Syria: Qala’at Samaan, Serjilla & Al Bara

I am really enjoying Syria so far. Just had 2 busy days checking out the countryside north and south of Aleppo (a.k.a Halab)

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Last night I met Anobel – a cool Doctor to be from San Francisco. Anobel is in Syria for 6 weeks as part of his Medical Studies – he is working with Iraqi refugees who are living in Damascus and a town out in the east of Syria. As part of his project here in Syria he is taking great photos and will be presenting them when he’s back in San Fran. Check out his blog to see more of his great work.

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I joined Anobel for a trip about 45 minutes north of Aleppo to a place called Qala’at Samaan, a.k.a Basilica of St Simeon, where apparently in AD 423 a crazy christian guy, by the name of Simeon, sat himself on top of a bunch of pillars for 30+ years. Crazy people. The site is impressive – it all seems fairly intact considering its age. The octagonal yard surrounded by giant arches is pretty cool. Worth the short excursion if you are in Aleppo. We got around to the sites with lifts from passers by so it was super cheap 🙂

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Back in Aleppo we tried to get into the Citadel buy unfortunately missed it again (shuts at 4pm) so wandered around and checked out more of the Souqs and had a look in the Christian area and spent a few hours puffing on sheesha/qalyan.

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The next day we headed south to the ruins of Serjilla & Al Bara once again hitchhiking our way there. Both sites are incredible but I think I enjoyed Serjilla more – maybe it was easier to walk over and take in the size of what is there. Al Bara us HUGE but is covered by Olive trees and farmland so is a little hard to take in what is there besides the Pyramid-type roofs on some buildings and just the size of the place.

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It seems there are so many ancient ruins littered all over the countryside. Between the sites documented in the Lonely Planet book are other ruins in the paddocks and yards of what looked to be peoples’ backyards and some people live in them.

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Along the road we saw a guy walking out of a paddock holding what looked like a dead lamb – all covered in blood. When he reached the road he put the lamb on the ground and it started to walk around and then we realised it had just been born!
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I am sure that without the linguistic skills of Anobel I would have had a fair bit of difficulty making it to these places. Seeing Anobel speak Arabic (he said he took some lessons back in San Fran) has convinced me to get some lessons myself when I get to Damascus!

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2 terrific days! What a great start to the adventures in Syria!

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