The only thing you need to do is let your mind roam and imagine what the citizens of this town did on a daily basis. Once yeilding grapes, olives, and other produce, Serjilla was once a pretty happening trade town. When trade routes shifted away, the town fell into a slump and its inhabitants abandoned it to pursue trade. Many of the large mosaics at Ma'art an-Nu'aman were once the floors of these ruins. Not much else is known about Serjilla and the other cities. Today it is completely uninhabitted and wild dogs are said to roam the plateau.
Built in a basin amid rocky, grassy hills, Serjilla has some of the best preserved buildings of any 'dead city' of north-western Syria. True to every guidebook's description, Serjilla is an eerie place that appears to have been abandoned only a short moment ago. The attached photos show some views of the village and its ruins.
Past the necropolis and down a curved downhill path one first comes across two well-preserved buildings (south-east of the necropolis). The building on the left hand side was the town's bathhouse. Built in 473 AD, it is one of the few in Syria to have survived intact from the Christian period. It is said that when this building was discovered by an American expedition around 1900, it contained floor mosaics which have since disappeared. The existence of this bath house is indicative of the prosperity of this community.
One of Serjilla's most striking buildings, the Andron was a men's meeting place, a tavern of some sort. The building is located just east of the bathhouse and is astonishingly well preserved having lost nothing but its ceilings. The façade has a double portico with three columns on each floor, as seen in the photograph. The Andron dates from the 5th century AD.
East of the bath house, up a hill is Serjilla's best preserved mansion. The entire house is intact with the exception of its roof and floor. Though an arch that used to support the ceiling has survived in the interior. The attached photos show some details, including the beautiful stone carvings around the windows and door.
The southeastern end of Serjilla has a small cluster of villas/mansions. The most striking is the one shown in the attached photo, which is similar in architecture as the Andron. Its façade has a double portico with four columns each, although part of the portico and some of the columns collapsed. This villa has been used in more recent times as evident by the later construction of a wall and inclusion of a modern metal gate and window!
Serjilla's buildings are decorated with the typical circular Byzantine symbols of the 4th and 5th century AD. These symbols are found at other 'dead cities' of the region, and have survived in modified form in later Syrian architecture well into the 19th century. The attached photos show a few examples, some of which are based on religious crosses, others are purely decorative. These symbols almost have a cult-like appearance and are rather fascinating.
As you enter Serjilla, you will notice a few stone tombs on the left hand side. This is where the village's necropolis was located. The attached photo shows a sarcophagus with typical carved Byzantine symbols.
A church lies to the east of the Andron and probably dates from late 4th century. It has a triple nave in the interior, but has not survived well over the years. A section of the church lies in piles of stone.
In Byzantine times, this region depended largely on the production of olives and olive oil. Serjilla had an olive oil press where olive oil was produced. The attached photo shows details of the olive press. It is located north east of the bath house, up the hill.
Calling Serjilla a "dead city" is perhaps incorrect. Not only is it merely a village, but it is also inhabited. The attached photo shows the hanging laundry of a family of squatters who have taken refuge in one of its old houses. Given how lovely and intact these Byzantine mansions are, who could blame them? These squatters generally keep to themselves and avoid tourists.
Adjacent to Serjilla's modern car park, the first building on the right hand side as you enter the ruins is a house or villa. It is among a cluster of houses at the western end of the village. Although only its southern wall survived intact, the eastern facing façade still has its doors and decorations. Inside the house, an arch that used to support the ceiling remains intact while the ceilings itself has collapsed (see main photo).
I found it really amazing that an arch could have survived such a long time and not have colapsed. And not just one either, I saw at least two arches still standing.
Just don't kick out the centre stone.
Many of the ruins at Serjilla are really spectacularily preserved, and certainly don't look as old as they actually are. It almost looks like you could just slap on a new roof and it would be good as new!
Is this water too clean to drink? Well, this is what some people in the rest of the world is drinking. So for the fortunate ones like us, we should appreciate and save the natural resources that we always take it for granted.