Hama

Key facts

► The city of Hama is known in the world for its extraordinary cultural heritage with particular regard to the Norias on the Oronte river, a unique hydraulic system.

► The city has been one of the cradle of the revolution, on June 2011 Hama hosted a 400.000 people demonstration that is considered to be the first large scale demonstration in the whole country.

► The city was sieged by the government controlled forces and was regained by the government. Some areas show high level of damage and some quarters were completely destroyed.

32
Original norias

Hama, the fifth most important city of Syria in terms of population and production, is located in the Central Region, on the banks of the Orontes River. It is located in the middle of the extended valley bottom line which, by stretching parallel to the ridge of the Alawi Mountains, leads from Aleppo to Damascus and, crosses the counter ridge route that links Salamiyeh to Missyaf, goes past the Alawi and continues until the Mediterranean, near Tartus. Due to its strategic position along the main trade and cultural routes of Syria, Hama has become the fifth centre in the Country and competes with Damascus and Aleppo for the title of the oldest inhabited town in the world. The fame of the town is primarily due to the imposing norias of Seleucid epoch (IV c. BC), enormous wooden hydraulic wheels (there were 32 norias in the town) which have lifted water, used to irrigate vegetable and botanical gardens from river
Orontes for centuries.
The city of Hama still possess seventeen significant specimens of norias (diameter ranges from 10 to 22 metres) which form an integral part of its urban landscape and contributes to its renown. Their origins date back to the Arab medieval era, but a mosaic dating from 469 B.C. suggests that they existed long before that era.
Hama is characterized morphologically by the presence of two elements: the tell, that is an artificial hill formed by overlapping of construction and the river that asymmetrically divides the urban agglomeration into two macro-sectors. The tell is the element that certainly dominates the urban landscape. Its volumetry occupies about 10 hectares raising for 40 metres from ground zero of the soil. Transformed in a urban park in the flat part of its top, it has abrupt faces made of rough soil fragmented by the furrows for the draining of rainwater.

Hama was an important prehistoric settlement, becoming the kingdom of Hamath under the Aramaeans in the 11th century bce. It fell under Assyrian control in the 9th century bce and later passed under Persian, Macedonian, and Seleucid rule, the Seleucids renaming the city Epiphaneia in the 2nd century bce. During Byzantine rule it reverted to Emath, a form of its traditional name. When the Arabs took the city in the 7th century ce, they transformed the principal Christian church into a great mosque. Hamah was captured by Crusaders in 1108, retaken by the Muslims in 1115, destroyed by an earthquake in 1175, and occupied by Saladin in 1188 and the Ottomans in the early 16th century. It passed to Syria after World War I.
Hamah serves as an important agricultural market centre for cotton, cereals, fruit, and vegetables. Other economic activities include flour milling, wool and textile weaving, tanning, and cement manufacturing. Especially famous are the city’s gardens, which flank the river and are irrigated by great wooden waterwheels measuring between 10 metres and 22 metres in diameter. They were constructed in the 14th century to raise water to aqueducts, which supplied water for drinking and irrigation. Several of the original 32 of these waterwheels are in present-
day use.
With the Hama province largely controlled by Army Forces, the FSA launched an offensive on 16 December 2012, to capture the province and Hama city itself and by the same time, cutting the principal supply route of the Army in Aleppo. In the following years, several offenses have occurred in the north of the city.

17
Norias in use

Up to

22
meters