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  Around Aleppo: Not far from Aleppo there are several ruins dating to late-Roman and Byzantine times, collectively called the Dead Cities. To the northwest of Aleppo 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 his honour.

Other Dead Cities to the northwest of Aleppo 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 Ruweiha. 

Idlib and 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 Aleppo. It was named after the hermit Saint-Simon (Sama'an), a shepherd from northern Syria, 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 ofthe church less than half a century after it had been built) a masterpiece of pre-Islamic art in Syria. 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 Aleppo. It dates back to the 6th century, and is a masterpiece of Syrian Byzantine art.

Ebla (Tal Mardikh, Idleb): It is 25 kilometres southeast of Idleb. It is the site of important and recent archaeological discoveries. Excavations in the Tal Mardikh 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 in Syria.

Rasafeh: It is located south of the Euphrates and north of the Syrian semi-desert, 160 kilometres south-east of Aleppo and 30 kilometres south of the Aleppo 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 Syria. 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 Syria from the 13th century onwards.
 

 

Main References: The Syrian, Britannica, Encarta and Columbia encyclopedias, Syriagate, Cafesyria ....

 

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