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.
Housed in an ancient khan (caravanserai), the Hama Artists' House is an atelier for local artists. Each artists has a small room to work and exhibit, as well as sell his/her work. It is a great place to visit, and to see local art and the artists themselves.
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.
Following the destructive earthquake of 1157 AD, the ruler of Hama Nureddine (Nur el-Din) ordered the re-construction of this mosque to replace a previous ancient structure. The new mosque bore his name and was completed in 1172 AD. It lies on the west bank of the Orontes River, adjacent to al-Jaabariyeh Noriah. The beautiful mosque has multiple domes and an inner courtyard. Its shining feature is its beautiful black and white square minaret. Like many mosques in this region, al-Nuri mosque was built on the site of an ancient church (and probably an earlier pagan temple). A few remains from the church can still be seen in the mosque's courtyard.
Once the acropolis of Epiphania, the citadel mound of Hama is now all but a beautiful park in the heart of the city. The mound had been inhabited since ancient times, and later became an acropolis, then a citadel, which was destroyed in earthquakes. Excavations of the mound have led to discovery of countless ancient objects which are now on display at the Hama Museum.
A functioning Arab bath, Hammam al-Othmaniya has been in operation for over 800 years! It is located in a narrow alley under an archway in old Hama, not too far from Azem Palace. The hammam serves both men and women on separate days.
There is another Azem Palace in Hamah. In the old city, which is very small, but you'll get to it easily. unfortunately it was too late when I found out about the museum. it was already closed. Still I had an impression that was much better and interesting then Azem palace in Damascus (which I really did not liked).
On the picture it is not exactly Azem Palace but it's somewhere in the same area.
Hamah is a town almost halfway between Aleppo and Damascus. The Orontes River floats through the town and you can easily see where it is on the photo as it is green vegetation along the river.
There is not much left of the old town in Hamah, but here you can visit Azem Palace Museum. It is not as grand as the one in Damascus, but well worth a visit. When I was there I was the only visitor, maybe because they had just opened for the day.
Characteristic for Hamah are all the wooden waterwheels (Norias) and the groaning sound you hear from them in summer.
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.
This nice family invited me to have tea and watermelon (jabbas) with them in the Citadel area. After 1,5 hours when I continued I was invited to join another family, but then I had to go on.
On Fridays a lot of families go to the park in the citadel area to relax and have a picnic.
The Azem Palace Museum is better described historically on the links below, but basically this is an Ottoman style palace, with a pleasant garden courtyard and fountain. The seemingly delicately chiseled lace rock windows are outstanding in their preservation. There are several outstanding mosaics as well, though the display of them lacks the care one would expect given their value, a characteristic feature of the Syrian National antiquities, quite frankly. The Museum itself is a quick walk through with various Arab pottery, and the rather quaint folk art museum is also interesting for those unfamiliar with Arabic customs. See the tip on the ancient toilet found here.
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).
This tiny mosque is located in the heart of the restored old town. In the typical style of Hama, the mosque is built in stone designed in alternating black and white stripes. The mosque has a small wooden minaret and distinctive wooden windows with beautiful geometric motifs and stained glass. This mosque dates from the 13th century.
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.
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.