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Palmyra (Tadmur) – Market, Temple, Theatre, Fort

2011 April 26

There are protests going on all over Syria right now. As we all watch and pray for peace, I wanted to share some pictures from our recent trip to show you all how beautiful the country is. Today, the magnificent ruins of Tadmur.


The hills around Tadmur

Tadmur is the modern name for the ancient Arab city of Palmyra. By ancient, I mean ANCIENT. Like First Century A.D. ancient. The Palmyrans were Arabs and worshipped ancient Arab gods – the city of Palmyra is based around the Temple of Bel and the Market and Theatre surrounding it. At some point, Palmyra became a Roman province, so the architecture is very highly influenced by Romans.

The mountains around Palmyra at sunset

The mountains around Palmyra at sunset

We really had an amazing time walking through these ruins, set in the middle of the Syrian desert. The area is surrounded by dunes, hills, and mountains of sand and topped with clear, sunny or starry sky. It was a true walk through (very ancient) history to explore.

This first set of pictures shows you the Temple of Bel. Bel (also called Baal), was the Pre-Islamic Arab Sun God. It seems to have been a courtyard, surrounded by walls and peppered with columns. There are two buildings inside – a main sanctuary and a smaller one – on each side of the courtyard.

These ruins are magnificent just to look at and be awed by all the people and history they represent. But they’re also slightly terrifying on a deeper level. These ruins represent thriving civilizations that lived, ruled, and finally crumbled and died. Now, all their centuries of hard work are tourist attractions. It makes one think about how a society should be, what it should focus on, and what it would want to be remembered for. I wonder if, in thousands of years, people will be walking through the ruins of our homes marveling at them as markers of a civilization long gone.


The Sanctuary Walls

The Temple of Bel at Palmyra
Pictures are in Lightbox – click the first on the left to start the slideshow.


Most of the ruins are well-preserved (for being from 1 AD), but some of the ruins have become a column graveyard


The Market

The Temple of Bel is on one side of the Market of Palmyra. The Market is a series of arches, leading into an open-air market surrounded by a row of columns on each side. At the far end of the Market is another small temple sanctuary.


Columns lining the Market

Included in this picture set is the Theatre of Palmyra, which is adjacent to the Market. It has traditional cascade style theatre seating, sloping downwards and surrounding a huge main stage with multiple doors, where actors would have entered and exited, and platforms where statues of the gods would have stood. The theatre was used for plays only, not for gladitorial performances.

The Market of Palmyra
Pictures are in Lightbox – click the first on the left to start the slideshow.


Muslims will pray anywhere, even in the ruins of an ancient theatre!

In this last set of pictures, you’ll see a magnificent fort built by the Abbasid Caliphs. It is set on a high peak, overlooking the Palmyra ruins and surrounded by a very, very deep canyon. The only way across the canyon and into the fort is over a narrow wooden (but strongly built and maintained!) walkway. This is one of the most amazing buildings I’ve ever seen. It’s obvious that it was engineered to get a miles-clear view of the surrounding hills and to defend the area from attack.

Eeek the walkway!

Eeeek! Don’t look down!

The Abbasid Fort at Tadmur
Pictures are in Lightbox – click the first on the left to start the slideshow.

Tunnels inside Fort

The inside of the fort is filled with high arched ceilings above dark tunnels and corridors. There are even chutes connecting in the floor of one level reaching to the level below – where, in my imagination, hot oil or big stones were dropped on invaders

See? I told you. Magnificent!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Amy permalink
    April 26, 2011

    These photos are so amazing! Absolutely beautiful. And the architecture is incredible.

  2. Sarah permalink
    April 26, 2011

    Fabulous! The last one is my favorite!

  3. Amna permalink
    April 29, 2011

    These are amazing! I absolutely LOVE the Abbasid Fort. It’s amazing these have survived so long- I can’t imagine any modern houses/buildings having the same longevity.

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