and historical building
- Bosra is most famous for its
magnificent Roman amphitheatre, Built around the end of the 2nd
century AD, and was later converted into a fortress by the Ayyubids.
The original theatre, which has been miraculously preserved, seats up
to 15 000 with perfect acoustics and its stage is 45 meters in length
and 8 meters in depth. It has been designed so that all the audience
can hear the actors without the use of any special equipment. The
theatre has been renovated and restored, especially a lot of the
columns. There is a large area in front of the stage that might've
been used for circuses or gladiatorial matches. Most of the Ayyubid
fortress that envelops the theatre remains. It was built by the
Ayyubids except for a few towers built by the Seljuks. One of the
Ayyubid towers on the outer arc has now been turned into a folkloric
From outside it could be an Arab fortress similar to many others. On a
semi-circular front, great square towers built of enormous blocks of
stone (some of the corner ones are more than five meters high),
project from the blind ramparts. A deep ditch, the first line of
defence, is crossed on a six-arched bridge. An iron-bound gate, series
of vaulted rooms, twisting passages, rampart walks, and all kinds of
defensive works, giving an impression of the military quality of the
castle, but nothing prepares us for the surprise that right at its
heart lies a splendid ancient theatre!
The 13th-enclosing wall completely encircles the caveat of
the theatre. When the Arabs entered into Bosra they immediately
blocked all the doors and opening of the ancient theatre with thick
walls, transforming it into an easily defensible citadel. But the new
threats posed by the Crusaders rendered these early defences
inadequate; so in the mid-11th century three towers were
built, jutting out from the Roman building; nine other bigger ones
followed, between 1202 and 1251. Later accretions overlaid the
interior of the theatre and its ranges of seats, but at the same time
preserved them. This interior has now been fully uncovered and
restored entirely by the Department of Antiquities, which began its
work shortly after Syria became independent.
Furthermore, sources reveal that the whole
amphitheatre was draped with silk hangings that protected audience
from both the summer sun and the winter rain. Perfumed water was also
evaporated in the theatre - the ultimate touch of style and refinement.
Other Roman sites include the palatial Roman baths,
monumental gates and some fine Corinthian columns.
From the theatre-fortress a narrow road with ancient paving
stones runs alongside the southern baths before coming to the
decumanus, near a triple arch known as Bab al Kandil
(the Gate of the Lantern). It was built in the 3rd century,
in honour of the Third Cyrenaica Legion, stationed here at Bosra. A
double-storied archway marks the western entrance to the city. Bab
al Hawa, the Gate of the Wind.
- Down from the theatre and the central arch, turn right along
the decumanus, the eye is caught by a group of tall slender
columns. The first four, set at an angle to the street, are supposed
to be the only surviving elements of Nymphaeun. The road
leading from the four columns to the Omar mosque striking
alongside the market (Khan al Dibs) has recently been cleared.
On the other side of the street, two columns 25 meters apart, one of
which is joined to the neighbouring wall by a rich entablature, are
said to have been part of a "kalybea", a religious building
unique to this region. The eastern exit to the town was marked by an
archway which, unlike the Gate of the Wind (to the west), is said to
date from the first century, the Nabatean period, of which
nearly all traces are now lost, the Romans having transformed the
entire city. This Nabatean gateway is unique in all Syria.
Petra (in present-day Jordan) is the only place where there are
similar ones, indicating the existence of pre-Roman Arab civilization.
The Mosque of Omar in the centre of the town (called Jami-al
Arouss, "the bridal mosque" by the Bosriots) was a
pagan temple to begin with. It is the only mosque surviving from the
early Islamic period to preserve its original facades. All its columns
remain in place. Many bear inscriptions in Greek, Latin or Nabatean.
Its fine square minaret dates from the 12th century.
The al Khidr mosque, 200 meters south of the al Jahir spring,
is considered to be one of Bosra?s oldest Islamic constructions. Built
out of black basalt in 1134 on the site of an earlier seven meters
long. Its twelve-meter high minaret was built one and a half meters to
the west of the mosque. Arabic inscriptions engraved in the plaster
can be seen above the mihrab.
The al Mabrak Mosque (Mabrak, is where it is said that Muhammad's
camel knelt at the spot of the Mihrab) which recalls another visit by
the Prophet Mohammed to Bosra, is found outside the city, to the
northeast. Thousands of graves, with great steal of black basalt on
them, keep watch at the foot of its walls. There is an enormous
cistern which, at 120 meters by 150 meters is one of the largest
the Romans ever built. Also found in the city of Bosra, are the
Mosques of Fatima.
The Manjak Hammam, dating back to 1372, is a prototype of Mamluk
architecture. Founded by Manjak Al Youssoufi (Governor of the Damascus
province), this was the last Islamic structure to be built in Bosra.
It shows how important this town was up until late in the Middle Ages.
As it was situated at the crossroads of trade routes, Bosra was also a
stop-off point for Muslim pilgrims heading to the holy towns of Mecca
- Leaving the Nabatean gate on the left, arrive at the
ruins of a great building whose walls are marked by many round-headed
arches. This is the St. Serge, Bachus and Leontus Cathedral,
built in 512, the first domed building to be built on a square ground
plan. The Emperor Justinian was inspired by this cathedral in the
building of St Sophia at Constantinople. About thirty meters to the
north of the cathedral there is a building whose walls, intact up to
roof level, plainly indicate that it is a church. This is the 3rd-4th-century
basilica, site of the famous encounter between Bahira
and Mohammad. Bahira. Bahira was a Nestorian Christian monk who met
the Prophet Muhammad when he was 12 years of age, and noticed
the seal of prophecy and claimed that he would have a great future..
Around Bosra: Salkhad (23 km east of Bosra on a
surfaced road) has a citadel dating from the time of the Crusades. A
circular structure rises above a steep glacis to crown a volcanic hill.
At Al Inat (26 km south-east of Salkhad by track) there is a
great reservoir (birkeh) dug out of the rock in 1238 - 1240, as an
Arabic inscription informs us. Further out, at Umm Al Qotein,
almost on the Syro-Jordanian frontier, there are extensive ruins.
Another track leads from Salkhad south to Anz (13 km) where
there are also ancient ruins.