Al-Khawabi Citadel

A Continuously inhabited Citadel on the Syrian coast.

Al-Khawabi Citadel is located  20 Km to the North-East of Tartous City in the Syrian Coast, and it is registered in the Syrian Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) as a private property. To reach the Citadel, one has to drive about 25 minutes by car in the charming greenery of olive trees in the countryside of Tartous.

The Citadel was built by mountain inhabitants, and then restored by the Byzantines in 1025. It was possessed by Mohamed Bin Ali Bin Hamed, who handed it to the Crusaders in 1111. Then the Franks conquered it, took it from a local governor in 1140, and called it ‘Le Coïble ‘.  Afterwards, it fell to the Ismailis, and Sinan Rashid Al-Din renovated it in1162-1193, by removing some walls and building others. And according to many historical accounts stories, the entrance was attributed to him.

The Citadel was attacked in 1213 by Bohemond IV, after the murder of his son Raymond in the Cathedral of Tartous. The Ismailis asked for help from forces in Damascus and Aleppo, and the Crusader siege was lifted by this Islamic alliance.

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Al-Khawabi was one of the thirteen counties of Lattakia in 1831 which were ruled by a governor under the Pasha of Akka. And when the Ottoman government changed the administrative divisions in the Ottoman Empire (the Tanzimat reforms) in 1865, Al-Khawabi became annexed to Al-Markab, which in turn was annexed to Tripoli. Al-Khawabi became an arsenal in Sheikh Saleh Al-Ali’s period, after being evacuated of its original residents, who were settled in the neighbouring villages, apart from a few who went to Salamiyyah and Masyaf.

According to historical references, Al-Khawabi Citadel has not been used for any defensive or military purposes since the 12th century, and it has been inhabited ever since. In the last decades, residents have demolished several parts of the walls in order to build their houses, but parts of the ancient walls especially in the lower parts of the external walls and the inner castle, are still visible.

In the upper part of the Citadel we notice the use of reinforced concrete in thin layers, which characterizes the architectural style in the late Ottoman period and the beginning of the French mandate period.


Arch. Zeina El-Cheikh; BA. Architecture Thesis: "Rehabilitation of Al-Khawabi Citadel", Faculty of Architecture/Tishreen University (Lattakia-Syria)


- Veronique Vachon, La forteresse Musulmane en Syrie du Nord Médiévale (XIIe – XIV s.), Vol. 1 textes, p. 83.

- Thierry Bianquis, Damas et l Syrie sous les Fatimides ( 359-468/969-1076), Tome II, Damas, 1989. p. 480

- Ross Burns, Monuments of Syria, an historical guide, London-New york 1992, p. 177-178

- Jean-Claude Voisin, Le Temps des Forteresses en Syrie Du Nord VIe- XVe Siècles, Beyrouth.

- Jacques Weulersse, Le Pays des Alouites, Institut Français de Damas.

- Haytham Hasan (DGAM), field visit report 2005.

Arch. Zeina El-Cheikh