We were at a crossroads in Syria and needed to figure out whether the next stop should be the ancient city of Hama aka Hamah (Epiphania) or Homs aka Hims, Syria? We then turned to the help of the internet. We checked out some somewhat reliable travel forums, did some quick Google searches, read a little and decided that Hama was a good jumping point to see several sites including: Krak des Chevaliers, Apamea, Qasr ibn Wardan, the Dead Cities or Serjilla and of course the Norias in town. Besides, its mid-June and it’s getting into the upper 80’s F. This is probably why we have found very few travelers and have the sites pretty much to ourselves. This is a good and bad thing. We still have to make our way up through eastern Turkey but we will be trekking up to see Mount Nemrut (2150m altitude) and it’s still chilly before the sun rises so no real hurry. We’re ok staying here for a few days.
The Beehive Villages that are just a few kilometers Northeast of Hama. They resemble something you would see the next village over from Tatooine. Maybe this is where the Sand Warriors lived? The Beehives are named so for obvious reason which is their shape. They are constructed of wood and clay which acts as insulation. The architectural shape naturally keeps hot air trapped in the upper reaches of the hive and the lack of windows keeps the sun out so inside temperatures between 75-85F. They also provide shelter and protection from both hot and cold desert winds. The best way to see them and other sites near-by is by hiring a reliable vehicle and a good driver which you can only hope to get.
We happened to be staying at the Sarah Hotel (it was central, sort of clean and cheap) in the center of Hama and conveniently enough they where able to find such a driver. We negotiated a fixed price for the three days we were there. We could have done one more day but were able to see what we wanted. It’s probably just a fraction of what was in the area but we intend on visiting the area again. I do recommend spending a few days here and not just an overnight. There’s so much to see in the Orontes River Valley. I highly recommend hiring a local guy to take guide you around the sites. If you go with a group on a minibus you could have an experience like this fellow traveler at Traveladventures.org did. It’s a group tour and it’s maybe catching a glimpse of them along the way to your next destination is all that’s necessary. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that.
More great references to the Beehives and the Hama area can be seen on:
Girl Solo in Arabia (great pics)
and on Wikipedia