Saturday, May 14, 2005

Krak des Chevaliers

There is a magical castle in Syria –the best of the Crusader castles in the world. The Crusader occupation and the main building of the castle was about 1120 and succeeding groups added to it. Most of what is there now was built in the first half of the thirteenth century. It is three quarters of an hour’s drive from Homs in Syria, and stands on a hill which controls access to the Homs Gap and the rich farmlands from Turkey through to the Mediterranean on one side, and Jordan on the other.

Ok. That is the history bit. When you first see the Krak there is no realisation of the size of it. As you start to wind up the hill through the village –twist after turn after hairpin, you begin to realise how enormous the castle is. Walk in to the Krak and your hair lifts in the breeze, but there is also a tingle in the back of your neck, and the hair lifting on your arms that is nothing to do with the wind that swirls down through the long curved passages between the outer defences and the inner walls. You walk in shadow through honey coloured stone walls, on honey coloured stone slabs, and the wide and steep entrance twists and bends to the right as you are coming in, so the swing of an intruder’s sword arm was limited by the wall.

The Krak des Chevaliers

Inside there is almost a suggestion of a theme park, as the preservation of this castle is so perfect. Arrow slits in the walls let in narrow shafts of air and light, with dust swirling in the fingers of wind that reach even through these narrow slits. Small square openings in the roof light the areas below, and there are also square opening in the floor to pass some of the light to rooms below. These have a metal grid over the top stop unwary tourists from falling through.

I am starting to think that pictures just might do this better than I can. There is just too much.

Arrow slits in the outer defences
Through the entrances Stored ammunition
Dining halls Bread ovens

The last photo on the right is the bread ovens - there could be up to three thousand people in the castle, and that is a lot of bread.

Local Lasses

The toilets from Crusader times. Anything deposited here ran down the outside walls to the moat.

Toilets on the right Carved windows on the cloisters
The cloisters Seven Widows
This game in the photo at the bottom right is carved into the windowsill, and is widely played in Islamic countries and in Africa. It is a wonderful game, and can be played at many different levels. My children introduced it into their schools in Australia on maths project days.

The Prince's view The Prince's Tower room
Down the spiral stairs from the Prince's tower
Bob, near the 'round table'.
Remains of a $4 mezze
Remains of a $4 mezze. Unfortunately we scoffed the hummus and the best-ever baba ghannouj - there was more than three of us could eat.

View to the north
The Lebanese ranges, complete with snow, were to the left.

The view along the only existing moat showing the inner defensive walls.
The view along the only existing moat showing the inner defensive walls.

Afarewell glimpse from a higher point
A farewell glimpse from a higher point.


Blogger Kt said...

Greetings regular readers - blog fairy here.
Just thought that you'd like to know that Jenny's blog has made it to the front page of the Guardian newspaper's blog in the UK. Each day they list 4 or 5 of the most interesting links on the interweb - and there she is!

9:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations mum!!
The site looks great, love all the Damascus photos - can't wait to get there in June.

So proud of you. Missing you terribly.

I must confess to laughing when you wrote about the kitten. Tena is right - when I get there, I shall tame them!! Did the experience remind you of a certain gorgeous Palestinian refugee? He's sitting on my lap as I write.

Love you, Tabs

10:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have just spent time catching up reading. Home after 2.5 weeeks California and Hawaii, restful etc.
Still need to read your post Anzac activities,
hugz, Fran

11:33 am  
Blogger Helen from Canberra said...

Hi Jenny,
Yesterday I returned from a very sad trip up to the central coast. So this morning I've sat at the computer with my cup of coffee and have spent a long long time reading your wonderful text and looking at your stunning photos. Believe me you are doing a great job.
Regards Helen

PS It is still sunny and very dry in Canberra

11:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

G'day Jenny, just had to say thank you for sharing your wonderful photographs and interesting days with us...I was looking at todays photos, thinking I wish my dear Dad could see these,he often spoke of Damascus with affection.
Thinking seriously re your suggestion to SCQ about trip to Damascus next year.
Take Care,

6:23 pm  
Blogger Sally Dunn said...

Oh Jenny, You are making me remember when I was 11 years old. We went thought Egypt on our way to England (that was an adventure as well). I have a question. Can I please use one of your photos for a quilt I "drew" about 6 months ago? I have been looking for an arch and the first photo on this entry is perfect. By the way the name of the quilt is "Holy Grail". I have no idea how you answer this question - maybe a comment on my blog? Don't read it tho - very amateur and slow!



7:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,
I have given up reading my book at bedtime, your blogs are far more interesting. Glad you are enjoying your stay. Keep up the good work with the blogs
Regards Wendy P, Mt. Barker, S.A.

7:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenny I'm not surprised your blog has become famous, it is the best read I've had in ages. I'm falling in love with this part of the world you are telling us about as you bring it to life with your pictures and words.

I look forward to hearing how many babies are born.


9:35 pm  
Blogger Jenny said...

Hi Sally - go ahead and use the image - you could actually buy something similar from any postcard seller. Everyone stops in the same place.

Jenny B

2:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi jenny

I just love your photos. I check every day or two to see what other wonderful offering you have left for us to enjoy. Your textile tour of the middle east sounds wonderful but we will still own our post office till sometime in 2006 so I don't think next year will be possible :o(

Off to retreat in a couple of days & taking my kaleidoscope from your class last year.

Cheers, Cat in Tassie

9:51 am  
Blogger Kat said...

I always find your photos drawing me in and making me want to be there to explore. The suqs would have my head swiveling in wonder and delight with all there is to see.

6:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photos of the Krak brought back so many memories. I remember camping in the walls of this great historical treasure - in a courtyard, under the stars whilst on an excursion with the Damascus Community School. A group of teenagers... visiting and camping at only the most exquisite crusader castle in the world -for a school excursion. Thankyou to you and Dad for that experience.. one that I have to confess I took for granted at the time, but now appreciate deeply. I wish I could take my students there!

9:08 pm  
Blogger teri springer said...

Oh are making me hungry!! Hummus and baba ghannouj!!! YUM! (my best friend is Lebanese). I will have to share your blog with the father of one of Jamie's friends as he is from Damascus and I think he will enjoy seeing his homeland.

Thank you for the tour!!

teri in Michigan (USA)

11:59 pm  

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