Syria's capital : DAMASCUS


The Syrian border post : entering Syria from Lebanon


We had been in Syria for a few days on our way from Turkey to Lebanon but only to organise the visit of Christian's parents and check out on a couple of hotels. The day of their arrival on the 12th of January, crossing into Syria was a piece of cake as we knew what to pay for, how much to pay and where to pay ! Not so the first time around when entering from Turkey. Obtaining an entry slip that was not in Arabic took Christian the best part of 10 minutes. Not because there were none but because no-one of the 10 customs officials behind the counter could bother. Entry stamp in our passport. That's one thing done. If you have a car, you need insurance. How much is insurance for a car ? US$ 29 per month ? OK. "Wait a minute", says the guy. "How many seats does your car have ?" It has 3 seats, ah, then it's USD 69 ! So that's USD 29 for 5 seats and USD 69 for 3 seats... Then comes the guy who will solve everything : he can arrange for us to pay the lower price if we "help" the official. He will do it for 10 dollars only ! Yeah right. Besides the insurance, there's a tax for the Carnet de Passage and a diesel tax of USD 100 per week ! By then the whole thing was clearly a scam to help visitors get rid of their money. If only prices were clearly indicated on a board and offices were labeled, life would be so much more pleasant. We had no intention to make life easy for them and just stood there until they took our 29 dollars. Welcome to Syria.


Damascus' Hamidiye Souq being refurbished : noise, smoke and many obstacles


We picked up Christian's parents from Damascus International airport with Troopie. They arrived 6 hours late and without their luggage and we were thinking that we have successfully evaded the joys of air travel for more than a year ! They arrived late in the evening so little of what makes the Middle East so different from the rest of the world could be seen from the car except for one aspect : the near-continuous use of the horn in the streets. We must have grown accustomed to it because they noticed straight away. The next day, we thought we would plunge straight into the souq and walk. We walked around for a hole day and must have covered some 10 km in Damascus ! 



The great Ummayad Mosque, Damascus


The Khan Assad-Pacha (left & centre) and a picture of sunbeams streaming through holes in the metal roof (right), Damascus



Azem Palace, Damascus


Street life (and shoes made in China), Damascus



We are doing well (check pic above !)

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