Al-Bara (also called Bara) is the most extensive of the Dead Cities of northern Syria and one of the last to be abandoned. It held out as a bastion of Eastern Christianity until the arrival of the Crusaders in the 11th century.
After humble beginnings in the 4th century AD, Al-Bara grew into one of the most important centers of wine and olive oil production in the area.
Surrounded by rich, fertile land and situated along the north-south trade route between Antioch and Apamea, Al-Bara prospered and grew, even after the trade routes shifted in the 7th century and most other settlements were abandoned.
Al-Bara weathered the Islamic conquest and remained predominantly Byzantine Christian, boasting its own bishop who was subordinate to the Archbishop of Antioch. Eastern Christianity finally came to an end in Al-Bara with the occupation of the Latin Crusaders in the late 11th century.
It was from Al-Bara that the Crusaders embarked on the horrible cannibalistic episode at Majarat an-Nujaman in 1098. By 1125, the Crusaders were driven out of the area and Al-Bara came under Muslim control. It was finally abandoned in the late 12th-century, probably because of an earthquake.
What to See
There is no obvious route through the site of Al-Bara and the land is densely covered with trees and undergrowth. The land is still fertile here, and some small plots among the stones are still worked for olives, grapes and apricots.
The ruins of Al-Bara cover 6 sq km and incorporate numerous large villas, three monasteries, and as many as a dozen Byzantine churches. Five churches can still be seen amongst the ruins today.
The most striking structures are a pair of pyramid tombs, standing 200m apart. These monumental tombs, decorated with carved acanthus leaves, testify to the one-time wealth of this city. The larger pyramid still houses five sealed and decorated sarcophagi.
Continuing south past the pyramid tombs, there is an underground tomb with three arches and a large, well-preserved monastery.
Quick Facts on Al-Bara
|cat:||Dead Cities of Syria|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||35.739859° N, 36.564474° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Al-Bara
Below is a location map and aerial view of Al-Bara. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Lonely Planet Syria and Lebanon, p. 200.
|Link code:||<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/syria/al-bara">Al-Bara</a>|