After being in Damascus for almost 2 weeks I was glad to jump a bus and carve through the desert to Palmyra – the ancient Assyrian/Greek/Roman city 200kms from Damascus. We arrived late in the afternoon to Palmyra but found a place to sleep at the Sun Hotel. Palmyra, at least the area where all the foreigners hang out, doesn’t have a whole lot to do except a restaurant or 2 and a shitty internet cafe (3 peecees at dialup speed). So what to do that night? Go to the local Syrian barber on the corner and get a trim, what else?
Palmyra (Arabic: Tadmor) was in ancient times an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus and 120 km southwest of the Euphrates. It has long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert and was known as the Bride of the Desert. The earliest documented reference to the city by its Semitic name Tadmor, Tadmur or Tudmur (which means “the town that repels” in Amorite and “the indomitable town” in Aramaic.) is recorded in Babylonian tablets found in Mari.
Though the ancient site fell into disuse after the 16th century, it is still known as Tadmor in Arabic, and there is a newer town next to the ruins of the same name. The Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale monuments containing funerary art such as limestone slabs with human busts representing the deceased.
The next day, with my new highspeed haircut, I was ready to hit Palmyra. First off we somehow managed to get into and around the site, twice, without paying, so perhaps it is free? Once in we were straight down to the Grand Colannade, then across the valley of the tombs to sit on top of a hill and see the giant view before us.
It is massive. Besides Angkor Wat and Pompei I don’t think I have been to such a large site. I think we walked about 6kms (according to my iPhone) around the site and I am pretty sure we didn’t cover it all.
The walk down the main street (Decumanus) out to the valley of tombs is breathtaking (probably because i was excited and decided to run around and climb on top of the ruins).
We left Palmyra for Dier Ez-Zur, a city that finds itself on the Euphrates river. Not a whole to see as far as I know, but worth the quick dip in the Euphrates river and a day puffing on nargela!
Anobel has some supremo photos on his blog and he tells the story 10 times better!