Two sounds have defined Hama. One is the sound of army shells and gunfire: the city was decimated in 1982 during President Hafez al-Assad’s brutal repression of an Islamist insurgency. The other, the serenade of Hama’s creaking ancient wooden norias (water wheels) is famous throughout the Middle East, and made this attractive, though conservative, town one of the country’s tourism hotspots. Hama was also an excellent base for visiting Crac des Chevaliers, Apamea and other sights in the area. Now there is also the sound of protests against Bashar al-Assad and of reprisals by the regime.