On the vast territory on a limestone massif in the north-western part of Syria, between the Orontes and the river Afrin in the west and Highway Aleppo-Hama to the east, scattered over 700 abandoned settlements in the Roman and Byzantine period, dating from the 5th and 8th centuries. These so-called “dead city” – have survived in excellent condition. Largely untouched buildings and homes, and hundreds of pagan temples, churches and Christian shrines, burial sites, baths, and more.
These villages or cities were once the largest agricultural producers of wheat, olives, olive oil, grapes and wine. However, the climate here has changed over time. The drought and the rise in temperature led to the fact that the land became unproductive. At the same time the conquest of the Arabs changed the trade routes, and the town lost its importance and shopping road. In the end, the city has been abandoned.
One of the largest and most spectacular of the “cities of the dead” is Al-Bara. It covers an area of 6 square kilometers and is located 90 km south-west of Aleppo. Al-Bara was a large population of the city before the Muslim conquest in the 7th century. In the 11th century the city belonged to the Crusaders, until he was captured by the Mamluks in the 12th century. An earthquake in 1157 led to its destruction and the population left the city, is no longer suitable for living.
The ruins of Al-Bara include two large building with a pyramidal roof, several churches, two-storey cloister, the Crusader fortress Qalaat Abu Safian, as well as a building with a wine press and press for olive oil extraction.
Close to Al-Bara is another “dead city”, Serdzhilla, which is famous for its beautiful remains of Roman baths, which suggests that it was a thriving city in the past. In another ghost town, Kharab Shams, stands the beautiful cathedral, one of the oldest preserved buildings in the Christian Levante, starting from the fourth century. Another well-preserved churches of the second half of the fifth century, is located in the village Mushabbak.
The dead city is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Relict cultural landscape of the village is also an important indication of the transition from the ancient pagan world to the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Christianity. Remains illustrate the hydraulic equipment of the time, protective walls and agricultural land, which is also indicative of the agricultural skills of the local population “, – stated in the description on the UNESCO website.