Not far from
Alepo there are several ruins dating to late-Roman and
Byzantine times, collectively called the Dead Cities. To
the northwest of Alepo is the most famous Dead City Qalaat
Semaan. It is named after St. Simeon Stylites
a monk who in the 5th century chained himself to a rock and
perched himself there for 38 years. He would preach twice a
day and offer advice to people coming from far away. After
his death in 459 AD the largest church at that time was built in
Other Dead Cities to the northwest of Alepo include Cyrrhus,
Ain Dara. To the west is Harim, and Qalb Lozeh,
to the southwest is Idlib
Ebla and Maarat al-Numan which is
comprised of Maarat al-Numan, Bara (al-Kafr), Serjilla, and
Idliband Ebla are
the better known attraction cities in the area. Idleb boasts
an excellent museum and hotel making a trip there worth while.
Not far from here is Ebla, whose history dates back to 2400 BC.
Fifteen thousand clay tablets, showing the first alphabet and
signs of international trade were unearthed in the 1970's opening
a new chapter in the history of civilization Qala'at Sama'an
(Saint-Simon): This citadel is 60 kilometres northwest of
Alepo. It was named after the hermit Saint-Simon (Sama'an),
a shepherd from northern Siria,
who became a monk after a revelation in a dream. Following Saint-Simon?s
death in 459, the Emperor Zenon ordered that a cathedral be built
where the saint used to pray. The layout was original, centring on
the famous column from which Saint-Simon used to preach. Four
basilicas, arranged in the shape of a cross, opened into an
octagon covered by a dome, in the centre of which stood the holy
column. It is a beautiful church built on the ridge of the hill
where Saint-Simon had taken up residence. Simplicity and harmony
combine to make the ruins of the Basilica of St. Simon (an
earthquake destroyed parts of the church less than half a century
after it had been built) a masterpiece of pre-Islamic art in
Siria. In the 10th century, some towers and walls were erected. It
was then called Qala'at Sama'an (Simon's citadel). It became the
centre of conflict between Byzantium and the Hamadani kingdom; in
986, the son of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani finally captured it.
The church of Qalb Lawzi (Idleb):This is 65 kilometres west
of Alepo. It dates back to the 6th
century, and is a masterpiece of Syrian Byzantine art.
Ebla (Tal Mardikn Idleb): It
is 25 kilometres southeast of Idleb. It is
the site of important and recent archaeological discoveries.
Excavations in the Tal Mardikn have revealed a very old Syrian
civilization, that of Ebla, which flourished in the 3ed and 2nd
millenniums B.C, In the palace of this great kingdom, a library
containing more than 17?000 clay tablets was uncovered. These
tablets are the earliest written documents en Siria.
Rasafeh: It is located south of the Euphrates and north of
the Syrian semi-desert, 160 kilometres south-east of Alepo and 30
kilometres south of the Alepo Raqqa
road. Rasafeh palace was the residence of Hisham ibn Abdul Malik,
the third Omayyad Caliph, whose age was golden one, due to his
great interest in the arts and in architecture. He had several
palaces built in various parts of Siria. He was in favour of
simplicity and modesty; this is why he chose Rasafeh as his
residence. There, he died and was buried. The palace was
originally a church, built to commemorate a Roman officer (St.
Sergius), who died in defence of Christianity in the 4th century.
In 616, the Persians, robbed and destroyed invaded the church.
When Hisham ibn Abdul Malik became a caliph in the 8th ce, he
built two beautiful palaces on its site. Later, the Abbacies
invaded and destroyed what the Caliph Hisham had built. Very
little of the ruins of the Mar Sarkis church remain. Parts of the
church have been used as a mosque; inscriptions in both Arabic and
Greek, engraved on the walls, indicate that Christians and Muslims
co-existed peacefully in Siria
from the 13th century onwards.