Thursday, 17 June 2010

Qala’ at Samaan and the Waterwheels of Hama

Syria is of course a land of contrasts and these are perhaps more noticeable to the traveller than to others. On the outskirts of Aleppo there are modern blocks of flats

Modern Flats

and a few kilometres further on are people herding goats in the field

Sheep in Fields

and living in rudimentary tents.

Tents in fields

In the more isolated countryside (particularly towards the East), 

House 2

houses tend to be very basic, sometimes with no windows on the outside which is perhaps a remnant from a defensive past.

Behive House

The domes on this particular house are made from sun dried mud and provide an effective cool environment. They are going out of fashion however because they need annual maintenance and air conditioning units are easier to use.

Abandoned Village

South of Aleppo are a number of totally deserted villages dating back over a thousand years, No one knows why they are deserted and they form an eerie sight.

Syria now hosts a considerable number of refugees from Iran, Turkey and the Lebanon. These seem to be adding pressure to local political views and certainly we heard some negative comments about the strain refugees were placing on the economy of the country.

I asked someone if he would describe Syria as a Democracy – his answer was “Yes – we are trying and improving”.

Saint Simeon

That Saint Simeon of Stylites lived on top of a column for many years is fairly well known and today we get to see the remains of his column in the ruins of a church on the top of a high hill.

 Remains of column

Little is left of his column today because visitors keep chipping off bits as souvenirs. He supposedly increased the height of the column as the years went on (because he was getting more and more annoyed by people shouting questions to him) and lived on the top for some 40 years.


After his death an enormous church (said to be four churches with one in each wing) was built around his column

Plan of Church

The church was well decorated with carvings


and the view over the plains below is quite impressive.

View from Church

The Norias of Hama

In the town of Hama some considerable distance south are a reconstructed set of waterwheels – something we had never heard of.

Wheel 1

The wheels lifted water from the River Orontes into a series of viaducts for distribution around the city. These days water is pumped via the mains

Wheel Rainbow

but the wheels have been reconstructed to show what they looked like. The town itself was virtually destroyed in the 1980s when a local uprising was quashed by the authorities and hence most of the buildings are modern. It did however have a very relaxed atmosphere when we walked around it in the evening,

Map of Wheels

There were quite a number of Noria on the river

Three Wheels 

Here there are three in the same place lifting water into viaducts at different levels. They make a continuous groaning sound as they turn

and local children hang on them and use them as moving diving boards. This triple set is close to a mosque.

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