Tartus or Tartous with over 160 000 inhabitants is
second most important Syrian's coast after
Latakia. It situated on the Mediterranean coast opposite
Arwad Island and It is about 90 km from
Homs, 251 km from
Damasco, 105 km from Hama, and 90 km
from Latakia. Tartus has developed
rapidly over the recent years, and has nearly lost its charm as a
small fishing town.
Tartus was founded in antiquity as Antaradus (Anti-Aradus
- the town facing Arwad), a Phoenician colony of Aradus (now Arwad
Island). It was rebuilt in AD 346 by Emperor Constantine I who
renamed it Constantia and flourished during Roman and Byzantine
times. It became a major Christian stronghold and during the
fourth century a chapel was built here which is claimed to
be the first dedicated to the Virgin Mary. An Earthquake in 487 AD
largely destroyed the chapel but a miracle left its alter
Crusaders occupied Tartus, then known as Tortosa, in the
European Middle Ages, converting it into a fortress-town and
successfully defending it against devastating attacks in the 12th
century. Crusaders built upon this miracle the church 'Our Lady of
Tortosa' in 1123.This miracle was further enhanced by an
icon of the Virgin believed to be painted by St. Luke resembling
the one in Seidnaya. It now houses this altar and has received
many pilgrims. Nur Al Din occupied Tartus for a brief
time and then it was recaptured by the Crusaders. Tartus was
placed under the control of the Templars who rebuilt and
redeveloped its defenses. It was then recaptured by Saladin in
1188, whence the Templars locked themselves into the keep. However
it was rebuilt and remained under Templar control until 1291.
Tartous was the last stand the Templars had on the mainland of
departing to Arwad, which they kept for
another decade. From the beginning of the Ottoman conquest,
the town declined in importance until its port was rejuvenated in
the 20th century.
Attractions and historical
- The Cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa, now the town's
museum, is a perfect example of 13th-century crusader
- The Castle of the Templars (late 12th to early 13th
century), now mostly in ruins, can be seen in the older part of
- Other attractions include the old city and a city wall
that preserves the beauty of the old city. The beaches and
water are clean, and the accommodations are excellent. There
are many hotels and restaurants in the area.
- Just 3 km off the coast of Tartus is Siria's only
island Arwad. it can be visited by a regular boat-ride
service. Only 3 Km away, it only takes 20 minutes to get there.
Arwad, or Arvad to the Phoenicians and Aradus to the Greeks and
Romans, was first used for urban settlement by the Canaanites.
It was often mentioned in inscriptions because of its importance
in commerce and seafaring. Arwad provided shelter for those
escaping from foreign invasions in ancient times, especially for
the people of Amrit in the south of Tartus. Amrit still retains
its name since the 5th century BC. It has a temple
surrounded by water. Arwad is a beautiful, small island,
with a mass of houses and fortresses and narrow lanes. It
has many cafes and restaurants overlooking Tartus and the sea.
Its ancient citadel was used as a prison for the nationalists
during the resistance against the French. The walls of some
cells in this citadel are still covered with the writings of the
- Other nearby attractions include Baniyas,
Qalaat Yahmur, Qalaat Areimeh, Draykish,
Qalaat Kadmous, Amrit, Safita.