The Norias of Hama in Syria




The mere mention of the name Hama, the Syrian town 140 km south of Aleppo, triggers images of giant waterwheels gently turning along the banks of a river. Most travelers drop in for a short visit on their way to Aleppo or Damascus.

The city of Hama, or Hamat (means citadel in Arabic) lies some 200 kilometers north of Damascus and boasts with a long history dating back to 2000 BC. The giant wheels (nawaeer) were built by the Byzantines and have been used to lift water from the Orontes river (nahr el-Assi) onto nearby land, orchards and houses. Today, they stand as prominent historical and ancient landmarks that add a decorative touch with restaurants and cafés that line up the town’s riverside.

The Norias of Hama  are a number of norias ("wheels of pots") along the Orontes River in the city of Hama, Syria. Only seventeen of the original norias remain. They are mostly unused now and serve an aesthetic purpose. They were called "the most splendid norias ever constructed." The norias of Hama were submitted as a tentative World Heritage Site by the Syrian Arab Republic in June 1999.


The earliest evidence for norias in Hama suggests they were developed during the Byzantine era, although none of the norias in Hama today precede the Ayyubid period. However, a mosaic found at Apamea dating to 469 CE pictures a noria very similar to those at Hama, suggesting they may have earlier origins. It was during the Mamluk era that many of the norias—initially started during the rule of the Ayyubid dynasty in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century—were reconditioned and enlarged. The Mamluks also increased the amount of norias in the city. At one time, medieval Hama contained more than thirty of the waterwheels. Aqueducts and other channeling systems were built to take water from the Orontes River and use it to irrigate nearby fields. Now only 17 norias remain, unused.

The noria wheel is up to 20 meters (66 ft) in diameter. The water in the river is channeled into a sluice so that its flow turns the wheel around. Wooden boxes attached to the wheel raise the water from the sluice and discharge it into an artificial channel at the summit of the wheel's rotation. The water is then led by gravity along a series of aqueduct channels. It was distributed to domestic or agricultural users in Hama; access to the flow was regulated at carefully worked-out times so that the water could be shared.

There are two norias on the river close to the citadel. Upstream from the town center at Bichriyat, are four more wheels that can be viewed from outdoor restaurants. Downstream from the center is the largest noria, the al-Mohamadiyya, which used to supply the Great Mosque with water. Part of its old aqueduct still spans the road. It was built in the fourteenth century and restoration work on it began in 1977.

Butheina Alnounou




Bab Touma Churches: A Tale of Religious Tolerance




Inexhaustible tales  are dug in every ancient stone of Bab Touma . Tales that are abundant with the nobility of history and the light of holiness that shines its walls, buildings , alleys and  avenues , giving them more charm that attracts people to breathe the fragrance of an ancient past.

With every passing day, the ancient stones inside  the wall of Damascus in Bab Touma adds  a new mystery to  visitor ‘s curiosity to come once and again to identify those  unmatched features whose secrets are indeed revealed to local residents  who have preserved these places  from  the ancestors.

The  existence  of many churches in the heart  of this area gives the visitor a sense of being closer to God Almighty , especially when  embracing  the  minarets of mosques , creating  an atmosphere of religious  intimacy especially when mosque prayers melt with the ring of the church bill  to tell all visitors that  Damascus is the land of civilizations and the cradle of divine  religions.

Mai Othman, SANA reporter quoted the 60-year old Jawdat Raffoul , a resident of Bab Touma says that the most  beautiful in Bab Touma is the preservation  of its ancient legacy, adding that wondering in its  ancient lanes and alleys  recalls memoires of decades- old tales.

 Raffoul’s house adjoins the “ Sultanate of the  world” cathedral : an ancient church, situated in Lazarieh lane and dates back to  1860 AD . Raffoul  considered  this neighborhood as more  valuable and precious  than  the treasures of the  whole world. “ I do not want to leave the place, where I was  born and grown up, whatever temptations would be. ” he said .

Raffoul  added that along the main street of Bab Touma towards Bab Sharqi , there are  15 churches and monasteries.  Each is  considered as a unique   for ancient Syrian and Byzantine icons which  attract pilgrims , tourists and expatriates from all parts of the world .

 "Although different in terms of  construction , decoration and the presence of statues and arches, the building style of these churches and monasteries  are almost similar as if painted by the brush of the same  artist who gives each monument  a special character while preserving  the special color and characteristics,” Mr. Raffoul explained .

 “ The spirit of coexistence and religious  co-existence and tolerance experienced  in  the old city  of Damascus  and in Bab Touma, in particular , enabled this area occupying a special position for all Syrians."


T. Fateh





The Azem Palace




Located in Damascus ,the Azem Palace is considered as one of the most important historical places. It was built in 1749 by the governor of Damascus, As'ad Pasha al-Azem. It's fashioned in typical Damascene style of striped stonework, achieved by alternating layers of black basalt and limestone. The rooms of the modest palace are magnificent, decorated with inlaid tile work and the most exquisite painted ceilings.

Azem Palace comprises a complex of splendid buildings, courtyards and gardens that were built between 1749 and 1752 as a private residence for the governor of Damascus, As'ad Pasha al-Azem. It remained the Azem residence until the beginning of the 20th century, when the family moved outside the Old City and the house was sold to the French to become an Institute of Archaeology and Islamic Art. Badly damaged by fire during uprisings against the French in 1925, later it has since been beautifully restored.

Inside the Palace to left, then right, a small leafy courtyard, before entering the main courtyard, which has a serene central pool and fountain. The courtyard is fringed by low-rise buildings, all boasting the beautiful black basalt, limestone and sandstone banding technique known as ablaq, a characteristic of Mamluk architecture typically found throughout the Levant and Egyptian.

Off the courtyard are a number of sumptuously decorated rooms with wooden paneling, lustrous blue tiling, painted ceilings and coloured paste work - a technique in which a pattern is incised into stone and then filled in with pastes made from different colored stones to give the effect of an immensely complicated stone inlay. This area served as the haramlik (family or women's quarters).

The Palace Also known as the Museum of the Arts & Popular Traditions of Syria, the rooms contain rather kitsch mannequin displays, each with a different theme (the wedding, pilgrimage etc), and displays of exquisite ceramics, costumes, textiles and musical instruments.

Nada Haj Khidr.




Brchin: Where Mountain and Valley Meet in one Place


Brchin is one of the important resorts in Syria since it is mediating three provinces which are "Homs-Hama and Tartous.

It is distinguished for its charming nature, archeological and religious sites such as St.George church which dated back to the year 1889 AD.

Thanks to its location which rises about 900 m above the sea level and its moderate climate, compared to the surrounding areas , as well as the availability of the complementary infrastructure  for tourism elements like canteens , hotels and apartments for rent , it has become a destination for tourists and holidaymakers in summer.

Brachin's charming nature combines mountains and valleys which are dotted with cultivation of  fruit trees such as vine, peach, apricot  and apple.

 The village production capacity of apple  reaches 20 thousand tons per year . The village hosted " Apple Festival', which was held in Sahara Tourist Compound on 27|8|2008 .

There are several domestic industries related to the villagers' agricultural products such as: apple cider vinegar , raisins and molasses.




Keeping dead handicrafts imperative

Damascus, (ST)   In a bid to preserve authenticity and traditional heritage, the Ministry of Tourism has set up programs for keeping the traditions alive, and ensure the country's civilized and cultural identity.

The Damascus Handicrafts Market is regarded as one of the most important market as regard this kind of goods, as it is located near to the National Museum at the heart of Damascus. It includes many handicrafts that are dated back to the mid of the 15th century.

 Among the displayed items are the ancient pieces and silver jewelry,

Mosaic jobs, plastic and Ajami art, silver and gold framing.

Moreover, great efforts are being exerted to revive dead handicrafts, achieve highly developed programs to support the occupation, only to provide them with all facilities to marketing their products in order to keep their jobs alive.


Khaled falhoot