Thursday, June 11, 2015

Outremer - Geography and climate

At their peak the Crusader states extended from Cilicia in the north to the northern edge of the Sinai Peninsula in the south; until the collapse that followed the Battle of Hattin, they included the whole of western Palestine and the eastern edge of Transjordan. After the Third Crusade the island of Cyprus also came under Frankish rule. Rarely are the blessings and curses of nature so heavily concentrated in one fairly small region, although the blessings perhaps outweigh the curses. In the north, from the Taurus Mountains to the east, the countryside is fertile and well watered. So too is the Lebanon and the coastal plain as far south as Rafiah. The Golan, and beyond it the Hauran, are highly fertile basaltic lands. To the south and east, however, aridity sets in, broken here and there by springs and oases. The climate varies over this region but generally falls into a pattern of an extended dry season commencing in April and continuing until late October, tempered only by occasional morning mists. It is followed by a wet season during which heavy but erratic showers occur, often of short duration but occasionally lasting for several days. Most of the towns are situated along the Mediterranean littoral. In the Crusader period these included Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Akko, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Ascalon. Several secondary and some important towns lie inland: Antioch on the River Orontes, Tiberias and Nazareth in the lower Galilee, Sebaste, and Nablus in the Samaria Hills, Lydda and Ramla in the inland plain, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron in the Judean hills.

The island of Cyprus is physically little different from the mainland. It is often coarse, dry countryside with narrow, seasonal streams, but it is also remarkably fertile. The well-watered Troodos Mountains rise at the island’s centre to a height of over 1800 m. To the north is the lower, Kyrenia range (1067 m). Between them is an extensive plain, the Mesaoria, and to the south of the Troodos are the plains of Paphos and Limassol. The principal towns and districts are Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol, Famagusta, Paphos and Kyrenia. Under the Lusignans Cyprus was divided into twelve districts: Nicosia, Salines (Larnaca), Limassol, Famagusta, Paphos, Kyrenia, the Mesaoria, the Karpas Peninsula, the Masoto, Avdimou, Chrysokhou and Pendayia.

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