ultramarinus – beyond the sea

QASR IBN WARDAN, Syrian Desert, Syria

2006.05.13.

Covering 500,000 square kilometers in the Middle East, and spanning across parts of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the Syrian Desert (Badiyat al-Sham) is home to Bedouin tribes, ancient trade routes and ruined cities.  Parts of the Syrian Desert and other deserts in the Arabian Peninsula are considered to be some of the driest places in the world.  Yet, some Bedouin tribes continue to live nomadically with their livestock (goats, sheep and camels) in the area.  From Hama, Cairo Hotel arranged a van to take us into the Syria Desert towards the ancient city of Palmyra.  On the way, we stopped by the Roman ruins of Qasr Ibn Wardan and a village of vernacular beehive houses.

In the middle of the desert where ancient Romans marked their eastern boundary, Emperor Justinian built an enormous complex in the 6th century AD attempting to impress the desert nomads.  A mixture of local materials and Byzantine architectural styles imported from Constantinople created a magnificent building complex that once encompassed a palace, church and military barracks.  To the Romans, Qasr Ibn Wardan was a beacon at the border that separated the their empire and the Sassanid Empire, the last Persian dynasty.  Stripes of dark basalt and yellow bricks create a strong sense of horizontality against the desert horizon, connecting the structure with the imposing desert landscape and expressing the grandeur of Roman Empire in the middle of nowhere.

Qasr Ibn Wardan 2Although the original dome was long gone, the impressive remains of the church at Qasr Ibn Wardan has stood prominently against the desert horizon for 1500 years.

Qasr Ibn Wardan 1The palace is the largest remaining structure, with rooms distributed on two floors surrounding a central courtyard.  An inscription dated the building to 564 AD.

06ME27-19In terms of architectural technologies, the Byzantine style of the complex must have been quite fascinating for the locals 1500 years ago.

06ME27-18The basalt and yellow bricks should be considered high quality in the 6th century.

06ME27-23The lintel at the church’s main entrance also contains Greek inscriptions.

Qasr Ibn Wardan 3The Greek inscriptions “All things to the glory of God” was carved onto the lintel of the palace south entrance.

06ME27-24Many archaeologists believed that the columns used at Qasr Ibn Wardan came from the ancient city of Apamea.

06ME27-20The church of Qasr Ibn Wardanis a fine example of Byzantine architecture.

06ME27-27The dome is supported by pendentives sprang from an octagonal drum.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s