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It was built during the First Crusade in the year 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 called the Homs gap, with its 8-10 meter thick impenetrable wall, it was truly never breached.
Me enjoying the view from the top of Krak des Chevaliers overlooking the valley of Christians and the Passageway called the Homs Gap.
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 in the Syrian civil war.
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 two years before the Syrian Army retook it during a one day battle named the Battle of Hosn on 20 March 2014.
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 traveller.
The mortar that hit inside the castle opened into the “room” you have pictured 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.