History of the world
21.03.2008 - 31.03.2008
I did a day trip to Marqab & Salah Ed-Din, two crusader castles, as well as Apamea. To be honest, I didn't expect much. Ruins start to look the same to me after a while (I'm so low-society)...and I've already been to the Dead Cities, Ebla, and St Simeon. But they all turned out to be very cool.
Just three of us went from the hotel using a taxi. On the way, we stopped for breakfast at a cinderblock home by the side of the road. It's certainly not a place one would know to stop, but that's the nature of this place. The cab driver knocked on the door and the family came out with piles of ingredients and proceeded to stoke up the oven - which, here looks like one of outdoor clay firepits, only tilted somewhat sideways with a much larger top opening. They prepared mini pizza-like pastries and cooked them by slapping them against the inside of the chimney. My favorite is one covered in oregano and sesame seeds. The goat cheese one is great as well.
The first crusader castle we hit, Marqab, is located on a point overlooking the Medeterranean and there are 360 views of the sea and hills surrounding. We were the only ones there...actually we were the only ones at all of the sites, although a regular tour bus pulled up at Salah Ed-Din when we were almost done. Actually, I think this goes a long way toward why these monuments are so striking...no people.
Salah Ed-Din is also built, as any good defendable castle, on a point. In this case, there are sheer rock walls on one end that the castle sits on. On the way in, we stopped and had Bedouin coffee with the caretaker...one of the perks of not being on a giant tour bus. He took a shine to us and gave us a personalized tour of part of the castle and also showed us some of the herbs that grow on the site.
The last place we went, Apamea, was up on a grassy plateau. It's an old Roman city and the main thing that remains is 1.8km of columns that had lined the main road. For some reason, they impressed on me the most the sheer scale of the city, unlike anything I've seen in Rome for example. There is no way to get the feeling of standing there from the photos. Also, we arrived about ten minutes before sunset, so had the opportunty to wander through them alone at dusk with the call to prayer echoing from a near by village.