Temperatures plummet again...
26.02.2010 - 26.02.2010 7 °C
We set off pretty early in the morning and were greeted by icy rain and thick fog. Jihad drove us up Jebel (Mount) Ansariyya for some well-intended views, but instead we spent the trip squinting out the windscreen and feeling grateful he was a skilled and careful driver.
We pulled into Serjilla, one of the many 'Dead Cities' that were mysteriously abandoned about 1,500 years ago. It is theorised that the cause is due to migrational shifts when the Arabs conquered the region and discontinued merchant routes between Antioch and the Roman city of Apamea. Remarkably well-intact, its stone buildings and arches appear unweathered. It was freezing cold and wet, so we didn't stay long - Jac lasted a paltry 15 minutes wandering around, but thankfully Chalky stayed around longer to take photos. We opted not to explore any other of the Dead Cities (Serjilla was the most preserved of them all) and drove on to the Roman ruins of Apamea.
Founded in the 3rd century BC by a former general in the army of Alexander the Great, and was named after his Persian wife, probably to stave off jealousy, as he'd named an early city after his mother. Apamea was seized by Pompey for the Romans in 64 BC and at its heyday had 500,000 inhabitants and was notable enough to be visited by Mark Antony and Cleopatra. In the 6th century however it was seized by Muslims, and then some time down the track was flattened by an earthquake in the 1200s. The main attraction was the north-south running cardo (main street) lined with colonades, 2km long. The Roman road also had chariot ruts on the huge stone paving. Parts of columns, tops of columns (capitals) also lay alongside the road. The other parts of the site (remains of the baths, nymphaneum, mosque) were unrecognisable but the colonaded street was impressive. Despite the rain and our being virtually the only visitors we were approached by motorcycle touts, offering 'antiques' for sale.
After another great day of sightseeing with Jihad, and his trusty steed, his yellow Hyundai, we retired to the nearby town of Hama for the night.
Driving with ‘limited’ visibility
The Dead City of Serjilla
Ancient olive presses
A two-storey tavern
The colonaded street
Jac grinning and bearing (the cold that is)
Unique swirled columns
[i]If only we could sneak a piece of that home in our backpacks...
Inscription in the path