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.
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.
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.
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!
Damascus is OOOLLLDDDDD!
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.
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..
JESSICA RETURNZ: I got scrubbed down in an old beautiful hammam, and we spent hours just walking around the souks and the Old City.
Syria is rockin the fresh juice shops, and they sell blackberry juice icees – mmmmmmm! Did I mention it’s about 115 degrees every day??
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.
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.
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.
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.
I also felt like we got one step closer to Europe, as we checked out a few castles.
Some Shepards(who have been ever present, but we havent been giving due props over the past few months)
And last but not least, the beehive villages. Some folks still live in these houses..
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…