The Syrian Coast

 
Tartous         Latakia
 
 
The Syrian coast consists of long stretches of beach and green mountains . These mountains are mostly covered with pine and oak trees , and their slopes touch shore . This landscape repeats itself from Ras al-Basit in the north to Tartus in the south . On the mountains are scattered villages and towns with springs of clear mineral water .
 
The Beaches
The Syrian seashore is about 175 km long , and its numerous beaches are distinguished by soft sand , unpolluted sea , moderate climate and clear blue sky .
 
Ras al-Bassit
Located on the northern part of the Syrian shore , about 40 km to the north of Latakia , it is one of the most beautiful spots on the Mediterranean : a wide bay , with clear water and clean sand , surrounded by mountains and green hills . Chalets , camping sites and restaurants along the shore make Ras al-Bassit all the more attractive to visitors .

   

Latakia
Latakia is Syrian’s main sea-port on the Mediterranean ( 186 km southwest of Aleppo ) . It has retained its importance since ancient times . Latakia was one of five cities built by Saluqos Nikator in the 2 nd century B.C . He named it after his mother , Laudetia .
Not many ancient remains have survived in Latakia , but there are four columns and a Roman arch from the time of septimus severus ( circa 200 A.D ) , in addition to a beautiful Ottoman costruction called ” Khan al-Dukhan ” which is now a Latakia is the sea-gate to Syria . It is well-provided with accommodation , and is well-placed as a base from which to explore the coastal regions of the country .
There are beaches , mountains , archaeological sites and many relics of the Crusaders , all within a few hours from each other .www.tartoos.com
Mention should also be made of the historically important Ras Shamra , only 16 km to the north of Latakia . This is the site of Ugarit , the Kingdom that had a golden past in administration , education , diplomacy , law , religion and economics between the 16 th and 13 th centuries B.C . It is the kingdom that gave humanity the first alphabet is still preserved on a clay tablet at the national Museum in Damascus .
Documents , statues and jewels from the Ugarit kingdom are also on display at Latkia , Aleppo and Tartus museums .
Jableh is another Syrian seaside town , 28 km to the south of Latakia .
It has a theatre built to accommodate 7,000 to 8,000 spectators . Close to Jableh is tel Sokas , where archaeological relics were recently found , now on exhibition at the Damascus and Tartus museums .

   

Banyas
 
This city located on the Syrian coast , 55 km to the south of Latakia . It was an ancient phoenician seaport . seaport . The Greek called it Balemia . It was famous better known for its orchards and its export of wood . Today it is better known for its oil refinery . It still contains citrus fruit orchards surrounded by green hills . On one of the hills is the imposing al-Maqab Citadel , a huge fortress of black basalt stone .
 
Tartus
 
The second most important Syria seaport on the Mediterranean ( 90 km to the south of Latakia ) . It was called Antaradus by the Phoenicians and Tortusa by the Byzantines . Tortusa was to become one of the main supply sports for the Crusaders and a military base of considerable importance . It was held by the templares . but recovered by Saldin in 1188.
The arches , wall-towers and narrow lanes in Tartus evoke what the town must have been like in medieval times . A jewel of Romanesque art is the cathedral of Tartus , which is now a museum containing relics from various Syria civilizations .

   

Arwad
 
This is the only island in Syria , and it is located 3 km from Tartus .www.tartoos.com
It was an independent kingdom named Aradus in the days of 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 5 th century B.C . It has a temple surrounded by water .
Arwad is a beautiful small island , with a mass of houses and fortresses with 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 writing of the the nationalists
 
Summer resorts and historical spots
 
The coastal summer resorts in Sirya are numerous . Scattered on the hills and mountains near the sea , they boast fresh air , cool weather in summer and moderate weather in winter . Some of these summer resorts are :

    Slenfeh

 50 km east of Latakia and 1200 m above sea-level . It has spectacular scenery and lovely weather .
 
Kasab 65 km north of Latakia , located on the” Aqra mountain amongst woods and thickets , 800 m above sea- level . The road leading to it from Latkia is one of the most beautiful in Syria . It ruins through woods and meadows of wild flowers and groves of olive and pine , orchards of apple trees leading to the beautiful forest of Frulloq .   Salma Situated 12 km from slenfh and 800 m above sea-level. It is characterized by moderate and pure mineral water .   Draykish A lovely town , 29 km from Tartus , situated on a mountain covered with olive trees which overlook the sea . It has several hotels and camping sites .www.tartoos.comMisyaf Located 50 km east of Banyas , 400 m above sea-level . Most important in it is the Arab citadel ( Qal’at Misyaf ) which was captured by the Crusaders in 1103 , but reconvered by the Arabs in 1140 . This citadel is surrounded by orchards of fig , almond and pomegranate trees .   Wadi al-Oyyun A beautiful summer resort with a multitude of small springs and several hotels camping sites   Safita 10 km south of Draykish , 35 east of Tartus and 380 m above sea-level , Safita is surrounded by hills covered with olive trees and flowers on all sides . The present- day twon with its tiled roofs stands on the site of the fortress that was called ”Castle le blance ” by the Crusaders . one of this huge towers , about 38 m high is still standing ; this tower contains a chapel , which has never been deconsecrated : Christians a chapel , which has never been deconsecrated : Christians still hold their services in it . Places of archaeological interest in the district of Safita are :   Hosn Sleiman 25 km from Sfita , 14 km beyond Draykish , in the direction of Misyaf . ” Hosn Sleiman ” is thr Arabic name for the site of ancient Baetocece ; it was here , in the heart of these wild mountains cut through by ravines , that the inhabitants of Aradus ( the present Isle of Arwad ) once built a temple dedicated to Baal and Astarte .   Arima Today Qalaat al-Arayma ( 15 km southwest of Safita ) , once a forward strong-point for Castle le Blanc and for the Crac , It still has tow towers dating back to the 12 th and 13 th centuries .

   

Qal’at Yahmur

 

( Chasted Ronger or Castrum ) , 20 km west of Safita on the Tartus road . Like Arima , Qal’at Yahmur was a small fortress , and its 15 m high keep is still impressive .

 

Mention should also be made of the summer resorts north-east of Safita . Mashta al-Helu is the largest in a group of small villages scattered on the green hills , where the weather is cool even on the hottest summer days . The most attractive among these white stone villages is al-Kafroon ( 3 km from Mashta al-Helu ) . It is located at the foot of a small hill , completely convered with oak trees and aurrounded by mountains with many churches and mosque . Also worth visiting is Mar Elia , a cave-like church in the north of the village . There are several hotels , restaurants and cafes in the apple orchards along the streams that run through it .

   

Qal’at al-Homs ( Crac des Chevaliers )

 

The most famous medieval citadel in the world , Qal’at al-Hosn is 65 km west of Homs and 75 south-east of Tartus . It is 650m above sea-level . It was built in order to control the so-called ” Homs Gap ” the gateway to Syria . It was through this passage that Syria communiciated with the Mediterranean .

 

In ancient times the importance of this strategic corridor was immense . It was of crucial importance to the Crusaders and other foreign invaders in their conquest of coast . Conflict over the Crac des Chevaliers continued through the gase . It was a fierce and bloody dispute , but in the end , sultan Beybars managed to recover it in 1271 through a military trick and one month of fighting .

 

Crac des chevaliers was built on the site of a former castle erected by the emirs of Homs to accommodate Kurdish garrisons ; Crac is a covers an area of 3000 square meters and has 13 huge towers , in addition to many stores , tanks , corridors , bridges and stables . It can accommodate 5000 soldiers with their horses , their equipment and provisions for five years .

   

Qal’at Salah al-Din

 

Formely ‘ saone ‘ ( and still known as Castle Sahyou ) , it was recently named after the great heror of Islam , Shalh al-Din , to commemorate the capture of the fortress in 1188 .

 

Though the importance of the position had been exploited before the Cruaders , this castle was described as the most impregnable Crusader fortress .It stands on a rocky spur whose whose vertical walls rise above the junction of tow fast –flowing streams . As late as 1965 it was impossible to reach it except on foot or on horseback by a difficult climb , first downhill and then up again after fording stream . The fortress was completely isolated from the plateau by a deep ditch was 156 long , 18m wide and 28m deep . Its vertical walls show a smooth , fine yellowish rock surface .

 

Today there is a drawbridge and a road which provide easy access to the foot of this ‘ eagle ‘s nest ‘ .

 

Visitors can park their cars at the bottom of this ditch , opposite the horses’s mangers and hitching holes carved out of the rock .

   

Qal’at al-Marqab ) al-Marqab Citadel )

 

 

 

This citadel is only 6 km south- east of Banyas , and is 500 m above sea-level . It is enormous : there are not less than fourteen square and round towers jutting from the curtain wall that encircles the hilltop to from a triangular bastion . Its southern corner , sharper than the others and bristling with defences , has a keep rising above it like the prow of a ship . What makes it particularly glowering is the black basalt stone with which it was built . There are beautiful gardens and orchards surrounding it and the sea is not far away .www.tartoos.com

 

This citadel could accommodate 1000 people , in addition for five years .

 

It was not until 1285 that the troops of sultan Qalaun defeated the last of the European knights at Margat ( Marqab ) . The Hospitalier Kinghts were granted ‘ the honours of war ‘ and allowed to withdraw under safe conduct to Tartus and Tripoli . There is an Arabic inscription commemoration this great victory , carved on a bad of with limestone at the top of the ‘ tour de L’Eperon ‘ under the keep .