Azraq Castle قلعة الأزرق
Visited on 25/1/2013
One of the largest desert oasis in the region (almost completely depleted now), Azraq has a very long history of giving life in the very harsh conditions of the Syrian Desert.
Some of the earliest finds were a large number of Paleolithic era hand axes which indicate a large settlement as far back as 20,000 BCE, there is also a stepped Nabatean damn which appears to have been used by succeeding empires of the Byzantines and the Umayyads.
In an indication of the oasis’s importance, the fort as we see it today has been heavily modified by the successive rulers during their respective periods. The earliest inscription is an altar dedicated to Emperor Diocletian which would date the fort to 284-305 ACE, although milestones along the road that runs nearby the oasis show roman interests go back as far as 208 ACE.
It appears to be that in 1237 Azraq Castle was rebuilt by the Ayyubid governor of the time, Ezz Ad-din Aybak, keeping the original structure intact. The castle remained in use under the Mamluks and throughout the Ottoman period.
In the winter of 1917-18, the fort was occupied by T.E Lawrence and the Arab Army in their preparation for their final attack on Ottoman Damascus, during the final days of the Great Arab Revolt. Prior to that in 1898, Chechens settled here while fleeing persecution by the Russians in the Caucasus (the region located between the Black and Caspian Seas), they set up their village 7km away from a Druze village, which in turn saw an influx of people fleeing the French in Syria during the 1920s.
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