Travel Report from Syria (09 November 2003)
Hello from Syria!
Typing this is weird as we are typing from right to left. From Antalia, where we spent a super night with Brett and Nicole, we travelled direction Antakya stopping for a few chill out days in Kizkalesi where we snorkelled and took a break from ruins.
Here we also met Ednan, Sama and Samura with whom we shared a few great meals and chats around the fire! From Kizkalesi w! e travelled to Antakya, just outside of one of the Turkish border crossings to Syria where we spent a night before leaving for the border.
Crossing the border took 27 hours as an essential car paper given to us upon arrival in Cesme had disappeared. Christian familiarised himself with a microcosm of generals, directors and border officials and eventually managed to have the document faxed from Cesme which was then not accepted without a barrage of signatures, delayed by intermitant praying times. Visions of gun toting terrorists shrouded in head clothes were dispelled on our first day in Aleppo.
Syrians are incredibly friendly, very interested in tourists and go out of their way to help you. This is handy, when looking for things like the Commercial Bank of Syria no. 2 to change money. We walked past the bank twice, and apparently passed banks 5 and 6 as well - escaped ou r attention as the signs are in Arabic only .
Syrian cities are all about colour and noise. Signs flash from every angle in flourescent colours, cars never stop hooting, and the taxis are amazing - vintage chevrolets and mercedes decked out in tassels, carpets and dangling grapes and coloured beads from the rearview mirrors. Men stride along in their Jambilaya's or western dress, but what takes some getting used to are the women, some of whom wear scarves covering just their hair and necks, others who have only their eyes and nose showing, and still others th at are totally veiled in black and wear black gloves too. The latter look like mini Darth Vaders.
We treated ourselves
to Sundowners at the Baron Hotel, well frequented by Lawrence of Arabia
and Agatha Christie in its heyday,now sadly a little rundown but still
very charming. Whilst wondering around Aleppo, we were chatted up by two
young Syrian students, Ahmed and Maadan, who are studying English Literature
and who insisted we join them i n their homes for a meal.
Christian is in his element here. The men all approach him to talk to him as it is politically correct to do so - they can not approach me as I am a woman and because I am his perceived wife. The girls bat their eyelashes at him appraising a potential wealthy European hubby, and Germany is a popular country to be from. South Africa is known if you mention Nelson Mandela.
We have now left the desert for Hama and from here will be moving on to Damascus and then Jordan.
A currently very interesting aspect is Ramadan which is on now for the 11th day. Nobody eats during the day, at 4.45PM a cano n is fired and everybody may eat. This means that between 4.30 and 6 PM nothing is open, the streets are empty and the city is quiet. Then the chaos awakes again!
We will be sad to leave Syria!
Lots of love,
Julianne and Christian!