Ton de Vreede


Ton de Vreede

I live in Amsterdam, and work in information technology.

Middle East » Jordan » North » Amman May 16th 2010

I was in Amman for a week. Somehow it did not quite do it for me this time. I guess after the rustic charm of Syria it was a bit too much concrete. Or something. Did relax at the Farah hotel though, build up some energy reserves before heading into the desert (not that it helps much, half a day of driving in the heat and you feel like you need another holiday, in Antartica). Also met some Dutch people who turned out to live a couple of streets away from me. Went out, found a place to drink some alcohol at, euh, interesting prices. On the way back to the hotel the guy bought some arak... suffice it to say, it is a good thing Hasims serves falafel at 5 in the morning, it was ... read more
The streets are dangerous...
Cats at the Farah Hotel
Just another beetle...

Middle East » Syria » South » Damascus May 7th 2010

Only a few days left in Syria. I've just been wandering in circles again, doing nuffink usefull at all. And that was fine :-) I took some pictures of a few kids the other day. Whereas in Europe a large bearded man photographing kids get chased by the police, in the Middle East everyone just enjoys the attention. After a few shots all the brothers and sisters were drummed up to have their photo taken, and before you know it you are surrounded by a screaming mass of children. The problem is not being allowed to photograph, it is being allowed to STOP photographing. Tears flowed as some thought there were not enough pictures of them, or they couldn't see properly... 8 pairs of tiny hands grabbing at my camera, run Forest run! It was all ... read more
Shadows and feet
Bus engine
Da Kidz

Middle East » Syria » South » Damascus May 6th 2010

Damascus steel is the stuff of legends: metal plates with lightly different carbon content welded together, folded many times and forged into swords that gave the crusaders a very nasty suprise. Flexible, light and sharp; it was the like the carbon fiber equivalent of steel in those days. If you're in Damascus and want to take home a unique souvenir, seek out the good stuff. The souks are littered with 'very old blade sir' knives made not in Damascus hundreds of years ago, but last winter in India. While the metal of the blades does show an effect not unlike proper Damascus steel, it is clear to see that it is not the same. Try to sharpen one of these puppies properly, and it's likely to fall to pieces as the metal layers peel away under ... read more

Middle East » Syria » South » Damascus May 2nd 2010

Damascus! At last! I took the mountain and rural roads through al Ghab to get to Hama and on to Damascus, a route I highly recommend (goint to Latakia and onto the highway is faster, but the mountains are great). Found my hotel without too much trouble, hauled my bike into the hall of the hotel and went out into the city a straight away. It takes some getting used to after the relaxed pace of Aleppo, and the friends I made there. Damascus is larger and more anonymous, I feel it has also changed since I was last here. So far I've been looking around a bit for old cameras (don't bother, anything of interest I found I could buy on eBay for a fraction of the asing price in Damascus), real Damascus steel (more ... read more
Somewhere in the Old City
Evening view from the porch of my hotel
Hotel across the road from mine

Middle East » Syria » West » Latakia May 1st 2010

To get to Saladins from Aleppo I tried following the road signs for a while, which went OK more or less. Then I found myself on a 'new' highway, which looked great to start with. But I started getting suspicious when I saw more and more traffic coming the other way on the same side of the highway, and these small hills of dirt started appearing across the road. I think that what happened is that they started to build a new highway, but never quite got round to finishing it (or they are just working extremely slow) as there are potholes all over the place before the road has even been officially opened. The sudden end of the road (a 20 metre drop straight down without warning signs) confimed my suspicions. Backtracked a bit, and ... read more
Spot the bug part 2
Building thingy
Lots of building thingys

Middle East » Syria » North » Aleppo April 30th 2010

I've been in Aleppo for a week again. Highlights: 1. Max's birthday party. Ahmed managed to suddenly produce a chocolate cake for Max in the middle of the night, and once again a good time was had by all. Too good a time by me, Absolut Vodka and Ton do not go well together. 2. Next morning, woken bij Nicole standing in the doorway (after banging on the door did not work) as I had a trip planned with some others in the hotel. Grabbed my camera, popped two aspirins and struggled down the stairs. Tried to sleep of my hangover a bit in the back of the van as we as we headed of to San Simeon and the dead cities. Mr Simeon may have been into austerity and praying and such, but you ain't ... read more
The tailors
Saladin sleeping in his shop

Middle East » Syria » North » Aleppo April 23rd 2010

Drove back to Aleppo today for Bruce's birthday party (South African/Aussie guy who's in Syria for an extended stay). Some things are just universal: when I stopped at a small gas station in the middle of nowhere I was informed of all the current Dutch soccer player who were any good, and when I said I don't follow soccer but MotoGP was more my thing, they turned out to be Valentino Rossi fans ;-) Checked into Al Jawahe, and went out with Ahmed to find materials to make Bruce a super huge birthday card. He and Nicole put the card together while I strolled around the deserted souk (friday), then it was Mr Chicken for dinner, and party time. The Syrian band was great, the Syrian booze was cheap, the Syrian cake was a calorie bomb, ... read more
In the strangest places...
The souk on fridays
Aw cute, a sheep in a pickup!

Middle East » Syria » North » Al Hasakah April 23rd 2010

There is nothing to see in Al Hasake, which is why I went there. There should be a castle around somewhere, but I couldn't even find that (more my fault than the castle's, I'm hopellesly lost if it's not on my GPS). I spent about two days in Hasake, I think I spotted another tourist, but I'm not sure. On the full day I had I just wanderred around, mostly in the souk. It's a typically Arab town, around lunch most shops close till the heat dies down. Then they open up again untill late at night. It's much mure rural that Aleppo, with a different ethnic blend. Quite a lot of Kurdish. I met a man in the market who told me he studied as an argricultural engineer, but he sold vegetables in the market ... read more
It's a popular chick
The Hyena of Justice
Spice shop keeper

Middle East » Syria » North » Al Hasakah April 22nd 2010

Around noon I set of for Al Hasake. It looked a bit windy but I wasn't that worried. Yup. My first sandstorm! Not a huge one hamdallah, but enough to give me a proper sandblasting and respect for the real thing should I ever run into it. From one minute to the next visibility dropped to about 5 metres and I was choking on dust. It passed quite quickly, but the improved view did not offer much news: it's a long mostly straight road with some abandoned houses once in a while. About halfway to Hasake some villages started appearing and I stopped to get a drink. One of the guys there pointed out that my little extra petrol tank that I have mounted on the bike was dripping. It looks like it is just a ... read more

Middle East » Syria April 21st 2010

I took a day trip from Dayr az Zawr to visit the old twin cities of Zalabiye and Halabiye. First I along the northern shore of the Euphrates to see Zalabiye. There's not much left of the city, as it is very exposed on an outer bend of the Euphrates and most of it has crumbled into the river over the years I guess. I crossed the river on a fun floating bridge a few kms upstream to get to Halabiye. Halabiye has fared a lot better over the centuries, there is still alot to see there. I decided to hang around till after dark to take some night shots (btw, don't bother with a digital camera, long exposures just get way to noisy), while bats started flying in and out of the ruins around me. ... read more
Me like halls
And passages
Failed night shot attempt

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