I was gobsmacked when I visited Palmyra Ancient City in Syria last year. I knew it might not be safe to go there but I had to see it, because there’s something about romantic ruins that gets my creative juices flowing and makes me want to write. So what exactly is this place, and why did they build it here?
The city, more correctly called , and was the main intersection point for many trading routes because here they could finally water their camels. The Second Book of Chronicles describes it as a fortress built by Solomon. This means the Romans built the ruins we see today on foundations that were already 2,000 years old.
General View of Palmyra Ancient City
After Mark Anthony sent a raiding party in search of treasure in 41BC, the city began to trade with Rome using sailing ships to cross the Mediterranean to Italy. Within a century the Romans had incorporated Palmyra in their empire, although they did later proclaim it a free city that added greatly to its wealth.
Tragically greed took control of events when the city rebelled against its colonial master, and launched lightening raids across the desert. The Romans were so incensed that they recaptured it and sacked it in 272BC, so all that’s left intact today is a testimony to the skills of stonemasons who had no cement.
An Architectural Treasure in the Sand
Getting There and Getting Round
Palmyra is a major tourist attraction and so I found many tour operators competing for my attention. I decided to take the three-hour bus ride that leaves Harasta Bus Terminal in Damascus every hour, and was thankful that the S£250 they wanted converted to less than US$2.00. Once I arrived there, I found that everything was within walking distance. I was glad I packed a sandwich lunch because the take-out food is expensive and not to my taste.
I liked Palmyra so much that I booked into a comfortable hotel room for the night, which cost US$30 not counting a passable meal in the restaurant. At the owner’s suggestion I took a late afternoon camel ride which I quite enjoyed. Would I go again? Most certainly, although I would get there earlier when it was cooler, and check travel advisories first.