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Published: January 8th 2011
I could copy you the full guide book, but I simply won't. If you need a full historical guide tour of Palmyra, I invite you to google it or purchase a guide book. Let me share with you the great day we had exploring Palmyra.
In order to make sure none of us stay too ignorant, here are few historical info. Palmyra lies 250km North-East of Damascus, and is around less than 100km from Iraq. It is basically in the middle of nowhere, or should I say right in the middle of a huge desert.
So why is Palmyra so important...well, easy...trade! The city has been a huge trading post for centuries, seeing a huge growth juste around 1st and 2nd AD, thanks to the Roman Empire. The city grew in importance till the arrival of Queen Zenobia, which gave the city romance, fight and passion, you know, to do a good movie. By the end of the 2nd century AD, the city started to decline...The Lonely Planet give a clear and nice detailed of the full Zenobia episode! And basically, Palmyra disappeared from the 7th to the 17th century....deep into the sand! This is the little history of
We had few options to get here. First info, the place is 250km from Damascus....and there is really not much to enjoy on the way....desert...sand...desert...So you can get a taxi or a car...woups, pricey...get a tour to here...oh yes, do you see me sitting with 40 other people?! Or...go on a pullman, basically, the efficient, cheap and confortable public buses. You guess that was our choice.
Buses depart on a regular basis from Harasta bus terminal few kilometers north of Damascus. We walk around to find the first bus leaving, it was 7.20.....and we only had to wait 20 minutes for a bus. VIP bus...means you receive sweets (happy Leslie), and there is only 3 seats per row...250km, around 5usd a head! At that point I was really happy not to have try to negociate a taxi with a starting price of around 150usd a day! The bus drops you just out of the city, itself just next to the Old City of Palmyra...avoid the touts, take a taxi to Temple of Bel, easy...cheap...
Now the main question to the Ministry of Tourism in Syria. In Palmyra, you get charged 3usd to enter the Temple of
Bel, and 1.5usd for the Roman Theatre (we didn't enter that part)...and this is it! This is a world class place....why do they charge so low. I'm not for price hikes, but we know the money of these sites help developping the country, so why not charging a reasonnable 10 to 15 usd to enjoy the day. Petra has gone mad at 80usd a day, maybe Palmyra could do with a little inflation!
Lonely Planet warn you, during the day, the heat can be...really unbearable....well, this is January. The clouds are over our heads, we even had 2 minutes of rain (or less)...but it is well below 15 degrees and the wind is cold! We left our winter jackets in Damascus, bad idea! So we did enjoy a full 3 hours going around Palmyra, and this was perfect timing for us.
Palmyra is all about Columns...we didn't ask Leslie to count them, but thinking again, we should have asked him. We did climb the little mount just behind the Temple of the Standards. The view is amazing. Ok, we know, with the sun it would have been better. But put it simply, we saw maybe 4 coaches...meaning 4
groups of around 40 people, and this is it...the place was ours after bumping in these groups. Low season....cold....but uncrowded and great!
We stopped in town for another of those Shwarma lunch. On our way back, we didn't had to wait a minute for the bus, we actually had to run to get it...this time 3usd, Kadmous company, not VIP but perfectly ok. As the sunset around December-January is at 4pm, we were back pretty early in Damascus for a good hot bath, a good glass (or two) of Lebanese wine, and ready to hit the town before getting to the train station for our next adventure!
So for our next Syrian stop...I'm coming back soon....
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