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Yahmur Citadel

Qalaat Yahmur (Yahmur Castle):

12 km south east of Tartous; there are sites in the environs earlier than the Crusaders, including some Roman tombs. It was probably not fortified until the tenth century. Still she's standing to show the greatness of this land facing the invaders and standing up for victory.


The Byzantines under the Emperor Nicephorus (who reinstated Byzantine authority in this area, 3 centuries after the Arab conquest) built the first fortification. It is not clear how much of the fortress belong really to the Crusader period. The early Crusader fortress was in 1177 transferred to the Hospitables who had been given the job of insuring the defense of the hinterland of Tartous. They improved in the Byzantine effort with their skills in fortification and defensive technology. The architecture looks typically Crusader in its present appearance.


Chastel Rouge (Red Castle) temporarily fell to the Muslims in 1188 during Saladin's campaign in the area. The Crusaders recovered it and it remained in their hands for another century. It fell, in the end, in 1289, two years before Tartous, to the forces of the Mameluke Sultan, Qalaun.


The keep, essentially a fortified watch-tower with a surrounding wall, was built as part of the outer defenses of Tartous, complementing the larger fortified points in the area, Safita (Castle Blanc) and Areimeh Castle. The three points were in line of sight, enabling contact by signal fires.


The construction is basic but solid, typical of Frankish work of the mid 12th century. It consists of stubby square tower with a lower room now used for village cattle surrounded by outer wall obscured by modern housing. Passing the tower, there's the lower chamber with the arched vaults coming down to a central pillar. The upper storey is reached by a staircase built into the north wall. The terrace gives a commanding view of the countryside.