As Tourist To Krak des Chevaliers & The Valley Of Christians In Syria 2017.

Krak des Chevaliers in the Homs province in Syria is probably the most important and well preserved medieval castles in the world. It was built during the first Crusade 1031 to protect strategic passageway in the Orontes River Valley. It was said that the one who could control the passageway would control central Syria.

It´s easy to understand why the castle is built at its location. On top of a 650-meter high hill overlooking the whole valley with its 8-10 meter thick impenetrable wall, it was truly never breached.Krak des Chevaliers

Me enjoying the view from the top of Krak des Chevaliers overlooking the valley of Christians and the Passageway.

Krak des Chevaliers, Homs
Krak des Chevaliers from the eastern side, the famous viewpoint to the iconic photo is currently closed.
Krak des Chevaliers,homs,syria
Krak des Chevaliers as seen closeup from the backside.

The castle reached its glory with the Christian Crusaders from the 11th to the end of the 13th century.  And the legend claims that the castle could house up to 2000 knights at once and it could be besieged for months at a time.

Krak des Chevaliers is also overlooking the Wadi al-Nasara also called The Valley of Christians, a valley with around 210 000 Christian´s and the famous Saint George Monastery that dates back to the 6th Century.

The Valley Of Christians is also the location of strange cooperation between, the Syrian Government and the Opposition Party Syrian Social Nationalist Party to fight against the western supported opposition.

This area of Syria only saw minor fighting and destruction during the war, tho so was Krak des Chevaliers captured and held by the Free Syrian Army for almost 2 years before it was retaken by the Syrian Army during a one day battle named the Battle of Hosn on 20 March 2014.

Repairmen bringing new stones to repair the damage inside the fortress.
It´s definitely not easy work.

The Castle was hit by a mortar during the war, but the damage is minor and rebuilding and restoration are going on as we speak. The blast from the mortar did not only do harm, it actually blasted a huge hole in the ground and discovered a previously unknown storage room.

*Update. I got an update about the mortar damage from a fellow traveler.
The mortar that hit inside the castle opened into the “room” you have pictured is actually an old water canalization system that they knew it existed there but never opened it to prevent possible damage to it.

The previously unknown room, where the mortar hit.Krak des Chevaliers was added to the UNESCO world heritage list together with the Castle of Qal’at Salah El-Din (Fortress of Saladin) in Latakia in 2006.
From The Unesco World Heritage site:

These two castles represent the most significant examples illustrating the exchange of influences and documenting the evolution of fortified architecture in the Near East during the time of the Crusades (11th – 13th centuries). The Crac des Chevaliers was built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem from 1142 to 1271. With further construction by the Mamluks in the late 13th century, it ranks among the best-preserved examples of the Crusader castles.

Krak des Chevaliers is easily the most impressive fortress that I have ever visited, the scale and the details are just amazing, and if Syria was at peace right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw it been using it as one of their filming locations in Game of Thrones.

One of the walkways through the fort.
Another walkway
The main courtyard inside. Notice that the old structure is getting wooden support now.

Unfortunately some of the old stone arches over the entrance to the Hall of the knights were damaged during the war, but I got assured that it will be restored.

The gateways
Look at the stunning stonework
The main courtyard, Hall of the Knights on the left side, and the hole from the mortar in the middle.
Upper courtyard
From the upper section.
Overview over the first courtyard.
Entrance to the top tower.
Panoramic view over the Valley of Christians from the top of the highest tower.

You can see from my photos that Krak des Chevaliers hasn’t been badly damaged from the war, and restorations have already begun. This is also where I meet another group of European tourists, two Spanish, two French and a German at the parking lot when I was leaving.

Krak des Chevaliers is definitely ready to welcome tourists groups back!

 

Valley Of Christians.

The Valley Of Christians (Wadi al-Nasara) is the location of around 40 picturesque Christian villages in western Syria, located amidst the green plush rolling hills between Homs and the Lebanese border with the home to around 210 000 Christian´s and the famous Saint George Monastery that dates back to the 6th Century.

School kids on the streets in the valley

A lot of Christian refugees from neighboring Iraq have been seeking refuge here since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The valley was home to heavy fighting in early 2013, and suffered just like most of Syria has suffered from the continuing conflict and the devastating loss of loved ones from terrorist acts, with a very high number of locals being killed or abducted for the reason of being Christian.

A local Christian in the valley
A Christian Nun from the Saint George Monastery.

When the terrorists arrived so did the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Christians in the valley pick up weapons to protect their homes and families. For that reason, the terrorists never reached the famous Saint George Monastery, with a history going back to the 6th century.

The entrance to Saint George Monastery
Saint George Monastery, completely untouched from the war.

The Saint George Monastery contains 3 different Chapels, the oldest one from the 6th century is deep underground, the second one from the 12th century and the newest one is from 1857.

The monastery is a popular destination for Christian Pilgrims during the celebration of Saint Gorge on May 6th every year and during the feast of elevation of the Holy Cross on September 14 every year.

The chapel from the 6th century
The Chapel from 1857.
One of the Christian small villages around the valley.
Krak des Chevaliers as seen from the valley.

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Krak des Chevaliers in the Homs province in Syria is probably the most important and best preserved medieval castles in the world. It was built during the first Crusade 1031
Krak des Chevaliers in the Homs province in Syria is probably the most important and best preserved medieval castle in the world. It was built during the first Crusade 1031. #syria #homs #middleeast #travel #unesco #fortress

6 Comments
  1. I’ve read all of your articles about your visit to Syria, and they are indeed unique and eye opening, specially for those who only see what media has to offer (drama) ☺
    This castle is one of my favorites of all the ones beside the citadel of Aleppo which stole my heart first (being born and raised there).
    I am now visiting too (been here for 5 weeks, and leaving in 3 weeks) with my British husband, and we visited krak des chevalier a few weeks ago, I would like to make it clear, since I believe you entered there with the castle’s old guard Sabri, who was at the castle’s gates when the armed opposition entered it (he has a scar with a story worth listening to), anyways, I believe you might’ve got lost in translation, the mortar that hit inside the castle opened into the “room” you have pictured is actually an old water canalization system that they knew it existed there but never opened it to prevent possible damage to it. And the second thing, in your pictures with the caption Christian lady from the valley is I believe the manager of the castle, a very warm and full of smile lady that -my bad- I forgot her name.
    I am happy to see such writings about Syria again… I’ve read all the comments too, I understand both your views and the comments of people being pissed that you are showing the life that media doesn’t show, some people still can’t get over the damage that they or their loved ones had to go trough. Hang in there, we have always loved guests, and you are welcome again 🙂

    1. Hello Victoria.

      Thanks for correcting me, I will update the post shortly. Unfortunately so was there no old guard present during my visit to Krak, only a few locals that had lived in the valley during the occupation. Thanks for clarifying about the mortar, I will update it now:) I can´t wait to go back Syria next year to visit more areas:) Christian

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