September 20, 2004
It is because of the basic lack of human contact that a number of the ruins from the Roman Era are left in surprisingly good shape. Hundreds of villas and other buildings have been located and are free for you to explore. There are so many that the Syrian government cannot possibly keep track of them all and some of them have been incorporated into daily life. You may see a modern Syrian house built on the foundation of a Roman villa, and, in many cases, the locals have just built their lives around the ruins without damaging them. So you will see a Roman house in the middle of a field of eggplants, and you will see local farmers using the same walls as the Romans to mark their fields.
There are far too many ruins for you to see them all. Also, most of them are far beyond the reaches of public transport. If you have your own car, you could spend a whole day driving around and stopping at various ruins. The best way to do visit some of these "dead cities" is by doing it as part of a larger tour to the other sights of the region. Many hotels offer excursions that will stop by one of these villages, most often the one near Qala’at Samaan.
Whichever one you happen to stop at, you will surely not be disappointed. Very little is actually known about many of the structures, so, most of the time, it’s just best to use your imagination. Was this a villa? A church? In many other countries, these ruins would be a star tourist attraction, but in Syria, the land of history, they are just one of many, but they will still fire up your imagination. Some may be a bit appalled by the way people have made their homes among the ruins, but I find that it gives it a particular vibrancy.
From journal Aleppo: Syria's Second City