Damascus Bosra Lattakia Palmyra Deir Ezzor Krak des Chevaliers Hama Aleppo

Syria's main port, al-Ladhiqye --as Lattakia is known in Arabic --has the "Mediterranean" look of a premier seaside resort.

Until the fall ofUgarit, the area was part of that kingdom. This was an important ancient Canaanite urban center and its language has had a marked effect on our knowledge of early religion and literature and Biblical studies. After the division of Alexander's Empire it fell under the influence of the Seleucids and became a major city and port. Seleucus I Nicator renamed the city Laodicea, in honor ofhis mother, and today's name is a corruption of that Greek name. Laodicea had an important early Christian community, a fact attested by being mentioned in Revelations and Paul's letter to the Colossians. After the fall of Rome, possession of the city see-sawed between the Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuk, the Crusaders, the Mameluks and finally the Ottomans. Practically

nothing has survived from ancient Laodicea, with the exception of a tetrapylon and architectural elements incorporated in later structures, but a visit to the Ras Shamra (Ugarit) site, excavated almost continually since 1929, will give a visitor a new perspective on one of the most important early civilizations.

The golden age ofUgarit came between the 16th and 13th centuries B.C. Gold and ivory objects, bronze weapons, ceramic vases were discovered in addition to thousands of engraved tablets concerning different fields: diplomatic, legal, economic, literary and religious one. It was in Ugarit that the first consonantic alphabet was invented. Carried by the Phoenicians, it was later adopted by the Greeks and the Romans. This precious tablet of30 signs is exhibited in the National Museum of Damascus.

Another site should be mentioned at a distance of35 km north ofLattakia: Saladin castle, one of the major crusaders castle in the region. Considered as impregnable, it was taken, on 1188, by Saladin from the Hospitaller Knights in a time record. The castle is famous for its man-made ditch entirely cut in the rock to isolate it from the plateau. In the center, a needle 28m high was conserved to be a support for a drawbridge.

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