We are all now familiar with the 1923 population exchange that left Turkey with many ‘ghost towns’ like Kayaköy.
Well Syria has a host of similarly deserted towns, dating back to Byzantine times, and collectively called the Dead Cities of northern Syria.
No-one seems to have counted how many there are, and no-one knows why they were deserted, although the latest academic theory claims these towns were part of the suburban sprawl radiating from the great Byzantine city of Antioch (Antakya), and when the main trade routes changed the people simply shifted with them.
Some of these ‘cities’ are only one standing building, often a church, as in the first example we were taken to see called Al Mushabaraq.
The church was surrounded with piles of stone and traces of other buildings could be seen – another site crying out for archaeological exploration.
Later we stopped at another Dead City, we were not given the name, and this had several standing buildings including the ubiquitous church, and lots of huge stone doorways – maybe the houses were built of wood which has rotted away leaving only the monolithic lintels.
However, the real gem of this tour was the Basilica of St. Simeon Stylites – and that deserves a separate article.