THE SYRIAN SERIES, DAY 4
LATAKIA – ALEPPO
Getting lost through the devastation to Aleppo. After a hearty breakfast (every hotel serves the same bread, dips and choice of veg) in my very posh hotel we set off for Ugarit, a city founded some 4,000 – 8,000 years ago…🤯
IT WAS LIKE DRIVING THROUGH THE SCENE OF SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
I don’t know about anyone else but 8 days is a looong time for me, let alone 8,000 years. I am really struggling to put these dates into context!
WHERE IS LATAKIA?
It is believed the city was founded in 1928 by a farmer whose plough fell through the ground and into the Royal Palace. What a find!! After many 1000s of years the city has been entirely covered over in dust and dirt, which makes me think, what else is out there yet to be discovered in the world?
- HOTEL – Aleppo Palace Hotel 7/10
- RESTAURANT – Al Nuzha
- FOOD – Spicy bread and Falafel 8/10
- ATTRACTIONS –
Citidel of Salah Ed-Din
The drive to Aleppo
THE BIRTH OF THE IPAD
Although the 100,000m2 site isn’t entirely uncovered, 20,000 clay tablets have been found with scriptures (Ugaritic texts) written on each one. Just think about that for a while…20,000 tablets, it’s insane. The town was at its most vibrant around 1450BC until it was destroyed by what people believed to be the sea peoples or possibly an internal struggle. How people have worked this out over 3000 years later is beyond me!
Getting lost through the devastation to Aleppo
DAILY TRAVEL STATS….
- Steps – 11,200
- Miles covered – 98.6m
CITADEL OF SALAH ED-DIN
After we had an incredible drive to the Citadel of Salah Ed-Din (Castle of Saladin). Like Krak des Cheviliers, the castle is perched atop of a mountain surrounded by valleys and forests.
WHERE IS CITADEL OF SALAH ED-DIN?
Citadel of Salah Ed-Din
It’s first known occupants were the Byzantine’s in the 1000’s, under John I Tzimiskes until it was assumed control by the Franks under the Crusader state (at the same time they overtook Latakia) who then undertook a huge extension of the site. Most of what you see now was built at this time.
However given the crusaders strength it still fell to the forces of Saladin and his son in a siege that lasted no more than 3 days! After 2 days of bombarding the castle with their machines and stones weighing up to 300kg, Saladin gave his son the order to attack. His son, Az-Zahir Ghazi attacked the castle town. Unfortunately the work in creating a channel – a 30m drop between the town and castle hadn’t yet been completed so access was easy and the castle fell shortly after. As it was a secure castle, it is believed the lack of defensive machines was the reason it fell so quickly. The last known battle of siege occurred in 1287 between the Mamluks.
Aside from the insane views the citadels greatest feature has to be the formed entrance. As access to this mountain ridge was difficult a 30 x 100m channel was carved out from the mountain that took 50 years to complete. Another column was retained between this road to act as a support for the bridge above. Walking through this path can only give you half an idea of the scale of this project!
Getting lost through the devastation to Aleppo
- Almost 5 million children have been born into war.
- Half of the entire Syrian population have been uprooted from their homes.
- There has been a tragic human cost.
COMMANDER & CONQUER RED ALERT
In order to get to Aleppo we made our way through the Slounfia pass and down into the town. However, during the drive at the top of the mountain I seen for the first time weapons only ever seen on TV and computer games, most notably Command and Conquer. It was a tell-tale sign that the tensions are still very high.
The towns beyond the mountain pass where situated in an area called the gap plain and appeared to be within another civilisation. The Gap Plain is the last of the great rift and includes the Dead Sea, 6000km long! What people do in this area is beyond me. As it’s the final frontier before the last rebel stronghold Idlib, you can understand the increased security presence. From these very sparse and isolated towns we worked our way towards Idlib to access Aleppo.
THIS WAR RUINED MUCH MORE THAN LIVES
From here the devastation was real, I couldn’t believe the first town I came to and thought that was maybe it but the devastation didn’t stop for over an hour of driving. Most people in this region who lived outside of the cities had to flee to the inner cities or the borders for safety.
I could tell a mile of the driver wasn’t sure where he was supposed to be as they spoke concerningly and then ask me not to record. Then after getting the old Google Maps out it was clear we were headed for a dead end – but he didn’t want to listen and I don’t blame him – I am after all not even from this continent 🤣. You could predict my nod of acknowledgment when we came to the dead end, which was a 300ft cliff with views out to nothing. You couldn’t have been more lost if you tried!
The drive from here to Aleppo continued to shock me with town after town in complete ruins. It turns out the driver and guide hadn’t been this far north in 11 years, well before the war🤣 not ideal.
Within these towns (parts of Aleppo included), every single building was affected, whether it was levelled, shattered windows or bullet holes, it was hard to look. In a way it reminded me of many movies; Black Hawk Down being one. Now for me, Holywood is Holywood and doesn’t represent reality but here Holywood wasn’t even close. I kept expecting the next town to have some sort of civilisation but town after town was deserted.
The checkpoints kept coming more and more often and with this several different checks from various military departments at the same check points. My guide mentioned one is standard military and the other is state military. Which, in layman’s terms is just another level up. Every checkpoint asked the nationality of me and when hearing Irlanda, asked North or South. I have some friends in England who didn’t even know there was a difference!
With all the ruins and the mass of checkpoints I never felt unsafe. Each checkpoint had my safety as a priority, would make a phone call to their senior with my paperwork and move us on quickly.
THE CIVIL WAR
The Syrian Civil war is incredibly complicated and not something I plan to explain but at times will give a bit of info of the places we drive through. Words; freedom fighters, rebels and terrorists can be interchanged but its important to note Rebels and ISIS were fighting for something entirely different. Like a lot of the countries during the Arab Spring the rebels were looking to over throw the regime and create democracy whilst ISIS wanted an Islamic State.
- HIGHLIGHT – Seeing the devastation
- LOWLIGHT – Seeing the devastation
Arriving in Aleppo was like the pinnacle of my trip, something I had looked forward to so much and decided several days here would be required. Let’s have some food and a walk and maybe catch the Utd game! Imagine watching the United, Chelsea game in Aleppo!
This day has to be the highlight, purely as a lesson to me that the world outside of our own bubble is far from perfect and that I am bless to be born where I am. Yes home has its issues, more than a lot of the western world but it’s a walk in the park compared to what others have been through.
A day in Aleppo and a night with new friends!! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
- What is your most eye opening experience?
- Would you like to visit Aleppo?
Let me know in the comments below . . .