Latakia (Al ladhiqiyah) Is main sea-port of Syria on the
Mediterranean. It is situated on the low-lying Ra's Ziyarah promontory that
projects into the Mediterranean Sea. It was known to the Phoenicians as
Ramitha and to the Greeks as Leuke Akte. Its present name is a
corruption of Laodicea, for the mother of Seleucus II (3rd century
Latakia lies 186 km southwest of Aleppo,
186 km northwest of Homs and 348 km northwest
of Damascus. (Latakia
Latakia has retained its importance since ancient times. As Latakia
is the sea-gate to Syria, It is well-provided with accommodation, and is
well-placed as a base from which to explore the coastal regions of the
country. There are beaches, mountains, archaeological sites and many relics
of the Crusaders, all within a few hours from each other.
Ancient Ramitha replaced the earlier settlement of Ugarit (Ras
Shamra) to the north, which was destroyed in the 12th century BC.
Latakia only came to prominence in the wake of Alexander the Great's
conquest, when is was transformed into a major city of the Seleucid
empire. Renamed in honour of Loadicea, the mother of
Alexander the Great's general Seleucus I Nicator (3rd and 2nd centuries BC),
it developed into an important port and becoming the main supplier of wine
to the Hellenistic period. The town was briefly declared capital of Syria in
the late second century AD by Septimius Severus. Devastating earthquakes in
494 and 555 badly damaged Latakia, but was rebuilt by Justinian. Latakia
was taken in AD 638 by the Arabs, in 1097-1103 by the crusaders, and in 1188
by Saladin. Subsequently the town was administered by Christians from
Tripoli, Muslims from Hama, and the Ottoman
Turks; it came within the French mandate of Syria and Lebanon in 1920.
Attractions and historical building
Some attractions in the city include a museum, that was an old
Ottoman khan which served as the governor's residence during the French
mandate. The museum houses some interesting examples of pottery,
glassware, clay tablets from nearby Ugarit, and contemporary
paintings. Another attraction to the city is a Roman gateway
(Tetraparticus) that consists of four columns.
The Syrian seashore is about 182 km long and its numerous beaches are
distinguished by soft sand, unpolluted sea, moderate climate and clear blue
skies. The Blue Beach of Latakia is the most popular beach on
the Eastern Mediterranean. Water-skiing, jet-skiing, and
windsurfing are popular activities in this resort town. Nearby are two
hotels, the Cham Cote d'Azur Hotel and L� Merdien Latakia Hotel.
The Syrian coast consists of long stretches of beaches and green mountains.
These mountains are mostly covered with pine and oak trees, and their
slopes touch the shore. This landscape repeats itself from
Ras Al-Basit in the north to Tartus in
the south. On the mountains, villages and towns are scattered, with springs
of clear mineral water.
Surrounding attractions, include Ugarit at Ras Shamra,
Qalaat Saladin - a formidable castle that has been well preserved,
Slunfeh, Kassab and Ras al-Bassit.
Latakia is now the principal port of Syria; it is located on a good
harbour, with an extensive agricultural hinterland. Exports include bitumen
and asphalt, cereals, cotton, fruit, eggs, vegetable oil, pottery, and
tobacco. Cotton ginning, vegetable-oil processing, tanning, and sponge
fishing are local industries. The University of Latakia was founded
in 1971 and renamed Gami't Tishrin (University of October) in 1976. The city
is linked by road to Aleppo,
Homs, Tripoli, and Beirut. All
but a few classical buildings have been destroyed, often by earthquakes;
those remaining include a Roman triumphal arch and Corinthian columns known
as the colonnade of Bacchus.
Latakia governorate has an area of 887 sq mi (2,297 sq km) and
embraces Syria's fertile Mediterranean coastal area. It is an important
agricultural region, producing abundant crops of tobacco, cotton, cereal
grains, and fruits.