Syria with Christian's parents



After 2 weeks in Lebanon, we headed for Damascus airport to pick up Christian's parents. Ahead of us : 2 weeks of serious travelling (2000 km were covered) but good hotels to make sure all of us rested well ! Because of the low season and Afghanistan, we were the only guests in every single hotel along the way (except in Damascus & Aleppo). 


Snow fell as low as 600 meters which is extremely low for this part of the world


Lattakia & the crusader castles
Heading North from Damascus and West towards the coast and the city of Lattakia we visited the crusader castles : the "Krak des Chevalier" and the Chateau de Saone. Both magnificent examples of Middle Age castles but also reminders of how people can go nuts when religion is involved. Several of these castles were financed by families who ruined themselves thinking they were going to save Christianity (or were buying themselves a spot in paradise).


The "Krak des Chevaliers" is every bit as we expected it to be : the perfect example of a castle of the Middle Ages. Look at the size of the people standing on top of the turret (left picture) to have an idea of its size. It houses a well-preserved vaulted room (centre) in which we could imagine crusaders meeting (wondering what on earth they were doing in this part of the world). It is still being rebuilt using local stones (right)




The "Chateau de Saone" : mightily impressive by its setting as well as by its size. One the left picture, Troopie is standing next to the wall (carved out of the rock) that supported the bridge. 


A piece of clay with "Ugarit" inscriptions. Traced back to the coastal city of Ugarit, this is one of the first alphabets ever recorded. Hundreds of similar pieces of clay have been found retracing life (commercial treaties, marriage & divorce, taxes on the shipping of goods etc.) in this part of the world in 1500 B.C.


Crossing a small mountain chain on the road to Hama


Picnics on the road
Christian's parents had brought different kinds of cheese (some of which we can still smell in the car !) and ham, both very difficult to find in this part of the world and we had many picnics along the road.


During one of these breaks (picture in the right) a green truck came to us and a soldier brandishing an AK-47 came to let us know we were on military grounds. Not an experience we ever hope to get used to ! 


Hama & the colonnade of Apamea 
The "norias" of Hama, built in the 13th century, are large wooden wheels that were used to overcome height differences and distribute water to the farmers and the city's population. Hama is one of the most conservative cities in the country. In the 80ies, some religious fundamentalists went a little too far trying to unsettle President Assad. The army moved in, sieged and shelled the town killing thousands until the rebellion was quelled. 


The wheel on the left picture has a diameter of 15 meters. Local school children (centre) and the Azem Palace (right)



The longest remaining colonnaded Roman road in the world : 2 km long ! Stunning. Many of the stones were worn and had traces of chariot wheels. 


The East of Syria : desert
From Hama we headed to Aleppo where we stayed 3 days. After a well-deserved rest, we headed East into the desert towards Deir-ez-Zor. After a hundred km we reached the river Euphrates. From its source in Turkey, the river that has been the birthplace of many a civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia heads towards Iraq. Many people who live in this part of the world seem to have managed to keep their nomadic way of life and we saw many Bedouin tents along the road.


Finding your way in the desert ! (left), Sergiopolis named after a Christian martyr of Roman times is a ghost city in the middle of nowhere (centre), old Benz trucks still going strong (right)


A view of the desert surrounding Palmyra taken from Arab citadel


The desert road from Palmyra back to Damascus has beautiful scenery. For Baghdad, please turn left !


The journey not the destination ! 


Bosra's theater, made of black basalt stone, was deep under the sand for centuries. Houses were even built on top of it. The sand and the dry conditions have kept it in pristine condition making it "one the best preserved Roman theaters on earth". We have seen the longest Roman hippodrome (in Lebanon), the longest stadium (in Turkey), the longest street (Apamea in Syria). Pfff... Done this, seen that. Are we becoming bored ? 


The black stone (as with the Porta Negra but with the blue sky here !) is very beautiful indeed


An arrow pointing the direction to Mecca in our hotel bedroom (left), fruit juice by the liter (centre), a credit card anyone ? (right)


Here is the first of our extra pages on Syria : its capital Damascus


We are doing well !

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