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Hama, Syria

Hama, situated between Homs and Aleppo on banks of the Orontes river, is an important agricultural and industrial center. Except for Damascus, Hama is considered the most picturesque city in Syria and one may wish to take time to relax in its attractive gardens along river banks.

Hama has been settled since the early Iron Age. In book of Joshua, Hama is mentioned at the time when the land was divided up between the 12 tribes. It is also mentioned in Kings II as the source for the settlers the Assyrians moved into Samaria, after depopulating the cities of Holy land.

The Great Norias (Waterwheels) on the Orontes River, Hama

The chief attraction of Hama are the great norias (waterwheels). Originating in Byzantine times, the oldest surviving wheels date from the 13th century. The norias, which all have given names, were used to raise water from the river into aqueducts. The purpose of the wheels nowadays is purely decorative and of historical interest.

Hama's Museum, housed in Beit Al-Azem (Azem Mansion) is a splendid example of 18th century Ottoman architecture. There are lovely courtyards with central fountains, mosaics, richly decorated wood ceilings and paneled walls, marble floors and wax models of various aspects of Syrian life in bygone days illustrating the sumptuousness of a Pasha's life.

There are numerous mosques and Greek Orthodox churches worth a visit, as well as the aqueducts and, of course, Hama Citadel which was once a site of an 11th century BC royal palace and later a Muslim fortress.

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