Krak des Chevaliers is perhaps one of the most famous castles in the Middle East. Steeped in history, it was built to control access through a pass from the coast to the inland and today it portrays the historic power of the Crusaders.
A 3d plan of the castle shows that it consists of an outer defensive wall and an inner bastion, all with numerous turrets.
Inside the outer wall are numerous passageways
and store rooms, when you walk around it, it feels just as if the castle occupants have just stepped out for a moment.
The sheer scale of the walls and the moat shows why the castle was virtually impregnable.
The central bastion is imposing and looks quite impregnable.
Castle occupants commanded the countryside around and could easily see if anyone was trying to slip by without paying their dues.
The castle toilets remain (not very different to some which we have used elsewhere on this trip)
The Church / Mosque in the centre of the castle has the most amazing
acoustics – play the video to hear a short extract of someone singing in the mosque.
In the centre of the bastion is a “meeting place of the knights” – a suitable location for the group photograph.
The Castle was never captured by assault although many attempts were made – these stones were fired at the Castle by catapult in an attempt to break down the walls.
Closer to Damascus is a town called Maalula where Aramaic is still spoken – this being the language said to have been spoken by Jesus.
The countryside around Maalula is rocky
and the town nestles beneath cliffs with large stones perilously hanging over some of the houses.
One of the lessons we have learnt from our trip to the Middle East is that there is a tremendous amount of religious tolerance, an example of this being the Convent of St Thecla which is near to an important Christian shrine related to St Thecla (a pupil of St Paul).
From the grounds of the convent there are views over the town
Nearby is a cutting through a cliff which legend says was created when lightening struck the cliff as a result of Thecla praying to God after being trapped by Roman soldiers sent to execute her – she escaped down the path which is said to have conveniently closed after she had passed through.