The cisterns of Rasafa


There are moments in the trips in which the experiences and sensations are so intense that in some we could get to release that tear of emotion that costs us so much in the daily routine. Even time, and everything around us stop. This happened to us not long ago, instead lost in the great Syrian desert. We were at Rasafa

Rasafa, Ar-rasafa or Arrassafeh, It is neither more nor less than that formerly known in Roman times as Sergiopolis, where San Sergio was martyred and where we arrived following the course of the Euphrates River looking for the great Aleppo that DAY 5 of the 2009 trip to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Not long ago, we debated old friends, which are those monumental places in the world that had gotten from us that "stop" in time. Even Sele himself made a very participatory article about it. For the keys, places like the Vatican Necropolis, the great steppe of temples in Bagan, he mysticism of Machu Pichu wave loss city of the Nabateans, Petra, perfectly meet these characteristics. But how did an abandoned ghost town in the middle of the Syrian desert represent for us so much?

Rasafa is that, a city of mysteries and ghosts, 30 km from Raqqa and 160 km from Aleppo. An abandoned ruins complex with great centuries of history and legends behind it.

On that occasion the travel companions who accompanied us to discover it were the same as they will do in our adventure this summer (! EYE TO THE CONTEST OF THIS YEAR, THAT PROMISES TO BE FUN AND will begin shortly!). We talk about Juve and Ruthour Secuoias friends and travelers who like to discover.

What did we discover in this city that we were so passionate about? It was a desert day, sunny, hot. Rasafa is a city that has been "eaten" by the sand and in which relics of incalculable value are intuited inside.

Its origins date back to the time of the Assyrians but their true splendor would be achieved during the Roman Empire, or rather byzantine, with a fortified city strategically located for the Perso-Roman wars that never knew surrender (or so it is said).

Also during time it would receive the denomination of "City of Crystal", and days like this one that took us to her show us that it was. And it is that in its best days it should reflect the sunlight like a true mirror.

As we saw that day, entering the Northern Gate (in which you can still see perfectly "hidden" Byzantine symbols) and aligned with the Palmyra Gate (It was at this time when its splendor began) we began to see the Basilica of San Sergio That gives it its name. Walls, chapels and other remains are preserved in quite good condition.

And the name of Sergiopolis is born from a Christian history. Sergio and his brother Bacchus they were two private soldiers of the Roman army who they practiced Christianity in a hidden way within the fortification under the mandate of Emperor Maximian, but they were discovered ...

'I do not believe you when you say that Sergio and Bacchus are not devotees of the veneration and adoration of the gods, because so pure is the affection I feel for them that they could hardly deserve it if they were not sincere in their piety towards the gods. I will accompany you to the temple of the mighty Zeus, and if you sacrifice and eat of the sacred offerings, you will face the consequence of the slander that you are guilty. If they refuse to offer a sacrifice, the appropriate penalty will be applied to their ungodliness. For the gods will not want the squires of my empire to be ungodly and ungrateful. " And so, in the temple of Zeus the truth was discovered, and Sergio and Bacchus were tortured and martyred for the wrath of Maximian. Sergio's tomb was subsequently converted, with the conversion to Costantino Christianity, and the splendor of the Byzantine Empire, in worship for all Christians.

But THE GREAT SECRET of Rasafa It is not found in its history and its legends, not even in its relics. The great secret of Rasafa is in the subsoil of what can be seen ... !! IN HIS HUGE UNDERGROUND CISTERNAS!

They do not recommend trying to get down to them but, fortunately or unfortunately, the situation in Syria regarding archaeological heritage is totally neglected since the French abandoned their economic contributions, which is a shame for the state of conservation of the same but, on the other hand, allows you to enjoy of the true authenticity of the same, far from the massive tourist exploitation (and because of its location in the middle of nowhere, of the tourists themselves - !! Not 1 in the whole complex except us! -)

And as they do not recommend trying to download. Juve, are we going down? Let's see where there is a hole ... Not here, not here, mmm, here ...

We are entering a huge perfectly preserved cisterns, hidden under the city, currently empty but releasing pure mysticism and many ghosts in their galleries.

Rasafa never had springs or groundwater from which to obtain it, so he had absolute dependence on these large cisterns to capture as much water as possible in winter and the rainy spring.

Currently, what they do enter are the beams of sunlight by the small hollows that once were pierced by the water, leaving still more mysterious photographs.

With no one going through the claustrophobic passageways, not prepared for any traveler, we return to the surface. It has been one of those experiences not to forget.

But Rasafa does not end here, since with the fall of the Byzantine Empire at the hands of the Umayyads, this city would become the Hisham ibn Abdul Malik's palace, third Caliph Omayyad, a palace that stood out for its modesty and simplicity, which did not alter too much the remains of the old fortification, and where it would die and be buried, although few ruins remain standing at this stage.

Inscriptions in Arabic, Greek, as well as engravings on the walls, indicate that Christians and Muslims would coexist in Syria from the 13th century onwards

Posada for caravan, Christian fortifications, Umayyad remains, immense cisterns, ... this is Rasafa, all today hidden under a blanket of sand to the free control of local Bedouins. This makes it look like children literally "loot" old coins and invaluable objects from among the ruins even throwing walls with sticks if necessary.

We leave that moment behind, in which we feel for a moment true Indianas Jones, sitting there, in the subsoil of what was once a great fortification, a great city. How many places will there be in the world like this? Do you tell us yours?

Isaac and CIA, from Rasafa (Syria)