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Published: March 30th 2010
I'm currently in an internet cafe just to write a quick update before headin into the labryinth of the market place here in Damascus. This is the oldest city in the world and the market area definitely reflects that. We crossed the border yesterday after quite a process.
We arrived into Beirut on Friday - very European city right on the Mediterranean but built up on the mountains - BEAUTIFUL! We drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of hommos on Friday. Our hostel just happened to be a quick 2 blocks away from the hottest area in Beirut for clubs, restaurants and bars. We played it low key on Friday night and walked around the city. We spent Saturday traveling up north to the ancient cities of Byblos and Tripoli - 6 of us piled into a Mercedes with Abou Alaa as our driver. We got dressed up to party like the Lebanese on Saturday night - very posh area and definitely nothing like the local bar scene that we're used to in Cairo. Sunday we left Beirut and headed east - making our way towards the Syrian border - stopping in Zahle for the night (We saw snow!!) We went to the ancient city of Balbeck where we saw the Roman sites and posters and flags for Hezbollah - their strategic headquarters is located there! Quite an experience to say the least! We spent the night in Zahle at a hostel that used to be a famous hotel more than 100 years ago.
We got up yesterday and took a taxi to the border - only 1 mile away our taxi guy told us it was the border only to find out we had to get into another taxi - this is when things turned sketchy..for sure! A veiled woman was immediately up in our faces - not common for veiled women as they are usually quiet and reserved - especially around a group of men and foreigners as she was. I immediately said that she was a human trafficker and Amanda started making jokes that she likes having both her kidneys, spleen and liver - all joking aside we were a little nervous but we figured with the 5 of us (Fawziah had to head back to Cairo - she's a workin girl!!) we could take them on. Luckily while they were sketchy (they offered us gum, coffee and tea - all of which we declined - my mom always taught me not to talk to strangers so I definitly wasn't about to start drinking/eating with them when we were already a bit sketched out). Luckily it only took us a few minutes to exit Lebanon from which they then drove us the few miles to the Syrian immigration office. There we were put into a room where they interrogated us for hours - JUST Kidding...though we thought that might happen. We were put into the head general's office where we waited for a bit before he finally showed up and told us it would take 2-3 hours to process our visas. Apparently they have to contact the Ministry of Tourism in Damascus who then contacts someone?? in the States to get clearance for us. Syria and the US do NOT have a good relationship at all. Americans can only get visas in the States - or they have to send their passport from wherever they are in the world BACK to the States to the Syrian embassy in DC to get it and then have it shipped back. Luckily they dont necessarily follow the rules at the Lebanon/Syria border (def cant get visa at Turkey/Syria border or the Jordan/Syria border) and you can get it - in sha'allah (god willing - in Arabic). Well 2-3 hours turned to 6 hours before we were finally across the border and into Syria. We took a car ride for an hour into Damascus and spent last night wandering around the city and had a fabulously lavish dinner (all for 6 bucks). Now we're headin back to the maze of stalls and shops and delicious food before heading north to Aleppo tomorrow. We're headin back to Lebanon on Friday and then back to Cairo Sunday night....Lots of pics to come!
Thanks so much to everyone who has donated thus far to my Nets for Malaria fundraiser...I'm a 3rd of the way to reaching my goal!!! So thank you!!
Love to all!
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