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Our road descends desolate hillsides that even the goats seem to have deserted, follows a stream bordered by oleanders,

and then brings us out at a small market town dominated by a great medieval castle that has been basking here in the sun for centuries. We are at Misyaf.

The castle rises half-ruined amidst its encircling walls and their towers open to the sky. The houses and their terraces from a sort of glacis stretching up to the first of the castle’s defenses. High walls of ochre stone continue the natural slope of the rock upwards to where, on a small platform on the very top, the keep of the castle stands.

Seen from the other side, with no houses to break the transition, the castle looks even more formidable - here peaceful orchards of figs, mulberries, pomegranates and almonds, heralds of those of the Ghab, make a striking contrast to the castle above them.

The best preserved parts of the castle are the entrance fortifications between high square towers and with a rampart walk with arrow slits above them. Ancient columns which have been reused here and there indicate that the Arab fort may well have replaced some earlier structure.

The walls and towers date from the Ayyoubide era when the fortress was the greatest in Syria. Here and there we notice copied architectural structures particularly columns of Greek, Roman and Byzantine style. Misyaf, the major lookout post at the time of the military campaigns of the Crusaders, underwent many incident. Conquered by Raymond de Saint Gilles in 1103, it was liberated by Arab and Muslim fighters in 1140 or 1141.

Around Misyaf several ruins of old forts still stand and for history fans are well worth a visit. These include: Deir al Shemil; Laqbeh, an old castle, the Laqoba des Croisés; Qalaat Abu Qobeis, formerly Bokebées; Hosn al Khariba; Qalaat Abu-Qabis; Hadid Castle, etc. They are sometimes difficult to reach.

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