The citadel of St. Simeon is fabulous on several levels. The site dates back to the 5th century C.E. and became famous with the arrival of Simeon, who made the site a major tourist attraction/pilgrimage destination even during his lifetime. Simeon used to stand on a pillar in order to get away from people and meditate on God (you can see renderings of this all over Syria). After Simeon's death, a giant church was built around the pillar and the site continued to draw masses for centuries. These days, the church and associated monastery are in ruins and the pillar has been reduced to a mere chunk of rock by centuries of tourists/pilgrims chipping away at it for relics/souvenirs. So why do I recommend this attraction so highly?
First, I find the history of tourism fascinating. Most of the time, we travelers go to see things that few people considered worthy of travel (or in the case of museums, even existed) until modern times. There is something about visiting a place that has drawn people for over 1,500 years that plays upon one's imagination.
Second, the site, while in ruins, is magnificent to see. The size of the church is still clearly visible and impressive, for one thing, and if you look closely, you can see partially uncovered mosaic floors, the rest of which is presumably awaiting excavation under a thin layer of dirt. The site is lovely to wander around, especially if you get there early. I arrived around 9 a.m. on a cold December morning (driving my own car) and it was nice to beat the tourist groups that were beginning to arrive on my way out.
The citadel is located about 45 minutes outside of Aleppo--it's an easy morning or afternoon trip.
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