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Maarat al-Numan

One of the main towns in the governorate of Idleb (73 km south of Aleppo) is the town of Maarat Al Numan. The town lies in a moderately prosperous agricultural belt on the southern edge of the limestone area of northern Syria, between the Orontes and the desert.

Traces of ancient remains are found in modern habitations, illustrating the antiquity of the town. Though known to the Greek and Romans as Arra, surviving buildings attest only to its history since the coming of Islam. Its modern name refers to "al Numan Ibn Bashir al Ansari", a companion of the Prophet who was made governor of the region by the Umayyad Caliph Moawiya (ruled 661 - 81).

It has been contested several times by forces seeking to control northern Syria. The Byzantines took it in 968 during the attempt by the Emperor Nicephorus to profit from instability in Syria and regain possession of northern Syria for Constantinople. As the Fatimids moved in by 996, the town lapsed back into Aleppo's orbit. The Crusaders passed this way in 1098 on their initial march south to Jerusalem and halted while they disputed tactics and options. In their three weeks siege was destructive; the townspeople were cut down in a famous massacre which saw the slaughter of 20,000 Muslims including many women and children.

The town did not permanently revert to Muslim control until Nūr al Din Zengi reoccupied it in 1135 as part of the first concerted effort to dislodge the Crusaders from inland areas. Under the later Ayyūbids, it was dependent on Aleppo and, under Mamelukes, on Hama.

Abu Alaa Al Maari TombAl Maari Tomb: The Arabic poet "Abu al Ala al Maari" was born in this town. A modern tomb marks his burial.

Maarat Citadel: On the north western edge of the town, the remains of the medieval citadel stand. The scale is small.

The Great Mosque: In the center of town, one can find the handsome minaret originally erected in the first half of the 12th century but rebuilt after an earthquake in 1170.

The Museum: In an early 16th century Khan Murad Pasha - the largest khan in Syria. It contains an interesting collection of objects including mosaics and pottery from many periods.

There are also Al Madrassa Al Nourieh and the tombs of the Caliph Omar bin Abdul Azziz.