Among Syrians, Abu Qubeis (آبو قبيس) is one of the most popular sites in the region around Hama (حماة). To foreign visitors, however, it is largely unknown. Locals come here mostly for the natural scenery: the village of Abu Qubeis (آبو قبيس) is located in a mountain river valley, surrounded by pine forests. Particularly in summer, this small Alawite village is full of locals picnicking along the river. There are many restaurants and cafes lining the river along the road leading up to the village, though most are closed during the off-season. Those with an interest in archaeological sites are likely to be more interested in the Ismaili castle that overlooks the village.
With an amazing view overlooking the al-Ghab plain towards Qalaat Sheizar (قلعة شيزر) and Hama (حماة), Qalaat Abu Qubeis (قلعة آبو قبيس) is a small yet well-preserved Ismaili castle. The outer wall is round in shape, with five towers, surrounding a central keep. The rough stonework and method of construction are typical of Ismaili work. It is well worth a visit if you’re in the area, perhaps combined with Masyaf (مصياف) and/or Afamia/Apamea (آفاميا).
The site had earlier been utilized by Byzantine forces in the 999 campaign of Emperor Basil II to recover Syria. In 1133 it was held by a local Emir, Ibn Amrun. When the Ismailis moved into this area the Emir sold them the site, along with al-Qadmous (القدموس) and Qalaat al-Kahf (قلعة الكحف). Qalaat Abu Qubeis (قلعة آبو قبيس) may have been occupied for a time by the Crusaders in the first half of the 12th century before the Ismailis were present in strength in the area. They referred to the castle as Bokebeis. There is, however, no evidence of Crusader construction and little reference to the castle in the historical record, though it was believed for a time to have paid an annual tribute of 800 gold pieces to Qalaat al-Marqab (قلعة المرقب). Under the Ismailis, the canton of Qalaat Abu Qubeis (قلعة آبو قبيس) may have retained a degree of semi-autonomy from the rest of the Assassins’ territory.
Getting There: Getting to Qalaat Abu Qubeis (قلعة آبو قبيس) isn’t too difficult, though it is a good idea to start early. Public transportation in this area is very infrequent in the afternoon. The first step is getting to Tel Salhab (تل سلحب), a small town at the base of the mountains eight kilometers east of the village of Abu Qubeis (آبو قبيس). There are direct microbuses to Tel Salhab (تل سلحب) from Hama (حماة). The trip only takes about 30 minutes, though they stop running early in the afternoon.
Alternatively, microbuses also run between Tel Salhab (تل سلحب) and Masyaf (مصياف), which also takes about 30 minutes, and between Tel Salhab (تل سلحب) and al-Suqeilbiyeh (الصفيلبية) in about 15 minutes. You can return to Hama (حماة) via Masyaf (مصياف) or al-Suqeilbiyeh (الصفيلبية) if there are no direct microbuses to Hama (حماة) in the afternoon.
From Tel Salhab (تل سلحب), any microbus going to al-Dalieh (الدالية) will pass through Abu Qubeis (آبو قبيس) on the way. The trip takes about 15 minutes. Once in the village of Abu Qubeis (آبو قبيس), the castle is a 20 minute walk up an obvious road at the far end of the village which heads to the southeast. It is also possible to reach Abu Qubeis (آبو قبيس) by microbus from the coast via Jableh (جبلة) and al-Dalieh (الدالية), though this trip would take considerably more time.
Coordinates: 35°14’07.19″N / 36°19’52.10″E
Transliteration Variants: Qalaat Abu Kubeis, Qalaat Abu Kobeis, Qalaat Abu Qobeis, Qalaat Abu Kbeis, Qalaat Abu Qbeis, Qalaat Abu Kabeis, Qalaat Abu Qabeis
Rating: (6 / 10)