Latakia (Al ladhiqiyah) Is main sea-port of Syria on the Mediterranean. It is situated on the low-lying Ra's Ziyarah promontory that projects into the Mediterranean Sea. It was known to the Phoenicians as Ramitha and to the Greeks as Leuke Akte. Its present name is a corruption of Laodicea, for the mother of Seleucus II (3rd century BC).
Latakia lies 186 km southwest of Aleppo, 186 km northwest of Homs and 348 km northwest of Damascus.
Latakia has retained its importance since ancient times. As Latakia is the sea-gate to Syria, It is well-provided with accommodation, and is well-placed as a base from which to explore the coastal regions of the country. There are beaches, mountains, archaeological sites and many relics of the Crusaders, all within a few hours from each other.
Ancient Ramitha replaced the earlier settlement of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) to the north, which was destroyed in the 12th century BC. Latakia only came to prominence in the wake of Alexander the Great's conquest, when is was transformed into a major city of the Seleucid empire.
Renamed in honour of Loadicea, the mother of Alexander the Great's general Seleucus I Nicator (3rd and 2nd centuries BC), it developed into an important port and becoming the main supplier of wine to the Hellenistic period. The town was briefly declared capital of Syria in the late second century AD by Septimius Severus. Devastating earthquakes in 494 and 555 badly damaged Latakia, but was rebuilt by Justinian. Latakia was taken in AD 638 by the Arabs, in 1097-1103 by the crusaders, and in 1188 by Saladin. Subsequently the town was administered by Christians from Tripoli, Muslims from Hama, and the Ottoman Turks; it came within the French mandate of Syria and Lebanon in 1920.
Attractions and historical building
Some attractions in the city include a museum, that was an old Ottoman khan which served as the governor's residence during the French mandate. The museum houses some interesting examples of pottery, glassware, clay tablets from nearby Ugarit, and contemporary paintings. Another attraction to the city is a Roman gateway (Tetraparticus) that consists of four columns.
The Syrian seashore is about 182 km long and its numerous beaches are distinguished by soft sand, unpolluted sea, moderate climate and clear blue skies. The Blue Beach of Latakia is the most popular beach on the Eastern Mediterranean.
Water-skiing, jet-skiing, and windsurfing are popular activities in this resort town. Nearby are two hotels, the Cham Cote d'Azur Hotel and L'Merdien Latakia Hotel.
The Syrian coast consists of long stretches of beaches and green mountains. These mountains are mostly covered with pine and oak trees, and their slopes touch the shore. This landscape repeats itself from Ras Al-Basit in the north to Tartus in the south. On the mountains, villages and towns are scattered, with springs of clear mineral water.
Surrounding attractions, include Ugarit at Ras Shamra, Qalaat Saladin - a formidable castle that has been well preserved, Slunfeh, Kassab and Ras al-Bassit.
Latakia is now the principal port of Syria; it is located on a good harbour, with an extensive agricultural hinterland. Exports include bitumen and asphalt, cereals, cotton, fruit, eggs, vegetable oil, pottery, and tobacco. Cotton ginning, vegetable-oil processing, tanning, and sponge fishing are local industries. The University of Latakia was founded in 1971 and renamed Gami't Tishrin (University of October) in 1976. The city is linked by road to Aleppo, Homs, Tripoli, and Beirut. All but a few classical buildings have been destroyed, often by earthquakes; those remaining include a Roman triumphal arch and Corinthian columns known as the colonnade of Bacchus.
Latakia governorate has an area of 887 sq mi (2,297 sq km) and embraces Syria's fertile Mediterranean coastal area. It is an important agricultural region, producing abundant crops of tobacco, cotton, cereal grains, and fruits.