The City of Tartous (Arabic) is ancient, as is the Syrian coastline. Hundreds of archaeological sites stretch from the eastern coastal mountains to the western plains. One of the most famous and important of these sites is Amrit, just seven kilometers southeast of the Port of Tartous. The site dates from the 3rd millennium BC when it is believed that the Canaanites built ports on the coast of Syria. Artifacts found at the site include items from the first millennium BC when it was a colony of the Phoenicians. Within the site is the temple carved in the rock. This 56 meter long, 49 meter wide, and 3 meter deep basin contains an altar to the god Mel Kart, the god of curing illnesses. East of the temple stands the 220 meter long, 30 meter wide stadium dating from the 16th Century BC, also carved from the rock, that could seat as many as 11 thousand people. The site also contains the rare burial site for the royal family and aristocrats of ancient Arwad and Amrit, large rooms carved in the rock.
Another fascinating historic site near the Port of Tartous is the island of Arwad. Only three kilometers from the Port of Tartous, it takes a 20-minute boat ride to get there. The island was first settled by the Canaanites, but it served as a refuge for many people fleeing ancient invaders, particularly refugees from Amrit. This beautiful small island contains many houses, fortresses, and narrow winding streets as well as many modern restaurants and cafes that overlook the Port of Tartous. The citadel on the island was a prison during the resistance against the French, as witnessed by the inscriptions still found on the walls.
The Castle of the Templars and the cathedral of Our Lady of Tartus remain from the 12th Century. Christian pilgrims journeyed far to reach the cathedral during occupation by the Crusaders. The fortress is almost camouflaged by homes and other buildings in the Port of Tartous. However, one can still see the double enclosure and moat cut into the rock. The keep is huge, built with gigantic stones.
The old city of Tartus is a wonderful place to visit. Containing modern and ancient buildings that were constructed on and inside the walls of the Templar Fortress, the moat stills separates the old town from the modern city's north and east sides.
Travelers who want to see the Port of Tartous and the many ancient marvels nearby can find a list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.
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