To fully round out the crusader castle festival that is the Syrian mountain range, and having already explored the other end of the chain in Lebanon (eg Tripoli citadel and Beaufort castle), I headed back home via the coast road to take in Qal’at Salah ad-Din and Qal’at Marqab.
Qal’at Salah ad-Din, or Saladdin’s castle, is perhaps the second most impressive fortification in Syria after Krak des Chevaliers. It isn’t nearly as well preserved, with much of the interior in ruins and overgrown with vegetation. But the outer walls are quite impressive, and it had the most striking access route. As you can see in the following photos, the only access to the castle in medieval times was across a drawbridge which spanned a plunging gap in the mountains. What’s even more amazing is that the gap is man-made. The castle’s builders carved that slash out of the basalt rock. And yet despite this, the castle was captured by Saladdin in 1188 (hence the name).
As I explored Qal’at Salah ad-Din I couldn’t help but think how it would be the perfect place to take Mitchell in 5-6 years time. It’s full of mysterious tunnels, hidden stairwells leading to isolated turrets and evil looking arrow slits, where you could run around pretending to defend the castle from dragons and marauding hordes of orcs. Mind you it’s also full of precipitous drops and without any safety rails…
Heading on, my final stop was Qal’at Marqab, which is perched on a hilltop overlooking the coastal city of Baniyas. Marqab is in worse condition than Salah ad-Din, and unfortunately the exhaust belching out of the large power-station below the hill was drifting right across the castle. So rather than venturing in I just snapped these pics on my way past.
But it makes me wonder – what is it with castles and cactus in this part of the world?