In May 2009 I was lucky enough to visit Syria. This is how it was before the tragic conflict.
Hama is famous for its norias, huge wooden water wheels used to lift water from the River Orontes to irrigate the crops. It is claimed that they date back to 1100 BC and although no longer serving their original purpose they acted as a touristic curiosity attraction.
There were seventeen dotted along the river that used to be worked manually by farmhands, but now lay idle.
They did however make a partial turn every now and again in the wind, accompanied by an eerie creaking noise as the ancient wood strained.
I imagined that they would have been pretty deafening when in full swing.
This was borne out when Hamish and I strolled out to a restaurant on the edge of town that sat in the partial shadow of one of the giant structures.
A group of Syrians were eating there and they persuaded the waiting staff to climb a small fence, ascend some steep steps and turn the adjacent noria wheel for the enjoyment of the diners.
What a din the straining wood and metal made, accompanied by the gushing water that spouted from the top of the contraption, drawn by the motion of the wheel. It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would have sounded like with all seventeen working at once.
Enough to make any dogs in the vicinity run for cover, that’s for sure!
Sadly I understand that some of the norias have been damaged in line with much of the troubled nation.
May peace return.