The western quarter of Salamiyah.
Nickname(s): The mother of Cairo
Salamiyah is located in Syria
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 35°0′42.48″N 37°3′9″E / 35.0118°N 37.0525°E / 35.0118; 37.0525
Country  Syria
Governorate Hama Governorate
District Salamiyah District
Settled 3500 BCE
Elevation 475 m (1,558 ft)
Population (2009)
 - Total 200,000
 - Ethnicities Arab
 - Religions Ismaili, Sunni, Alawites, and Ithna Ashari Islam.
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Area code(s) 33
A full view of Shmemis (spring 1995).

Salamiyah (Arabic: سلميةSalamīya) is a city and district in western Syria, in the Hama Governorate. It is located 33 km southeast of Hama, 45 km northeast of Homs. The city is nicknamed the "mother of Cairo" because it was the birthplace of the second Fatamid Caliph Muhammad al-Qaim Bi-Amrillah, who's dynasty would eventually establish the city of Cairo, and the early headquarters of his father Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah who founded the Fatamid Caliphate. The city is an important center of the Nizari Ismaili sect and also the birthplace of poet Muhammad al-Maghut.



Salamiyah is an ancient city which was first known during Babylonian times in 3500 BC. It was the dwelled in by Sumerians at around 3000 BC, the Amorites around 2400 BC, the Aramaeans around 1500 BC, and the Nabateans around 500 BC. The city was destroyed for the first time by the Assyrians in the year 720 BC. After being rebuilt, the city was part of the Roman Empire and ruled by the Royal family of Emesa, a Roman Client Kingdom of Ancient Rome where they built the famous Shmemis castle on the remains of a former volcano, 5 km northwest of Salamiyah.

During the Byzantine Empire, Salamiyah existed as a Christian center with its own autocephalic Archbishop, until the city was destroyed for a second time during the Persian invasion of Syria of 637 during the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars by commander Kisra Ibrawiz who raised the city to the ground. The city was rebuilt again in the Islamic era by Abdullah ibn Saleh ibn Ali al-Abassi, the Abbasid governor of southern and center Syria, in 754 and was settled by some Hashimites during the Abbasid era, and al-Abbasi's son Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Saleh transformed the city into an important commercial center.

According to Ismaili Muslims, their Imam, Isma'il ibn Jafar died and was buried in the city after going into hiding during the eighth century. The city became the secret headquarters of the Ismaili movement from the early ninth century until 902, it was from there that missionaries were originally sent for propagating the Ismaili teachings in different regions. It was from Salamiyah, that the Ismaili Imams secretly guided the activities of their followers from North Africa to Persia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia. According to conflicting histories, the Ismaili Imam, and first Fatamid Caliph, Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah was either born in Salamiyah or came to the city in 882 from Khuzistan, in modern day Iran where he was raised by his uncle Abul Shalaghlagh the Hujjah (also called Lahiq) or clerical leader of the Ismailis of Salamiyah one of the twelve Ismaili communities at the time. Ubayd Allah's son Muhammad al-Qaim Bi-Amrillah, an Ismaili Imam and the second Fatamid Caliph, was born in Salamiyah in the late ninth century, and both left the city to establish the Fatamid state in northern Africa in the early tenth century.

After the death of Abul Shalaghlagh in 899, a dispute arose between Salamiyah Ismailis due to the fact that he left no male descendants and apparently had designated his nephew Ubayd Allah as his spiritual successor and leader of the Salamiyah Ismaili movement. Thereafter, a schism split the movement, provoked by Ubayd Allah's claims on the imamate for himself and his descendants. Hamdan Qarmat and 'Abdan, who may have previously drifted slightly away from the doctrine propagated by the leadership, broke off their support. Qarmat's followers would eventually be known as the Qarmatians, and after Ubayd Allah fled from Salamiyah to found the Fatamid Ismaili state in North Africa in 899, the Qarmatis would reject the legitimacy of the Fatamids. In 903, Salamiyah was destroyed for the third time by an invasion from the rebel Qarmatian Ismailis.

Salamiyah is mentioned by historians as a very small town with limited rural settlement consequent to the Qarmatian invasion until the early Ottoman period wherein it was apparently deserted due to lack of protection from Bedouin attacks. Salamiyah was rebuilt when permission by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II through a firman in July 1849 gave permission for the emigration of Ismailis led by Ismail bin Muhammad, the Ismaili amir of Qadmus in northern Syria. Ismailis from Qadmus and Masyaf amongst other smaller towns and villages emigrated to the newly rebuilt city which was first occupied by only sixteen families and by 1861, Salamiyah became an agricultural village. The final major Ismaili immigration to Salamiyah occurred in 1919.

Salamiyah is currently the largest population center of Ismaili Muslims in the Arab world. The remains of Prince Aly Khan, the father of the current Nizari Ismaili Imam Aga Khan IV, are buried in the city. The headquarters of the Ismaili Shia Higher Council of Syria are in the city, as are dozens of Jama'at Khana. During the mid-twentieth century, Salamiyah saw a growth of religious diversity with the building of the first Sunni mosque, and now the city is home to almost a dozen Sunni mosques and a Jafari Shia mosque in the city's Qadmusite Quarter which is home to most of the city's Ithna Ashari Shia which migrated to the city after ethnic and religious clashes in their hometown of Qadmus in the early twentieth century. Currently, a little more than half of the city's residents are Ismaili.

In 1934, Muhammad al-Maghut, the poet credit for being the father of free verse Arab poetry, was born in Salamiyah. In 1991, visitors from the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Ismaili Shia Islam in Yemen built the Mosque of Imam Ismail adjacent to the grave of the Ismaili Imam Ismail. The mosque was built by order of their leader the Da'i al-Mutlaq Mohammed Burhanuddin according to an inscription on the mosque's wall. Although currently used for worship by Sunni Muslims, the mosque and mausoleum are visited in religious pilgrimages by Dawoodi Bohra worldwide.


The city is an agricultural center, with a largely agriculture based economy. Mate is extremely popular in Salamiyah and a drink of major cultural importance in social gatherings.

Main sights

  • A hammam of unique architecture, likely dating from the Ayyubid era, sits in the town center, near a large underground Byzantine cistern which is said to lead all the way to Shmemis castle. There also exists one wall from an ancient Byzantine citadel.
  • The castle, of Roman-Greek origins.
  • Walls, rebuilt by Zengi
  • Mosque of al-Imam Ismail, which originated as a Greek temple of Zeus, and was turned into a church in Byzantine times.
  • Remains of Roman canals, used for agriculture

External links

Coordinates: 35°0′42.48″N 37°3′9.00″E / 35.0118°N 37.0525°E / 35.0118; 37.0525

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