Only a 15 minute boat ride from the bustling Syrian port of Tartous lies the island of Arwad. Although barely more than an outcrop of rock, some 500 people live here, on Syria's only island, making a living from fishing and boat building.
The island has little part to play in Syria's security these days although that was not always the case. Arwad's history, dates back over 3,000 years to when the Phoenicians used it as a secure port for their eastern Mediterranean trading routes. The Romans and then the Crusaders followed their lead, using the island as a staging post to supply their armies on the mainland. The remains of their fortifications can still be seen today.
A number of decaying Beirut-registered freighters lie moored at the harbour mouth. Rusted and pock marked they make an eerie sight. Local youths amuse themselves and others by diving from the bows of these crumbling hulks into the waves below, with a cry of "Yaa Allah" as they somersault through the air.
Apart from the freighters, on first sight the harbour at Arwad looks more Greek than Syrian. Greek designs seem to have...