Ancient Butrint was an important Greco-Roman city port, now an impressive ancient site listed under UNESCO World Heritage, located on the coast of south Albania, south of Saranda port, on a cape half-circled by a large salt lake. Inhabited continuously from the 7th C BC until abandoned in 18th C, its impressive cyclopean walls are reminiscent of Ancient Mycenae, however most of the noteworthy excavated remains are Early Hellenistic and Roman. Of special interest is the circular baptistery of the 6th C., paved with fine mosaics.
The town of Saranda is the commercial port and main town in south Albania. It is build directly over the Roman town ruins in the area. The Onhezmi Synagogue was built in the 5th Century AD inside the Onhezmi fort area. Judging from the size of the two storey structure, the local Jewish community was a large and wealthy one. Although its origins are not entirely clear, according to Judean patterns, Hebrews living dispersed in the countryside have migrated to urban centres during peaceful and prosperous times. Onhezmi was located on the sea coast, on the overland trade route between Corfu, Thessaloniki, and Constantinople (Istanbul).
The Hebrew populations scattered on the Mediterranean shores in the late antiquity period were surely involved in trade. It is known from one late antiquity text, that the Onhezmi community had contacts with an Italian Hebrew community near Lecce. The inscription on a tombstone says that the deceased was the daughter of the head of the Onhezmi Hebrew community. The synagogue served both as a religious and as a community service centre. It was built in at least two stages. Originally, the synagogue was a two storey structure and included a prayer hall with a mosaic floor picturing a Menorah. At some point the community prospered and built a new prayer hall in basilica style.
- Duration: 4 ½ hours
- Advice to clients: Bring your camera and wear comfortable shoes.
- This tour is not recommended for people with walking difficulties.
Tour Timings Breakdown:
- 00:00 Departure from the port.
- 00:45 Arrival at Butrint and guided tour of Butrint.
- 02:30 End of guided tour - Coffee break at café near the Butrint site.
- 03:00 Departure from Butrint.
- 03:45 Arrival to Saranda and sightseeing walking tour of the city of Saranda including visit at the synagogue.
- 04:30 Arrival back at the port (on foot).
- The distance between Saranda to Butrint is 21 km and takes 45 min by bus.
- For the walk through the ancient city of Butrint, comfortable shoes are recommended.
- This tour is not recommended for people with severe walking difficulties.
- People with walking difficulties, will only be able to visit the flat part of the ancient site of Butrint, namely the ancient theatre, the Baptistirium and the Early Christian Basilica. The walk to the Venetian castle and the museum on the top of the hill involves some 120 steps (up and down).
- The synagogue of Saranda is located at the centre of the city.
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