The ancient settlement of Al-Bara is one of the largest and most impressive of Syria's "Dead Cities." It was founded in the 4th century CE as a small settlement on the western edge of a wadi approximately 90 km southwest of Aleppo. The settlement boomed in the 5th and 6th centuries and does not appear to have been affected by the Muslim conquest of the Levant in the 7th century. Crusaders took control of the site in 1098, and held the town until the 12th century, when it was subsequently conquered by the Mamluks. An earthquake in 1157 left the town uninhabitable.
The ruins of Al-Bara spread over an area of tree-covered hillsides and valleys 2 km x 3 km wide. There are two pyramidal-roofed tombs: a larger, richly-decorated tomb that contains five sealed sarcophagi, and a second, smaller and less-decorated tomb in excellent condition. Five churches stretch along the central line of ruins at the site. The two-story monastery of Deir Sobat (6th century) lies on the southern edge of the ruins, along with two other monasteries - Deir Debbane and al-Deir - that are in a poorer state of preservation. A Crusader-era fort Qalaat Abu Safian sites at the northeastern edge of the site. A wine press building is in a very ruinous condition. The town's olive press is carved into rock in a semi-underground vault-like space.
Burns, Ross. The monuments of Syria: a guide, 71-74. London: I.B. Tauris, 2009.
Darke, Diana. Syria, 157-159. Chalfont St. Peter: Bradt Travel Guides, 2010.