between the lands

Jessica and Andrew’s travel journal

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THE CALL–a movie as promised0

Posted by Andrew in EGYPT, MOROCCO, TUNISIA, SYRIA, TURKEY (October 2, 2007 at 1:20 pm)

weve made alot of promises on this blog that we havent kept, about stories photos and such that we simply never got around to posting. But in honor of our 1 year anniversary of leaving the states(tomorrow–Ocotber 3rd) we will turn over a new leaf.

click here to watch a video featuring the infamous call or prayer from all over the arab world—for those who dont know, 5 times a day, all the mosques have a real(or sometimes recorded—boooo!) voice singing on a loudspeaker, letting people know that its about time to pray. It can be haunting at times, echoing down lonely streets, or startling in the middle of the night, depending on where your hotel window room is. But most of all its just a part of life, and after a while I didnt notice it half the time. Enjoy the movie…

JESSICA SEZ: there was only one place where anyone told us the call to prayer was recorded. the vast majority of the time, some dude gets himself to the mosque, 5 times a day, and sings his heart out. sometimes he’s a great singer, othertimes it’s all about heart. but it’s always cool. except if it’s pre-recorded. that’s just lame.

ANDREW RETURNZ: We are in Sarajevo today, coming from the beautiful Dalmatian coast of Croatia. of course, pictures will hopefully be posted about 3 weeks after weve been there(not everything is gonna change).

Ma-ah salama—Leaving the Arab world2

Posted by Andrew in MOROCCO, TUNISIA, SYRIA, LEBANON (September 15, 2007 at 1:44 pm)

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We’ll be writing more about Turkey soon—it’s a huge country, and in 3 weeks we only saw a few small bits of it. (we are in Greece now) You’ve probably heard the debate about whether turkey should be part of Europe (the EU at least) or is it really a part of Asia, or the Middle East. For my cent and a half, I’ll just say that once we crossed the Syrian border and left the south of Turkey behind, it was clear that something had changed, starting with the language.
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The people were speaking Turkish, leaving the 20 or so Arabic phrases we had picked up virtually useless, and suddenly, we had left the Arab world after 5 months of immersion.

Fortunately, our last stop was one of the best. In Haleb (Aleppo to the non-Syrian), we were guests of Jamal, our favorite couchsurfing host so far (no offense to many other great hosts—you guys rocked as well). Jamal’s family treated us like we were relatives, and his mom cooked us some really great food.
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We hung out with Jamal, his best friend Jamal, 20070812269 a 2 jamalls in grass.jpg

…and their gang of friends, and we got to have lots of good discussions about life, politics and everything in between.CIMG4384 shoe shine jamal.jpgCIMG7806 2 jamals at home.jpgCIMG7684 da haleb gang over cityscape.jpgCIMG7736 3 js and mosque.jpg

JESSICA SEZ: We also went to Aleppo’s new (and maybe Syria’s first?) waterpark. Unfortunately, we don’t have a picture, but they had a waterslide that was totally new to both of us. It shot you down a long enclosed tube, then dropped you into a giant open-top funnel, where you went round and round and then finally dropped out the bottom into a pool. Just like being flushed down a toilet!
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ANDREW RETURNZ: Like Damascus, Aleppo is also a very old city with lots of history, and a huge covered market.(they say 30 kilometers worth of shops)

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I’m defintely sad to be leaving the arab word, and missing many things about the culture already. To try and give yall a little taste, click here to watch a video I put together with some clips from various countries we’ve visited since March —it includes a carpet auction in Tunisia, a 1-day-old baby goat in the Moroccan Saraha, election day on the streets of Beiruit, and several views of the Mediterranean. (some of the clips were ones I wanted to post when we were in Tunisia but had no real internet access.)

If you sat through that video and are wondering about the call to prayer and why it wasn’t included, we just have to much video and Im skeptical that many people are willing to watch even the 7 minute long movie above. Coming soon is a short video “The Call”. any day now, I promise.
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Looking forward, we have sketched out the next (and last) leg of our trip—and we only have about 6 weeks to go. Rome is on the horizon and the Balkans await!!
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They Smoke Philly Titans in Syria0

Posted by Jessica in SYRIA (August 10, 2007 at 12:04 pm)

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I don’t know why, but Syria always sounded like the most exotic of our planned destinations. Cradle of Civilizations, blah blah blah. Well, so far I’m not disappointed, Syria is COOL.
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It had better be nice, since we waited 7 hours at the border to be admitted. In that time, we watched numerous people of other nationalities come thru, attain their visa in an hour or less, and go on their way. Hmm, is it only us who has to wait for the entire day? Oh well, the border is open 24 hours, so at least I knew they wouldn’t send us away to close up shop.
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First stop: Damascus. I like this place. The alleyway to our hotel, filled with little hole-in-the-wall coffeeshops and budget hostels, reminds me of Amsterdam.
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Folks were even enjoying a beer at a streetside café – something unheard of in the last 4 countries we’d visited. They always hide you away because, you know, drinking a beer is NOT a public, family-oriented activity, and you ought to be ashamed anyway!
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Damascus is OOOLLLDDDDD!
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There’s a huge mosque in the center of the Old Walled City, and still visible at either end are the columns and triangular pediment of the former Temple of Jupiter.
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ANDREW SEZ: In The Ummyad mosque, there was a few shrines, and one had the head of John the Baptist inside it. People were getting pretty emotional..
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JESSICA RETURNZ: I got scrubbed down in an old beautiful hammam, and we spent hours just walking around the souks and the Old City.
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Syria is rockin the fresh juice shops, and they sell blackberry juice icees – mmmmmmm! Did I mention it’s about 115 degrees every day??
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ANDREW SEZ: Cairo was the best for fresh fruit juice, while Syria has so far been a close second. The difference—Cairo juice stands have strawberry juice. Best pick here is the mixed fruit-you get a huge glass of fresh smoothie.
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JESSICA RETERNZ: Look out for the taxi drivers though – we have been yelled at by more of them than not. Even if you can get him to put on the trip meter, he will invariably want more that the meter reading when you arrive at your destination. They might follow you out screaming, and one guy put up his dukes. OK, he was smiling, so that was pretend. I don’t like the taxi drama.
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Spent a few days in Hama, city of 17 Ancient Norias (waterwheels). The norias are huge and quite beautiful: dark water-stained wooden wheels, turning lazily in the flow of the river. They are mounted on wooden blocks, so the wood-on-wet-wood friction creates an enormously loud groaning. Something between a squeaky hinge and a harley davidson. The water used to pour into the tops of aquaducts and go all over town, but now it mostly just sprinkles down the noria in a gorgeous spray of light. If the river wasn’t so stinky… The aquaducts are still standing in several places, and together with the norias it’s a very nice picture.
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Most of Hama’s Old City is gone, lost to bombs, but a small portion remains. There we saw a right perty palace and some quaint narrow stone streets winding between a hammam and a mosque. It must have been very pretty once.
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I also felt like we got one step closer to Europe, as we checked out a few castles.
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Some Shepards(who have been ever present, but we havent been giving due props over the past few months)
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And last but not least, the beehive villages. Some folks still live in these houses..
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Now we are chillin in Beiruit. Well have pictures soon. Suffice it to say it’s a fascinating city. War torn for sure, but also the party capital of the middle east. Waking up around noon to a view of the sea, and bombed out buildings…hasta pronto…
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Happy Anniversary!!!1

Posted by Jessica in EGYPT, JORDAN, SYRIA (August 1, 2007 at 11:31 am)

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Today is August 1, which makes it ONE YEAR since we set forth from Tampa. Wow! And yes, it feels like a year. So far we’ve survived the Granada winter and we are currently sweating out the Middle East summer. There’s a couple more months to go, barring disaster we still hope to make it to Rome….

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last 2 1/2 weeks : we revisited Cairo and met the Sinai Peninsula, saw the last little bits of Jordan, and crossed into Syria. We like to think we’re on the home stretch of this journey now – no more revisiting countries, always heading forward.
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In CAIRO we met some young newspaper cartoonists, Qundeel & Makhrouf. They had some really interesting work, and sounds like great luck to be drawing for their living. Other newspapers in Cairo are starting to imitate this paper and hire cartoonists because it been so successful. It was enlightening to see their view of the world from their pen and ink drawings. Hey Guys!
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SINAI is some desert shit: brown rocky desert for miles and miles, with mountains and folds of stony earth poking out everywhere. We climbed to the top of Mt Sinai (of 10 Commandments fame) timing it so we’d arrive at the summit just before dawn and see the amazing colors of the morning sun pour in over the mountains.
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At the top there are lots of other folks doing the same thing, many of them pilgrims from all over the world.
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There are also kittens living up there and LOTS of souvenir shacks. ‘You want CAMEL? GOOD camel!’
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At the bottom you can visit St Katherine’s monastery where they supposedly keep the [descendent of the] Original Burning Bush. Sorry, No flames, no booming voice of god.
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We spent a couple days beach-bumming in DAHAB. I hear this place was recently just a bunch of laid-back shanties and huts on the beach, but no more! There’s a million budget hotels and dive shops lining the beach, as well as tourist shops and restaurants, and a long concrete sidewalk snaking the shore. We rented cheap snorkeling gear and caught a glimpse of The Best Coral Reef Diving in the World, reportedly. LOTS of coral, (much of it trampled by fellow snorkelers entering and exiting the reef area) and colorful fish. Sorry, no pics of this. We even saw a couple eels and an octopus!
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If you’re looking to stay in the area, however, I’d recommend searching out the next old-Dahab, somewhere with less development and more huts. Too much tourists, and prices reflected that.
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ANDREW SEZ: A not so quick ferry ride from Egypt to Jordan…
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This time in Amman we finally saw the Roman Amphitheater that (restored) sits in the middle of the city. There was a free concert in it! Jordanian families danced in front of their seats.
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Then we rode up to the north and saw the Roman Ruins of JERASH. Some nice stuff here, but all these ruins are starting to look a lot alike if you ask me. Ruin-fatigue.
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ANDREW SEZ: Yes, in many ways, we feel as if we have already conquered Rome.(and Carthage for that matter) Still cool, but not the same ‘wow’ effect as the first time—like many things in life.
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JESSICA RETERNZ: Would have loved to stick around to see one of my favorite bands Ozomatli perform in this ancient amphitheater, but that would have required crossing the Syrian border a 2nd time, and as you will read in the next chapter, that just ain’t happening….