Syria Hama 2001.04.23 - 04.25


Hama has a collection of Norias (water wheels) that lift water from the Orontes River into overhead aqueducts. The Norias continue to turn but the aqueducts are no longer used.

Hama is a good base from which to see Apamea and the Dead Cities to the north and Krak des Chevaliers to the southwest. Because accommodation in Hama is nicer than that in every other Syrian city, hotels are often fully occupied. Be sure to reserve your room several days in advance.

Because local buses don't go directly to the Dead Cities, we joined a 1-day tour to Apamea and the Dead Cities booked through our hotel. Apamea was a city that thrived in the Byzantine period before it was sacked by the Persians in 540 AD. Today, it's a 2km long row of columns. The entry fee of S£ 300 (S£ 25 for students) is overpriced. Bring your own drinks because the only restaurant within walking distance charges 3 times the normal price. The Dead Cities are no more than recently deserted stone buildings. Most of the architecture is uninteresting and the S£ 150 admission fee is undeserved. Compared to Kayaköy near Fethiye in Turkey, a visit to these Dead Cities is a waste of time. We will never join another tour. I think we said that the last time we were on a tour, what 2 years ago? In effect, the tours offered by the hotels in Hama are minibus transport at 20 times the local rate. The driver doesn't explain anything, and there isn't even a lunch break. We highly recommend against them.

The next day we visited Krak des Chevaliers. Naturally, the hotels offer an overpriced transport (they call it tour #7) there and back, but we learned our lesson from the day before and rode the public bus.

A Noria lifts water from the Orontes River to a defunct aqueduct in Hama. As the wheel turns, the wood makes a loud creaking noise.

The columns of Apamea stretch for 2km in a double row. Other than the columns, there's nothing to see.

At the entrance to Apamea is a "restaurant" selling beverages at obscenely high prices. Next door, however, lives a family who makes bread in this outdoor furnace. They sold us 2 for S£ 25.

The only interesting structure among 3 Dead Cities we visited is this tomb in the city called Al-Bara. Unfortunately, graffiti covers the inside walls.

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