This destination has no photos. Upload the first!
Written by HobWahid on 28 Sep, 2004
Following the independence of Syria, the Syrian government immediately set out turning the coastal city of Tartus into its second port. As a result of this, enormous tankers and barges may have replaced the wooden fishing boats that used to patrol Tartus’ shores, but amidst…Read More
Following the independence of Syria, the Syrian government immediately set out turning the coastal city of Tartus into its second port. As a result of this, enormous tankers and barges may have replaced the wooden fishing boats that used to patrol Tartus’ shores, but amidst the rapid expansion, Tartus still has managed to maintain a quiet and friendly charm, and is a worthy stop for anyone touring the costal region of Syria.
Indeed, much of Tartus’ importance throughout history has been due to the small island of Arwad off its coast, an island whose strategic position has been recognized by everyone from the Phoenicians to the Ottomans. During the Crusades, Tartus was a veritable revolving door for armies. The Crusaders did recognize its importance, however, and spent large amounts on fortifying the city during the various years they controlled it, and it is this Crusader-era construction that provides the best sights for tourists today.
The major sight is Tartus’ Old City, which was actually the main Crusader fortress. While not terribly large or containing any great architecture, the Old City is basically an attraction because of the way the locals have built their lives around the fortress. On the outer walls, numerous restaurants and cafes have taken up residence, some taking advantage of old storage facilities. Inside the Old City, everything revolves around the main square, an open area that now contains a mosque, a few shawerma stands and numerous cafes where locals come to smoke nargileh and watch the world go by. Like I said, there is nothing specific to see in the Old City except the city itself. All you need is an hour and a half to spend meandering around the streets, noticing how life has flourished in this former fort. Walking down its cobblestone streets, through old gates, and along abandoned towers, you will still be able to get an idea of just how this fortress may have looked in its day, and while some purists may be angered at the way the local population has taken over the fort, I prefer it this way. There are infinitely better Crusader forts in Syria, but this place is unique because of the way the people have made it their home. So enjoy it.
Other than the Old City, the other main sight is the Tartus Museum, which is housed in the Church of Our Lady of Tortosa, a Crusader-built church that looks more like a fortress than a church. The Museum itself isn’t enormous, but it contains some interesting archeological artifacts found in the area that illustrate Tartus’ long past. The Roman sarcophagi, pottery, stellae and statues are all particularly interesting, as is the Gothic architecture of the Church itself. The grounds of the museum also contain nice gardens and a café where you can relax away from the noise of the city.
When you combine these sights with the island of Arwad, Tartus makes for a nice stop on your travels, but one night is about all you should really need.