July 25, 2001 – Aleppo – Qalaat Al Saadin (Castle of Saladin) – Tartus (1)




Short night due to an early wake up at 4 am, I am ready for the first prayer of the day! Once again I have to wake up the guard at the entrance in order to leave the building. I have no problem to find my way to the railway station and I arrive well before the departure for Lattakia. I take my first class ticket for the 6 am train (SP 65) but I have to wait in the hall of the building whereas the temperature is better outside but it’s forbidden. I take time to look at the paintings on the walls all linked to the history of trains in Syria. Two employees spend their time cleaning the marble floor whereas there is no dust on it, we can have breakfast on it!!


Finally we have the authorization to go on the platform to reach the train. With such low fares to go to Lattakia, all the Syrians seem to travel in first class cars, whereas there is only one second class car. The trip is straightforward, I fall asleep many times so I can’t remember well the landscape we ran trough.


In Lattakia just after 9 am, I directly go to the stadium where is located the minibus station to reach the castle of Saladin (Qalaat Al Saladin). On my way, I find the visitor center and I ask for some information on the castle, the fares to go there from the village of Al Haffe (SP 50 roundtrip but you have to bargain a lot). Not yet fully waken up I paid two places in the minibus (me and my bag). In Al Haffe, I start bargaining to get the right fare to go to the castle on a motorbike and it is not easy for me to seat on the motorbike with a nearly 20 bag on my back but the driver is a “professional”. The road that leads to the castle is a kind of rollercoaster and I am very happy when we finally stop at the end. The driver agrees to come back in 2 hours to bring me back to the village. No problem! Mafi Mouchekala!


The gatekeeper offers me a free entrance because he doesn’t have the change for my SP 200 banknote. I can leave my bag near the entrance so I am lighter to visit the site. The castle is a ruin except for the north part which is well preserved and perfectly restored. The restorations are in progress in the central part of the site. But the castle is huge (700m long and 120m wide), it is the biggest crusaders’ castle.


The castle is located on a rocky spur and the castle had to be separated from the hill on one side. The ditch is 15m wide, 30m high and 155m long. It is very hard to imagine that the locals of the region made all this work manually. In the middle of the ditch we can clearly see pile that sustained the drawbridge. As soon as enemies were near the castle, the crusaders shot on the stones at the top of the pile and the drawbridge fell down in the ditch.


Castle of Saladin : the ditch


On the right after the entrance, there are defensive towers, built by the crusaders.


Castle of Saladin : the towers


The stables are between two towers and they are composed of a big room with huge piles. Just a little further, there is the entrance of the donjon: just after entering the donjon we can notice a big pile in the middle of the room. Inside there are stairs that linked the top of the tower to the river 30m below. For security reasons the entrance of the secret passage is sealed.


Castle of Saladin : the south part


After the seizure of the castle, Saladin builds a mosque on the site and a hammam. Outside this place, there are canals that were used to evacuate the water of the hammam. We can notice a 8 branches star covered in the past with mosaics. This square was entirely covered with marble.


From the ruins of the Byzantine citadel in the middle of the site, we have a great view on the south part and this is for this part of the castle that Saladin took the castle.





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D1 : Lyons – Damascus

D2 : Damascus (1)  (2)

D3 : Damascus

D4 : Damascus – Palmyra

D5 : Palmyra – Hama

D6 : Hama – Apamea – Aleppo

D7 : Aleppo

D8 : Aleppo

D9 : Aleppo

D10 : Aleppo – San Simeon – Aleppo

D11 : Aleppo – Qalaat Al Saadin – Tartous (1)  (2)

D12 : Tartous – Krak des chevaliers – Beirut (1)  (2)

D13 : Beirut – Tripoli

D14 : Tripoli – Damascus

D15 : Damascus – Maaloula – Damascus

D16 : Damascus

D17 : Damascus – Bosra – Damascus

D18 : Damascus – Amman – Dead Sea – Amman

D19 : Amman – Jerash - Amman

D20 : Amman – Madaba – Amman

D21 : Amman – Kerak – Dana

D22 : Dana

D23 : Dana – Petra (1)  (2)

D24 : Petra

D25 : Petra

D26 : Petra – Wadi Rum

D27 : Wadi Rum – Aqaba

D28 : Aqaba

D29 : Aqaba

D30 : Aqaba

D31 : Aqaba

D32 : Aqaba - Amman

D33 : Amman

D34 : Amman – Lyons




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Last update : January 2002

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