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Hama city is located in the middle of the road that connects Damascus to Aleppo. The Orontes River that crosses the city moves the huge wooden wheels that bring water used for irrigation in gardens and orchards of the area. Modern pumps though, are more effective than the old, sluggish means of the past. That is why only ten of the thirty wheels existing in the Middle Ages are left.
In the neighborhoods of Hama, beside the river, there are small houses with their facades painted with folk art arabesques. People residing in these houses spend their lives hearing the creaking sounds made by the wheels spinning. This sound never stops and is similar to the clicks of an unworldly and almost scary medieval clock.
The town that could once be called a fairy-tale city, is now one of today's biggest industrial centers in Syria with more than 350.000 citizens. Nevertheless, in the neighborhoods beside the river, time passes by slowly and evolution has not yet changed tradition. Children use the wooden wheels like platforms to dive into the river. Modern Syria may be changing over time, but the children of Orontes still play and grow up near its shores just like they used to in the old times.
(The article was written before the civil war's outburst in Syria, during which Hama was bombed by the governmental army, because it was the hideout of rebellious Islamists).
TEXT-PHOTOS: GEORGE ZAFEIROPOULOS