Palmyra – Syria

Queen of the desert

Even if you have seen enough historical sites to last you a lifetime, Palmyra (“City of Palms”) amazes. “It is lovely and fantastic and unbelievable,” enthused Agatha Christie, who penned Come, Tell Me How You Live while living in Syria.

has been men­tioned in historical records as far back as the 19th century B.C., when it was known as Tadmor. An essential watering hole on the Silk Road and a vital link between the Mediter­ranean and China, Palmyra became fabulously wealthy by levying heavy tolls on caravans transporting precious cargo on their way to and from the Arabian Gulf and beyond. The incomparable ruins that spread across the 100-acre site today date to its zenith as a 2nd-century A.D. city with a population of 200,000 that prospered and mimicked Rome in gran­deur.

Since excavations began in 1924, the Temple of Baal (circa A.D. 32) and the amphi­theater have been partially reconstructed. The Great Colonnade, Palmyra’s main street and backbone, is almost a mile long and is lined with more than 300 standing columns. An on­site museum houses an excellent collection of artifacts, mosaics, and statuary found at the site. The natural beauty of Palmyra is en­hanced by the almost complete absence of modern buildings.


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