Palmyran Pimps..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Syria  ,
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Here it is, the big one, Palmyra.

They say if you only have one day in Syria then you simply must see Palmyra and nothing else. Since being denied entry to Syria 10 years ago I've constantly been bugged by people that actually made it to Syria, and more specifically Palmyra, that it is the number one site of the Middle East if not the best ancient city ruins in the world. I don't think I can comment as there's probably a few more places for us to see, Machu Pichu for instance. What I can say is that Palmyra is certainly an absolute eyeful. And easily one of the highlights thus far.

A brief history -

The earliest ruins of the city date from 2 millennium BC. They cover some fifty hectares and have been extensively excavated and restored. Not discovered until 1678 by two English merchants who were living in Aleppo. It took a 1751 expedition, which resulted in drawings and the first excavations, to truly pique travellers interests. Since then a steady flow of travellers have made the trek out into the desert from Aleppo and other parts of Syria.

Palmyra's greatest days were when Zenobia started ruling Palmyra on behalf of her son Vaballath. Zenobia with the help of her Prime Minister Longinus extended Palmyrean power to the west and took over Bosra and occupied as far as Egypt (269-270), then she headed for the north and attempted to take Antioch. This sudden expansion posed a threat for the Romans, and after two years in 272 of being flexible Aurelian retaliated and took back Antioch then Emesa (Homs) and then Palmyra itself. Zenobia tried to escape but was captured and was taken back to Rome as a prisoner.

After this Rome kept a close eye on Palmyra and it was forced to become a military area and let go of its reputation as a trade center. It was expanded under emperor Diocletian to harbor Roman legions and it was walled in defense from the Sassanian threat.

Later in the Byzantine period a few churches were built and added to the much ruined city. It was then taken by the Arabs under Khalid Ibn Al Walid who was leader of the Arab army under the Caliph Abu Bakr. It played a minor defensive role during the Islamic periods although the Umayyads built the two Qasr Al Heirs. Later Temple of Bel was fortified and the Arab Castle of Fakhredin Al Maany was built.

- that concludes the brief history. For more, I suggest you Google it.

From our perspective Palmyra was an amazing place to spend a couple of days. We were so enchanted by the place we even got out of bed for sunrise one day. There was no one else about (except for Toby and Kalita getting in the way of our photos whilst riding about on camels) which made it all the more enchanting. We spent most of that day just walking about and exploring the nooks and crannies. Sure there's more than a few touts that somehow find you in the most remote corners of the site but a they fade away after a while and you're left to your own devices.

In some of the photos you can see some tower like structures. These are multi story funery towers from AD 83. The most remarkable thing we found about these towers is that you can climb up inside them and walk around. They afford magnificent views over the site and are also much cooler then the outside so they give some respite from the heat of the desert.

The new town is quite nice as well. Currently suffering terribly from all the trouble in the region you can sense a real desperation to get your business. The place basically survives on tourism and each store, restaurant or the like supports large extended families so you feel a certain responsibility to spend your money at different shops so as to share the wealth so to speak.

Anyways, Palmyra is one place that lives up to all expectations. It truly is a wonder of the world. It's a shame not more people will get to see it in their lives but I hope we gave you a little sense of it. However like most places we've seen no photos can ever do it any justice so get off your butts and go see for yourself, you won't be disappointed.

Next pod, Damascus - Syria.


Nath and Kat.
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