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Published: September 3rd 2007
From Jaresh we set off straight to the Syrian border, which wasn't far away and whizzed through the Jordanian side of things. On the Syrian side we proceeded to wait.... and wait.... because our agent on that side had stuffed up our visas somewhat! After a delayed start we started the longish drive through to Damascus. We stopped off quickly for chicken shwarma's to eat on the way and arrived at Damascus still in daylight at our campsite to find the greenest grass we'd seen since entering the Middle East! Needless to say, we were so excited about this, we abandoned the tents and decided just to roll out our sleeping bags on the grass ;-)
In Syria, Pennie advised us girls that we should all wear long sleeves and trousers as the Syrians are a lot less used to tourists. Luckily I had brought my fisherman pants along! Even wearing long trousers and tops though, we were still stared out because they could see our hair and faces. Martin's hair also attracted loads of attention! We almost had people walking into poles they stared so much! Very crazy ;-)
We started the next day by exploring Damascus, and
doing the usual 'travel things' - namely visiting the ATMs and internet cafes - before exploring the covered Souk and just generally wandering the streets with Narelle and Gregg. At lunchtime we decided we wanted somewhere to sit down and found a restaurant where we ordered food that looked nothing like we imagined it would and all ordered cokes but received coke lights (they obviously thought they needed to tell us all something?!?) After paying an exhorbitant $4nzd each for lunch (believe it or not this is actually a rip off for a lunch in Syria ;-)) we FINALLY found a taxi to take us back to our campsite. It was the craziest taxi experience, there were a million of them on the road but trying to actually pull one over was surprisingly difficult and we were consistently ignored...... weird.....! It was particularly weird when they'd wave back at us without pausing and pass us by....?? Back at the campsite we lounged around on the cushy green grass and the boys found a new fave beer called "Panda" - a lovely 10 percent beer which they proceeded to drink for the rest of the night and therefore we had a
rather 'loud' evening. Pennie cooked up fantastic Spanish omelettes! Martin's fave.... ;-)
It was a pretty short drive (comparatively) the next day - destination: Palmyra. The campsite there was right, literally, at the foot of the ruins and the land it's on is a small olive grove owned by a Bedouin family. There was a small pool fed by underground streams and a large traditional Bedouin thatch to laze under (basically thatched roof, no walls, cushions and rugs all over the floor, oh and 2 cute baby kittens! - it was fantastic!) We lazed and swam away the day and then walked to the ruins of Palmyra at 4pm once the heat had died down a little. We did a guided tour around the ruins and they were really awesome! Only 30% of the site is excavated so far and what they've already uncovered is pretty amazing. Took lots more good pics! That night the Bedouin family served us up a traditional Bedouin meal of rice and chicken and then we slept under the Bedouin thatch roof. I have a feeling we're not going to bother setting up tents at all on the nights we camp in the Middle
East - why bother when the weather is this good and you can sleep under the stars? ;-)
The next day we headed out for Aleppo with a couple of stops on the way. First up was a visit to the Crusader Castle, Krak des Chevaliers, one of the most important and best preserved medieval military architectures in the world. It was a fascinating visit, exploring all the rooms and secret tunnels, and there was a wicked view from the top which stretched for miles! We could even see the land which forms a border with Lebanon. We then had a mega feast of tradiional food which was one of the best meals we had in the Middle East.
After this we went to the small town called Hamar which has huge waterwheels that have been in action for over a thousand years! Well, this was meant to be a 15minute stop to get drinks and site the waterwheels. WELL.... this turned into a drama stretching about 4 hours! We were all in a cafe and someone had left the truck door shut but not padlocked. When we went to leave, Mossy and KC both realised their ipods weren't
on their seats and Gregg and Narelle's big digital camera was gone. Argh! Someone had climbed into the truck and stolen their things! We all raced out of the truck and we told the others that when we had walked past the truck out of the cafe about 10mins ago there was a Syrian guy who made rude gestures at me and tried to pick a fight... we suddenly realised there had been a couple of guys in a tuk tuk nearby and he may have been trying to distract us from the truck. To cut a very loooooooong story a bit shorter.... a big Syrian guy arrived in his truck who spoke some English and seemed to have some standing with the locals, he called another guy who drove up in a big BMW SUV, who spoke near fluent English. Suddenly there was quite a crowd of Syrian local guys crowded around, the truck and BMW guys yelling at them all in Syrian. They said they knew who they guy we'd argued with was and told us not to call the cops, they would sort it! It was all very crazy.... after several hours of these guys phoning loads
of people, yelling at the crowd around them, the guy who had originally distracted Martin and I was dragged back and eventually he ran off and came back with Gregg and Narelle's camera! We'd been right, he'd been in on the whole thing. Omigod, we seriously didnt think we were going to see it again! Someone had already managed to take about 30 photos with it, some of them, interestingly, of the inside of a camera shop..... Sometime later we were also presented with the returned ipods.... however the thief thought they were cellphones and couldn't get them working, they'd destroyed one of them so much that all was left was a strip of metal a couple of inches long! and the other was intact but would no longer switch on. We don't know who the guys were that took time out to help us then bought us drinks, but they had a lot of control over the local guys for what they said they were so our theories were pretty varied on what they really were.... it was an experience definitely!
Having been in Hamar a little longer than expected, we arrived late into Aleppo. We went straight out
for a local Syrian dinner which consisted of local "pizzas" and chicken shwarma's (It was soooooooooo cheap, about 20c nzd for each pizza!!). It was a fantastic dinner!
The next day we started with a typical Syrian breakfast of fresh juice and goat cheese sticks. This was also great, and again so cheap - I think the freshly squeezed juices were about 50c each - basically same quality but a hell of a lot cheaper than a Boost or Mojo ;-) Then we explored the city of Aleppo! We definitely preferred Aleppo to Damascus, just got a better feeling from it. We went and explored the Citadel which had a fantastic throne room and amazing views from the top. Then we explored the infamous Souks of Aleppo, reportedly the best and biggest Souks in the Middle East. These were great markets, really cheap, and we had lots of fun exploring the maze-like area. For lunch we headed back for the fruit juice we'd had that morning and more local pizzas from the place the night before. Then it was time for siesta before going out to a dinner near our hotel.
The next day was a nice early
5am start, we headed for the Turkish border where we proceeded quickly through the Syrian side and then stopped off at a huge duty free shop which has some of the best prices around. Kristi got the new Malibu Mango - highly recommended! ;-) Then, yup, you guessed it, we embarked on another long wait for our entry into Turkey....
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