I wrote my very first travel blog about a decade ago on a website which has now shut down. When it shut down I got to have a look at the very first travel blog I wrote for that webpage. It was about my trip through the some of the middeleast where I went through Syria. I reread the blog and it took me back to a time when there was still peace in Syria and the country was a really enjoyable place to visit. I decide to repost the blog entries from that time with the hope Syria will again return to a peaceful country where foreign visitors can feel welcome when they explore the long history off the country.
Very early in the morning it is time to get up and get ready to leave for Syria. It’ll be a long day of driving and boarder crossing hence an early start is needed 😦 I don’t feel really well rested after a maximum of two hours of sleep. But I don’t have any signs of a hangover – when I try to make it to my feet’s and walk to the bathroom I soon realize why I have no hangovers. I’m still drunk from the night before. It looked like it would be a very long day.
But being drunk turned out to be an advantage. I fell asleep while driving through Turkey so time went pretty fast on route to Syria.
I didn’t really want to go to Syria on my trip I wanted to go to Turkey and Jordan and travelling by land you kind of have to go through Syria to get to from Turkey to Jordan – the only other route would be through Iraq which seem even less appealing for the moment. But Syria turned out to be a real positive surprise.
Before going to Syria I expected to go to a country,
where the government was oppressive and centred around the president
which would be really conservative in dress code according to Muslim guidelines?
where people would mistrust westerners and possibly be a bit hostile at times
where alcohol would be prohibited
where there would be no really interesting sights to see
What did I get when I got there?
yeah the government was oppressive the regime is one of those which should be put out of power
yes the locals were mainly Muslim’s and used headscarfs but there were also a lot of Christians who more or less were dress like in the west
the people in general were really friendly to foreigners with very little hassle compared to the rest of the Middle East
alcohol is allowed but not that commonly consumed
there were great sights with ancient castles Roman ruins and desert landscapes all over
Driving towards the border was kind of interesting there were trucks waiting in line for miles to cross the border. How they ever do any commerce between Syria and Turkey is a mystery. It seemed like trucks just never ever moved across the border. Fortunately passenger vehicles are allowed to bypass the queue for the trucks and drive straight to the border. Straight in the Middle East is a relative term – considering the general chaos in the border area with one massive traffic jam.
Getting out of Turkey took forever getting passports stamp and so forth then the traffic chaos in the no mans land between the exit from Turkey to the entry point in Syria in this area the traffic seemed even more chaotic than on the Turkish side of the border. Then just before the passport control on the Syria side – there were my first a big surprise of Syria – a huge duty free shop. I got in there and it was packed with all sorts of traditional western spirits brands. You could have your pick of vodka, whisky, gin and rum whatever you would like. And the prices were a lot lover than in any shop or duty free in Europe or America. I was confused what was going on her – in Syria a Muslim country that did not allowed you to drink alcohol – boy were I wrong they got no laws prohibiting alcohol..
Getting out of the duty free there is a truck close to the border getting ready to pass it – or not. The truck had the engine turned off and it had not moved while I had been inside shopping – actually none of the trucks appeared to be making any progress in passing the boarder. Well it was still not time to get over the border – passports are still being processed. After all this is the Middle East passing borders takes time hours for passenger vehicles days (perhaps weeks) for trucks. Finally the Syrian authorities are done with passports and it is time to drive into Syria – the first truck in the queue has still not moved and there is no sign of it getting ready to drive on.
The first stop on the trip will be Aleppo an old city in Syria claming to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (or is it Damascus) with the longest covered suq in the world (or is the one in Damascus longer). There is a bit a rivalry between Aleppo and Damascus I guess the one being the government town the other the businessmen’s town.
When I get there I get the only really bad surprise in Syria – my hotel room this got to be the worst place I have ever stayed in a development nation. Getting in the room it is steaming hot – not a big surprise considering the outside temperature. There is no air con but there is a fan – I crack it up to full speed – and it starts going – never ever have I seen such a whopping fan it looks like it can break free from it place and the sealing any minute an start to create havoc in the room.
Then out for dinner all over Aleppo there are small food shops selling everything like falafel, kebabs and small pizzas. Everything cost next to nothing and is really good.
After having a full meal for the total cost of perhaps 2 dollars it is time to go back to hotel and see the bar on top of the hotel – it is said it a rooftop bar – but it is inside and it is hot. This is actually the only good thing about the hotel in the bar they let us drink our duty free stuff if we only buy a couple of beers as well.
After a few drinks it is of to bed. It is not without some hesitation I went to bed the fan seem to be ready to try to decapitate me any moment during the night.