THE CITY OF NORIAS, Hama, Syria
In the city of Hama along the Orontes River, 17 splendid medieval norias stand as reminders of the city’s medieval past, when large norias were built to transport 95 litres of water per minute uphill to irrigate farms. A looted mosaic from Apamea dated back to 469 AD depicted a large noria among with buildings and daily scenes of people suggested that norias have been around since at least the 5th century. The oldest surviving norias in Hama dated back to the Ayyubid period in the 12th century. These norias have no practical use today after modern pumps and piping have been installed. As the icon of Hama, their presence is mainly for aesthetic and touristic purpose, maintaining the unique identity of Hama and attracting people to visit the City of Norias. In fact, the norias of Hama are so famous in the country that they have appeared on Syrian stamps and banknotes.
Before the civil war, Cairo Hotel and Riad Hotel were two
Exploring the medieval alleyways in Hama was an absolute delight.
At 6:30 in the morning, we headed out to visit the famous norias of Hama. We followed instructions from the hotel staff to Um Al Hasan Park, one of the most popular spots for see the norias.
After a 10-minute walk, we reached Orontes River and the majestic Noria Mamouriya.
In 1900 there were more than 50 norias in Hama. Now only 17 still remain standing today.
A “noria” is actually a type of water wheel that raises water from a river to a higher level.
The Mamouriya Noria is a popular spot for local children to hang out.
Noria Al-Jabiriya and al-Sahiuniya, and the adjacent Nur al-Din Mosque together form the iconic picture of Hama.
Decreased water level due to population growth has increased the risk for preserving the norias. When water level is low, the norias would cease to operate. The longer the wood stay out of water, the more it becomes vulnerable to cracking and shrinking.
The norias of Hama have been submitted to UNESCO’s list of Tentative World Heritage sites.
Much of the old city of Hama was destroyed during the 1982 Hama Massacre, when the Syrian Arab Army and Defense Companies besieged the city for 27 days in order to crush an uprising by the anti-government Muslim Brotherhood.
Hama has always been a battle ground between the ruling Ba’ath Party and the Sunni Islamists since the 1960s. In the 1982 Hama Massacre, tens of thousands of people were killed. Since the, the government of Hafez al-Assad (Bashar al-Assad’s father) relied more on suppression for his ruling of Syria.
On 1st of July 2011, more than 400,000 protestors demonstrated on the street to stand up against Bashar al-Assad. By August, over 200 civilians had been killed by the government force.
It was hard to tell the violent past from the tranquil streetscape of Hama.
We passed by a building named “Institu de Palestine.” There was a statement and a map of the Palestine marked on the wall.
With a significant population of Sunni Muslims, it was not surprising to see a show of support for Palestine in Hama.