Syria's main port is on the north coast, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Known to the ancient world as Laodicea, it has grown from a small fishing village to today's thriving port. Its surrounding beaches and large, out-of-town hotels are mucch favored by local holiday makers.

The port itself is said to date from about 400B.C. and contains a ruin of the Temple of Bacchus and a triumphal archway. Its streets are wide and tree-lined, giving it an almost European ambience.

It provides a good base from which to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Ras Shamra, 16km away. Known in ancient times as Ugarit, this was once a thriving center for trade with Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia. The French has excavated the stone-built city for the last fifty years and a variety of palaces, temples and houses have been unearthed

The earliest-known complete alphabet has been found here, written on well-preserved tablets and now on display in museums in Lattakia, Aleppo and Damascus, as well as in the Paris Louvre. Local buses depart for the ruins hourly from Lattakia.

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