These Pictures which paint thousands of words.
If you happen to visit Syria, it is a must to have a break to visit even just drink a cup of coffee or taste a Syrian Cuisine in a Restaurant on the Riverside where you can also enjoy the pictorial beauty of the Landscape with all inclusive the the nature of Orontes River, the greeneries of the Valley and the contrast of the meditative slow-moving majestic Wooden Waterwheels of Hama City.
Built on top of an extinct volcano, destroyed by an earthquake, rebuilt by an Ayyubid governor of Homs in 1229, the castle is still looking proud on top of the hill overlooking the surrounding desert oasis.
This is the first stop of our Palmyra tour, about 30kms away from Hama, the location is a bit away from the highway though it can be seen from afar. The ascend and descend is quite slippery with loose small rocks and sands. We have to climb the hill or volcano and again climb onto the castle, first exhausting feat of this tour.
The second stop of our Palmyra tour is the traditional behhouses made of mud in the small village of Sarouj. There are I think about 5 cone shaped houses connected to each other in one line.
We entered the main gate and we were greeted by the young guy, a part of the family who still lives there. There are chickens around and we were invited by one lady to see the inside of the beehouse, each of the beehouse are rooms of either a living room, kitchen, dining and maybe others are bedrooms.
We were invited by the chieftain of the small village to share their coffee inside of what appears to be the reception room with traditional arabic sofa. The young guy served a sip of strong local coffee though only 3 of us in the group entered the room - the rest were unenthused and waiting outside the gate.
According to the chieftain, there are only about 15 people living in the beehouses, as I understand, it's only a one big family. They were very nice and friendly.
Very much alive at night - or maybe because it's the Eid - so the market place of Hama is teeming with people and activities at night. It's located just on the other side of the Orontes river, after the norias.
Just as I always do, I take long walks - be it morning, afternoon or evening - around town or cities.
I wandered around Hama's central area, watch people, observe cultures, it's the holiday - Eid - season, so people are busy wandering around town. You'll always find things that's quite interesting just walking around. If you're hungry sit at one of those retaurants along the Orontes river.
There are 17 norias - giant water wheels used to route water to aqueducts to feed agricultural areas. Hama produces half of the country's production of potatoes and pistachio nuts and other vegetables and fruits that is evident in the markets around the city.
The norias seems to be only a display nowadys along the orontes river, which is not far from the clock tower. The Umm Hassan Park is just beside the river and the norias. I was there at night and the norias are not spinning, according to the guy at the hotel, there's not much water along the river so it's not working. There are people around the park sitting on benches on a cold November night.
Like its namesake palace in Damascus, Beit al-Azem of Hama was built by the governor of Damascus Azem Pasha in the 18th century. This palace, however, pre-dates the Damascus one and had been built before Azem Pasha was appointed governor of Damascus. It is thus smaller, and is now converted into a small local museum.
When I came to Syria, one of the places I wanted to see most of all was Krak des Chevaliers. It is, after all, in the words of T. E. Lawrence, simply, "The finest castle in the world." Paul Theroux called it, "The epitome of the dream castle of childhood fantasies." What is it in our childhood that makes us dream of castles? Is it, I wonder, the amazing level of security they offer?
This massive castle was built to command the only break in the Jebel Ansariyya coastal mountain range, the Homs Gap. The first fortress was built here in 1031 by the Emir of Homs. In 1099 the Crusaders took control of the castle. It was during the 12th century, however, that the Knights Hospitaller greatly expanded it and constructed most of the castle we see today. It fell to the Mamluks, led by Beybars, in 1271, largely due to the fact that by then there were only 200 Crusaders left to garrison the castle.
You can easily spend half a day wandering around the castle.
Opening hours: Apr-Oct 9am-6pm, Nov-Mar 9am-4pm.
Although much of old Hama was destroyed in the bombardments of 1982, what little remains is extremely charming. Some of the damage is still visible in surviving buildings, but the area as a whole has been undergoing successful restorations in recent years. Not counting the many historic buildings scattered around Hama, the main area considered "Old Hama" is concentrated on the western bank of the Orontes, across from Apamée Cham Palace Hotel and to the south of al-Nuri Mosque. Walking through the narrow cobblestoned alleys between black and white stone façades of buildings allows one to imagine how beautiful the city might have been prior to the destruction of other neighbourhoods. Attached are some photos of these alleys. For additional photos, check out the travelogue The Streets of Old Hama.
One of Hama's main attractions is the centuries old waterwheels, called "Noriahs". Although they were first utilised during Byzantine times, the existing Noriahs date from the 12th-16th centuries. These wooden waterwheels raised water from the Orontes River to aqueducts that distributed the water for use in irrigation. Nowadays, they are no longer in use, although some still function and add to the romanticised image of Hama. The humming sound of running Noriahs is quite interesting. Of the 100+ original Noriahs, only about 17 survive in and around the city, and are among the oldest and largest waterwheels in the world. A few of them are in the process of being restored along with the old city of Hama. Attached are photos of some of the Noriahs around Hama.
Next to the 12th century al-Nuri Mosque are four of Hama's Noriahs. One is located on the other side of the Orontes River (name unknown), while three are directly adjacent to the mosque. The adjacent Noriahs are called: al-Sahouniya and al-Jaabariya.
All of Hama's Noriahs (waterwheels) fed arched aqueducts that transported water to nearby farms. These aqueducts are ancient and many have survived intact through out the city, adding to its charm. They were built in the typical Hama white and black stones. Attached are photos of some of these aqueducts.
This beautiful hammam is located across the street from al-Nuri Mosque, by the Orontes River. In March 2008, it looked as though it had been restored. I was unable to find any information on this structure, neither a name nor a date of construction. It was visibly ancient and recognisable as a hammam due to the studded dome. If you know anything about this hammam, please drop me a note. Thank you.
One of the largest Noriahs in central Hama, al-Mamuriyya dates from 1453 AD. It is located just south of the remaining and restored section of the old city along the Orontes River. It once fed an aqueduct that remains intact and cuts across the city and the modern streets (see attached photos).
Dating from around 1330 AD, Abu al-Feda Mosque is named after the Mamluke governor of Hama. The mosque is built mostly from black basalt stone, accentuated with white stones to form geometric patterns. The mosque is located on the western bank of the Orontes, just north of the citadel.