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The road back toward Aleppo goes by several other sites, some deserted like Kharab Shams and Kallota, and others such as Basofan and Burj Haydar where ruins have been overrun by modern structures. Just off the Aleppo-Lattakia road near Urum Al Joz, there is another area thick with Dead Cities. One of the most interesting is Serjilla, a silent city in a small valley noted for its baths and villas.

Walking down a gentle slope one passes tombs hewn from great stone blocks whose tops are all ajar. Near the valley floor is the bath building, complete with a sudatorium (steam bath) and a frigidarium (cold bath). Adjacent is a graceful building with a double veranda thought to have been a meeting place. An American expedition working at the site at the turn of the century dubbed it “the cafe.”

Several villages, nearly intact, stand on the far slope of the valley. Stone lintels bear decorations (crosses, flowers, olive branches) that achieve elegance in their simplicity and radiate a human warmth in this rock-strewn, barren place. It is likely that Serjilla was once a lively town peopled by olive growers and stone hewers, landowners and merchants who, after their labors, lounged in the baths, chatted in the cafe and retired to their homes at the end of the day for a good, hearty Byzantine meal.

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Anthony Toth travels extensively in the Middle East.



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Tags: Syria Pilgrimage/pilgrims Architecture