Al-Rusafa, Syria

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Rassafah, Rosafah, Resafi
Al-Rusafa is located in Syria
Location in Syria
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Country  Syria
Governorate Hama
District Masyaf
Subdistrict Masyaf
Population (2004)
 • Total 1,608
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
City Qrya Pcode C3360

Al-Rusafa (Arabic: الرصافة‎‎ Ruṣāfa, also spelled Rassafah, Rosafah or Resafi) is a Syrian village located in the Masyaf Subdistrict in Masyaf District, located west of Hama and about 10 kilometers southwest of Masyaf.[1] According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), al-Rusafa had a population of 1,608 in the 2004 census.[2] Its inhabitants are predominantly Alawites.[3] It is the site of a former Ismaili fortress.


At the northern edge of the village is the fortress of al-Rusafa, which is situated on a hill 60 meters higher than the village itself. The fortress is largely preserved, although it is mostly covered by trees and vegetation. In the medieval period, it acted as a subsidiary fortress for the main Ismaili fortress of Masyaf. At its largest extent, it measures roughly 75 meters by 30 meters and is oval-shaped. The fortress was constructed from stone from local quarries and it consists of three stories.[1]

The entrance in the northwestern section of the fortress is guarded by a tower. The outer walls are dominated by galleries and chambers, which presumably played the role of battlements. The lowest floor contains several storage rooms, a number of which were built 20 meters deep into the ground. The middle area of al-Rusafa is marked by the extensive presence of vaulted rooms. Although ruined, the central towers "are still high" according to Peter Willey,[1] an authority on Ismaili castles.[4]


Al-Rusafa was taken over by the Nizari Ismailis around 1140 CE along with other fortresses in the vicinity, namely Masyaf, Khawabi, al-Maniqa and Qulay'a.[5] The fortress was rebuilt by the Ismaili da'i (chief) Rashid ad-Din Sinan in the 1160s.[6] It is possible that another fortress stood in its place prior to the Ismaili conquest.[1] In May 1271, the Bahri Mamluk sultan Baibars besieged and captured al-Rusafa from the Ismailis.[7]

In the mid-1960s, al-Rusafa was a small village that contained an old khan (caravanserai) in addition to its partially ruined fortress.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Willey, 2005, p. 228.
  2. "General Census of Population 2004". Retrieved 2014-07-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Honigman, p. 791.
  4. Peter Willey. The Institute of Ismaili Studies.
  5. Willey, 2005, p. 44.
  6. Willey, 2005, p. 46.
  7. Daftary, 2007, p. 433.
  8. Boulanger, 1966, p. 349.