Photo Friday: Crusaders and saracens battle for Krak des Chevaliers in Syria

Krak des Chevaliers, Syria; July 2008

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Okay, they are not actually Crusaders and Saracens – they’re my friends and actually they’re both Arabic. The ‘swords’ in question are bits of blade grass.

But we are at a genuine 11th century crusader castle in Syria. How cool is that?

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It took a long time to get here by car from Damascus and we were close to aborting the trip and going directly to Hama, the city of the water wheels. The taxi driver stopped several times and refused to go any further until we agreed to pay more money as it was so much further than he’d thought.

When we arrived, there was no room at the inn – all the hotels nearby were full. We had to fork out for a new luxury hotel in the nearby town and share a room. One of my friends snored. It wasn’t the best start.

Luckily the castle itself was well worth it. It’s absolutely enormous and very well preserved – described by Lawrence of Arabia as “perhaps the most wholly admirable castle in the world”. The structural defences included an outer and an inner wall and a moat.

The Hospitallers, an order based around providing shelter to pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and a rival to the Knights Templar, had a base there from 1144. There were 2,000 Hospitallers at Krak at its peak and even when it dropped to a few hundred, the castle never fell by force. The crusaders held out through several long sieges and finally lost by trickery, involving a forged letter.

Today you can pretty much wander around and explore it at will – and hold staged sword fights wherever you want. We met a few other tourists and some Syrian school groups but it was remarkably uncrowded. The guide book warns it can get quite crowded at lunch time, so the best move is to stay overnight and go in the early morning or late afternoon.

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For more of my photos of Krak des Chevaliers, please see my Flickr set.

This is a (belated) entry to Photo Friday, a weekly blogging event run by Debbie of Delicious Baby. Please check out all the other entries for this week.

If you would like to win a copy of the Bradt Guide to Syria, please leave a message in the comments saying why you want it.

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Comments

  1. Syria? I’m having a powerful feeling of travel envy at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. That is pretty damn cool being in a crusader castle. Where’s the holy grail??? Was Indian Jones hopping around:)
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  3. I have had Syria on my list of want-to’s for a long time, but haven’t persuaded my husband to venture into the Mid-East. Maybe the Bradt guide would persuade him? This is a awesome post and pictures. Congrats

  4. Great shots! Guess the tribulations of getting there were worth it in the end:)
    I especially love the last shot with its mysterious feel and beautiful lighting.

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  5. Wow that castle looks incredibly well preserved, i can just imagine what it must have been like back during the crusading period. Would dearly love to visit Syria, so much history to explore and learn.
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