We had breakfast this morning with a view over Crac de Chevalier. It was a spectacular sight and a wonderful way to start the day. We set off early as the transport out of here leaves first thing in the morning. We caught one bus to Homs and then another to Hama - our eventual destination - . We arrived so early we couldn't check into the hotel!. There was a screw up at the hotel - we were only booked in for one night so may have to look for another place.
We had a look round the town. Hama is a small city built round the river. It is famous for it's waterwheels - large wooden ones that are everywhere. We had a walk along the river - quite pleasant but spoilt by pollution. After this we walked to the other major site, the Azem Palace., a house built for the governor of the province in the 1700s. It was designed by the same person that built the one of the same name in Damascus, not as grand but it was beautiful all the same. It had typically Ottoman courtyards and fountains. The only shame was that many of the rooms were not open because nothing had been done to them for years.
The following day, we had organised a trip out to see some difficult to reach sites - Apamea and the Dead cities. We planned an 8:30 start, so it was a 7:30 breakfast. This proved to be a scrum - it was buffet style with a tour group and the Syrians scrambling for food - we stood no chance. We came out to find there was a problem with our room booking - we didn
The trip went through some pleasant countryside then ran alongside the mountains - all with snow on top. Arrived at our first destination, Apamea - a Roman site. The 1st stop was at the museum in a converted 18c khan (inn for caravans). This was full of mosaics all 4th century from Apamea or around. The mosaics were impressive but the condition of the place was awful.
We then went up to the main site. It consists of a long colonnade - over 2km in length in a fabulous setting - sitting on a plain with a citadel and snow capped mountains as a backdrop. The site is not as extensive as Palmyra or Jerash but it was magical just for the setting. After a walk down the 2km street, we set off to see the citadel - this had wonderful view over Apamea.
We then went on to the Dead Cities. There are lots of towns/cities in a 60 km region that were abandoned in the 10th century. It is not really known why this happened. It is believed to be because they were established on marginal farming land - all limestone rocks - and as the population on the plain dropped due to Plague or war, the population left for better land. Made an eerie place because many of the houses are still standing.
We came back on the major road in Syria (it runs N to S) and came across some strange sites. It was blocked on the other carriage way with a flock of sheep grazing on the central reservation. The next sight was a man with a moped who had stopped on the central reservation, got his prayer mat out and was praying on the central reservation! (Probably praying he didn
't have a room for tonight. So we had to quickly pack our bags and leave them at the hotel.'t get hit by a truck!).