Friday, 29 May 2015

Military History Photo Friday: Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle, Palmyra, Syria

Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle, photo courtesy the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

This imposing castle is called the Qalat ibn Maan and overlooks the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. I visited way back in 1994 and just wrote about my experiences for Black Gate, reflecting on what's going to happen to the site now that ISIS has taken it over.

I have clear memories of this castle. As you can see from the top photo, there's a steep climb to get up there. I remember huffing and puffing in the desert sun to make it to the base of the wall, only to spot the other side, which you can see in the below photo. There was a road leading right up to it I could have walked on and saved myself the trouble!

As it was, I was stuck on a narrow ledge running around the base of the wall. As I inched my way around, a Syrian family strolling up the road gave me a friendly wave.

After making a fool of myself, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the castle and mounting one of the towers for a sweeping view of the oasis, the ancient site, and the surrounding desert. The castle was built around 1230 to protect this important caravan stop between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. Nowadays Palmyria is still strategically important. It was the scene of fierce fighting over the last few years between government forces and rebels, and just a couple of weeks ago ISIS swept in from the east and took it over. Reports indicate the castle has been battered by RPG, artillery, and small arms fire.

It's still standing, though, and now bears scars from another tumultuous era of the history of the Middle East.

Another view of the castle, courtesy Jerzy Strzelecki via Wikimedia Commons.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You just wanted a challenge!
I assume it's on rock, but it looks like it's sitting atop a sand dune.

Sean McLachlan said...

Alex: It's craggy rock that catches the sand from the surrounding desert. Palmyra is an oasis in the middle of a big stretch of nothing. Not even many Bedouin hang out in this desert.

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