Qarqbizeh (قرقبيزة) is perhaps the most visually impressive of the sites in the region of Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى), and is worth spending some time to explore. The setting overlooking the vast plain below is stunning, and the remains of this town are in remarkably good condition. The settlement is mostly made up of houses dating from the third to the sixth century. A patch for arable land nearby allowed the the early exploitation of this area for monoculture (olives) but archaeologist George Tchalenko speculates that the settlers, who joined the community established around the dominant land-holder, needed to supplement their resources with exploitation of grain on the plain below.
The buildings include at the top of the rise a house from the third century and adjoining it on the west a fourth century church probably originally a house but large enough to contain a bema in the single nave (with its throne still intact at the time of Tchalenko’s survey). The church is preceded by a colonnaded portico and a courtyard. There are two other villas which are later in date (fifth to sixth centuries). A little further away are the remains of six modest farmhouses.
Getting There: There is no regular public transportation into the region of Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى), presenting a challenge for visitors. There are two main routes for getting into the area.
The most common route is via the town of Harem (حارم), to the northwest, which has regular microbus connections with Aleppo (حلب) and Idleb (إدلب). Harem (حارم) is approximately ten kilometers from Banabel (بنابل), the northernmost site in the region, and about fifteen kilometers from Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة). The road leading up to Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى) begins about two kilometers to the east of Harem (حارم), on the road coming into town from Aleppo (حلب). From there, it should be possible to hitchhike the remaining eight kilometers south to Banabel (بنابل), but traffic is relatively light. The alternative would be to hire a private driver in Harem (حارم).
The less commonly traveled route, which is actually closer to the main site of Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة), is via the town of Qurqaniya (قورقنيا), to the east of Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى). Qurqaniya (قورقنيا) has semi-frequent microbus connections with Aleppo (حلب) and Idleb (إدلب) and is about six kilometers southeast of Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة). The main road through Qurqaniya (قورقنيا) continues west, then northwest across a small valley. On the opposite end of the valley a steep road ascends to Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى). Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة) is found to the left directly beyond this ascent. Traffic seems a bit more frequent on this route, so hitchhiking should be possible, or a private driver could be hired in Qurqaniya (قورقنيا).
Once in Jebel al-Aala (جبل الأعلى), there are approximately eight sites of interest. With an early arrival to the region, they can all be visited in a full day of exploration on foot. Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة) is the largest village in the area and the most well-known site, so it may be preferable to start there, especially if traveling the Qurqaniya (قورقنيا) route. If traveling from Harem (حارم), it may be preferable to start at the northernmost site of Banabel (بنابل) and continue south from there.
Qarqbizeh (قرقبيزة) is located about 500 meters to the northeast of Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة), clearly visible on the eastern side of the road between it and Banabel (بنابل). The road running up to Qalb Lozeh (قلب لوزة) from Qurqaniya (قورقنيا), to the east, also passes by the site.
Coordinates: 36°10’30.29″N / 36°35’07.93″E
Transliteration Variants: Kirkbizeh, Karkbizeh, Kirkbize, Karkbize, Kirkbiza, Karkbiza, Qirqbizeh, Qirqbize, Qarqbize, Qirqbiza, Qarqbiza
Rating: (5 / 10)