This morning is a free day in Damascus. We take our time and then head off for Francine to pay and collect her jewellery. Love it and bought another ring as a gift.
We head off in taxis for the public intercity bus station. We have booked seats and are off to Palmyra in the northern desert. 3 ½ hours later we arrive in the centre of the Syrian desert.
We stay at a quaint hotel and would have been beautiful in the 1950's when first built. You can still see a lot of the art deco finishes. We take a wander along the main street and Angie buys a pair of earrings made from camel bone. The shopkeeper tells her he has given special price as he is having a closing down going to Mecca sale. ??
Dinner is al fresco and we watch the passing small number of tourists and town folk. A man comes along and offers to sell us Iraqi pre war currency. We both buy a 25 dinar note. It has the picture of Sadam Hussein on it. Our leader said that they are real currency. A UK policeman bought
IRAQ OR BUST
Do we need a visa?
one on a previous trip and had it authenticated in the UK. When Bagdad was taken by coalition forces the bank vaults were opened and hundreds of millions of dinar was taken. The money was worthless at that time and it was taken and sold off as souveniers. And we got one each, like a post card.
We head back to the hotel and downstairs to the infamous Cave Bar where many Intrepid tour leader and traveller have had too much enjoyment. The basement has been done up like a cave, decorated with coloured light shades and comfortable cushioned benches. We have a gin and tonic (slightly more gin than tonic) only $5AUS. Frangie decides she wants to have her shisha smoking recorded on Francine's camcorder. So we all have to join in on the fun. She is now the group mascot / bad influence.
Francine and Angie have to drag Frangie out of the Cave Bar as they are again feeling slightly light headed from the shisha, as they are not smokers. The shisha tasted good, apple and slight aniseed flavoured tobacco. There are no drugs here, it is strictly forbidden the by the state and by
WAIT FOR ME!
At least she is properly dressed!
Islam. We didn't breath it into our lungs but it still knocks you about.
We begin our tour of the ruins at 8am to 10am as the heat in the desert is extreme. Today there is a phenomenon with a very pleasant cool breeze blowing. We say we are the phenomenon as we have had all the strange weather in every country we have visited. You can just call the Phenomenal Women!!
We did a tour of the ruins of Palmyra and our guide gave us much information about the old city's history. It was absolutely amazing. Walking through streets, buildings, temple and imaging what it would have been like 2000 years ago. Aramic is spoken here, it was the language of Jesus Christ.
HISTORY OF PALMYRA
To north and south there is nothing but sand and stone. In Palmyra a last fold of the Anti-Lebanon forms a basin on the edge of which a spring rises out of a long channel whose depth has never been measured. This spring is called Afqa in an ancient Aramic word meaning “way out”. The water is clear blue, slightly sulphurous and is said to have
BLOWING OUT HOT AIR
Tried it for the novelty but now... been there and done it!
medicinal properties. They have fed the oasis with olives, date palms, cotton and cereals for generations.
Palmyra means city of palms. It was the necessary stopping place for caravans taking the shortest route from the Arab Gulf to the Mediterranean, as well as for those taking the silk route and crossing the Tigris River near Selecucis in Babylon. Previously known as Tadmor (city of dates), it is mentioned on tablets dating back to the 19th century BC. It was from the 1st century when the Romans invaded Syria that Tadmor now Palmyra took full advantage of her geographical isolation which gave her some protection against military attacks. For four hundred years the city enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity as a centre of trade and a crossroad between the east and the west. In 129AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited the city and recognised Palmyra as a “free city”.
The city walls measured 6km. There were colonnaded streets, markets, the senate building, hot and cold baths, village life and of course the temple, later turned into a Christian church and a mosque.
Much of the ancient city is still covered in sand, but from what we could see it was
JESS & FRANGIE
Unreformable. Is that a word?
an immense city of influence in centuries gone by.
Next we headed to the ancient tombs dating back to about 83AD. The first was built above ground. There were rows of areas where the bodies were stacked on shelves. The bodies were laid on their sides facing Mecca. The tomb was for a family and was four stories high and held the bodies from the family for over two hundred years.. Each floor had the same arrangement of shelves which held between 5-9 layers of bodies.
The second tomb was under ground with the same system of entombing the bodies. This tomb also held colourful murals. The tomb was on one level.
Palmyra is a town to definitely visit overnight on your way north.
BACK IN THE MINIVAN
We finish our tours and have an hour to do some shopping. Francine heads back to a fabric shop and buys two blue cotton tops for $5AUS each and talks Angie into buying the pink one. We freshen up and put on our new tops. Frangie decides to dress in her Burka. She is feeling repentant after her night out in the Cave Bar.
Buying a round of drinks
now 1.30pm and we pile into our old minivan with bags strapped on top. A very get to know type of close quarters. No air conditioning, although lots of windows.
We drive about 20 minutes up the road and stop at the road signs. We have our photos taken under the sign indicating the turn off to Iraq. Then it's off to the region of Homs. We stay in a little village nearby so we can do a tour of the Krak De Chevaliers, an ancient castle.
We arrived at the Babier Hotel. We got a room with a balcony and it overlooks the Krak De Chevaliers. And it's a great place to hang all our washing. So with our chores done and a bit of a relax we walked along to the nearby restaurant. On the way we have a great view of the mountains, which are the border between Syria and Lebanon. We also have a great view of the Mediterranean Sea.
The meal at the restaurant is a great feast. A spread of mezze, larger than we have yet had and charcoal chicken with a rich garlic, lemon and olive oil sauce (mostly garlic).
FRANGIE CAN = CAN CAN
We found a small piece of porcelain
As the sun begins to set we all go onto the roof of the restaurant. We access the roof via a ladder. The owner of the restaurant has taken a shine to Angie and is now her shadow. His name is Hatem and he being very friendly with hugs and taking her hand when every he can. He has asked her to stay in Syria with him. However, there were no mention of how many cows and sheep would be traded, so maybe not a serious relationship after all. But a very warm hug was given with the photo taken and the romantic Syrian gentleman picked a rose from his flower garden to give her as she was leaving. The knight of the round table have left a lasting effect on the men in this town. How charming!
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