The Howls of the Rebel River in Hama Syria

The highlight of the city of Hama is by no doubt the norias or “wheels of pots”. ¬†Seventeen now remain standing and occasionally running above the¬†Nahr al-Assi, aka Rebel River. ¬† Many know it as being the Orontes River. ¬†It’s presently the job of the office of Antiquities in Hama to make sure that these remaining wheels can still function as they did 1000-years-ago and remain aesthetically pleasing drawing in tourists and travelers. ¬†¬†Authors Needham and Ronan described them as “the most splendid norias ever constructed.” and they are right to some degree.

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According to author Joseph Needham, the Noria are believed to have been first constructed in India around 350 B.C.  The technology later spread east to China and then west to the Mediterranean Region.  What was unique about Norias is that they are powered only by flowing water .   Cows, camels, wind, steam or even people are unnecessary.   Unfortunately, the water to be needs to high enough to work properly. The climate in Hama allows them to work around 5 months out of  the year.  The use of dams and the luck of a rainy spring keeps the creaking wheels spinning.

The norias are thought to have been constructed in Hama during the Byzantine era but the jury is still out on whether it was earlier. ¬†It is known that their numbers peaked to around 30 during the Mamluk Sultanate (1250-1510).¬†The Turkish governor ordered the restoration of the Roman built water wheels after he conquered the area. ¬†They made the 200-year-old wheels bigger and added more along the river. ¬†The norias brought water to its inhabitants and their farms. ¬†The crop yields skyrocketed, trade increased and it’s people grew rich. ¬†The Orontes Valley still remains Syria’s agricultural heartland.
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The quiet town of Palmyra

The bus rolled into Tadmor, or as most know it as Palmyra, a little over 3 hours after it left the Harasta Pullman terminal in Damascus. Taking local buses is always fun and tricky if you don’t speak or understand the native language. The final destination wasn’t Palmyra and even if it was the bus driver was calling it Tadmor. Palmyra is a small town and I still wasn’t sure if it had a bus station? I guess a good street map (LP #fail) complete with important things like where the bus stops would have been helpful. We’ve adapted to LP and other guidebook fails by now, so we had to just go with it, use our brains and harness our powers of perception. ¬†So what we knew was the bus must be stopping soon since it’s getting close to the scheduled time of¬†arrival and I see two others travelers getting ready to leave. ¬†It’s highly likely that we are on same Syrian LP/Routard trail. ¬†We also start to get ready to spring from the hot bus. ¬† The bus stops, we thanked the bus driver and chose a direction which hopefully led into town. ¬†We then found a safe place to get a quick look at the crappy LP map but it didn’t matter because no one seemed to want to bother us with questions like “Do you need any help?” ¬†“Where are you staying or need to go? ” “I can drive you!” etc.

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