The Arab citadel of Ibn Maan stands high up on mountain overlooking Palmyra. It is the perfect place to go at sunset. the citadel was built in the 17th century by Fakhr ad-Din, a Lebanese warlord, who held out here against the might of the Ottoman empire. It is believed, however, that there was probably a 12th century Ayubid castle here before that.
The road leading to Palmyra is also on the way to Baghdad. I stopped by road signs showing Iraq and Baghdad to take some pictures. It was interesting because it's as if I'm headed to Baghdad during this trying times!
The Tower Tomb of Elabel is the best preserved tower in the Valley of the Tombs. It was built in 103 AD and housed 260 sarcophagi. There are steps inside, so you can see all of the levels and some well-preserved ceiling frescoes.
This underground burial chamber was built in the 2nd century AD. The Aramaic inscription above the doorway declares that this tomb was founded by three brothers: Naamai, Male and Saadat. The ceilings and walls inside are beautifully decorated, but no photography is allowed inside the tomb.
The ruins of Palmyra look dusty and arid today, but between the ruins and the new town you can see why the city developed here in the middle of the desert. There is a dense expanse of palm trees, indicating the presence of an oasis and it was these trees that gave Palmyra its name: City of Palms.
Bedouin or Beduin, people living in the Middle Eastern deserts you can still meet in Syria. Today they don’t protect caravan of merchants but they still raise sheep or goats living in large tents. You can see them along road to or from Palmyra.
There is a opportunity to visit Bedouins family during your stay in Palmyra. Actually trip to Bedouins family with dinner and lodging in a real Bedouins tent is a business in Palmyra nowadays and I’m sure you will get a few offers to get know famous hospitality of desert nomads.
Prices are various from 50 to 100 US$, good deal is 20 US$ for one person (in a hotel behind the Citadel hotel).
People organizing the trip are swearing the Bedouins are getting food for a stay only, money are for transport… It is up to you to decide if it is good or no for bedouins, original inhabitants of a desert. There is not many opportunities to find out how they bake a bread and care for family.
Qala'at ibn maan is the local arab fortress standing on top of a hill, like a true eagle's nest. It's not far from the ruins, but it's actually farther than it looks, so it's advisable to have plenty of time to talk there, or to have a car take you up there. The castle itsenf is not truly spectacular or anything: just a fancy empty shell. However, should it be a sunny day with a very clear sky,it's definitely worth to pay a trip out there. Why? Because from there the views over the ruins are truly something else. In case of a misty day, like mine, don't feel sad and give it a miss: it's not really worth the effort
No, it's not a mistake... not the wrong country! Like Egypt, Syria too has its valley of funerary Tombs: it's located to the outh of Palmyra, past the ruins and behind the low hills that you can see in the distance. Basically one could say that the entire area around Palmyra is an enormous fascinating cemetery. There are hundreds of tombs in different shapes of sizes: some built underground like the tomb of the three brothers, some "overground" and shaped like towers like the Tower of Elahbel- Much as I liked the ruins of the Old City, it's this lower-key part of Palmyra that really made my day: unexpected, mysterious, fascinating
The tower of Elahbel is another example of funerary tower: this time it is not underground like some, butfreestanding. This tower is 4 floors high and well preserved: inside, originally, several hundreds of coffins would have been kept, and each would have had a stone-carved portait in front of it. These carvings have now been removed, but you can see them at the National Museum in Damascus. It's also possible to climb to the foor of this tower for great views over the surrounding valley: in my casew it was coming out of the morning mist and it was particularly suggestive and eerie. Entrance to the tomb is 150 syrian pounds (dec 2002) and you need to buy your ticket in town, at the museum: check your hotel for opening times - as it's only possible to visit about 4 times a day.
The tomb of the three brothers is an impressive undergroung tomb at the beginning of the Valley of the Tombs, not far from the posh cham palace hotel - It was built in the second century AD and contains roughly about four hundred niches (and dead people). The reason for this is that tombs were very expensive affairs, so some people, like these three brothers, had to rent out burial spaces in order to maintain them. The walls are covered with interesting and colourful frescoes, especially the one with the portraits of the three brothers. Entrance (dec 2002) was 150 syrian pounds: ask your hotel for opening times as they may vary according to the season: photos are not allowed (hence the pic below comes from a postcard)