel industry. Nevertheless the usual rules of visiting ancient
sites apply; get there either early for sunrise or stay late for sunset.
Not only will many tourists be on their buses at this point and the
place less crowded but the colours and shadows will lend a magic quality
to the eye as well as depth, interest and colour saturation to any
pictures you might choose to take. This will mean staying nearby overnight,
a good thing as it happens since the area deserves much more than
a hurried day trip from Damascus. Two days is really a minimum effective
visit and try to be here at both sunrise and sunset.
Among Palmyra's best sights are: the Temple of Bel, the Arab Castle
(pictured above), the Great Colonnade, the Tetrapylon and the valley
of the Tombs. Pictures of some of these appear on following pages.
north from Damascus to Syria's most spectacular ancient ruins, Palmyra.
modern town of Palmyra is of little interest except as a base of exploration,
with day trips out to sites of interest other than Palmyra possible,
such as the 5,000 year old Royal Palace and bizarre Mesopotamian ziggurat
(a kind of pyramid) at Mari, the fortified town of Dura Europos on
the edges of cliffs over the Euphrates River, the 3rd century AD walled
city of Rasafa and more...
late afternoon view from Qala'at ibn Maan, the Arab castle. Next, more Palmyra pictures.
Pictures: Damascus | Aleppo