Cities and Regions

Syria’s only island, Arwad is located 3 km off the coast of Tartus. An independent kingdom in the days of the Canaanites, it rose to prominence again in Phoenician times when it served as a major shipping port and became an independent kingdom. During the Roman period, the islands importance diminished when commerce shifted from the island back to the city of Tartus.

During the crusades, the Knights Templar built an island fortress. After their departure from Tartus in 1291, the Templars held on to this fortress as their last foothold in the Middle East before retreating to Cyprus. Their fortress fell to the Arabs in 1303.

The island of Arwad, 20 minutes by boat from Tartus, is today a quiet fishing port and vacation spot. It has many cafes, restaurants, narrow winding streets, fragments of Phoenician walls and two castles: the Crusader citadel in the center of the island, and an Arab castle on the waterfront. The citadel was used as a prison for the Syrian nationalists during the resistance against the French Mandate (1920-1946). The walls of some cells are still covered with the writing of the nationalists. The Arab castle has been renovated and converted into a museum.

Arwad’s economy depends on tourism, local crafts and fishing.

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