Syria Travel Stories
Syria, Mohammed and Mark Twain
Today I'm leaving Lebanon. This is a country from which I had not expected much actually, but I have been positively surprised and I will definitely visit here again. I had originally planned to go to Damascus at this point, but in the past few days the situation in Syria has gone from bad to worse. There are even talks on the news of them shutting down the embassys. "If you go there they will think you are a journalist", Mike says. "And they ...

Death by Souq
There is evidence that Aleppo has been continuously inhabited for 8000 years. It may be older than Damascus, but it's less charming and tourist-friendly, so it gets less visitors. Aleppo is a city for it's inhabitants, full of people going about their daily chores, unpolished and unsanitized. If you think it's tricky getting though a souq crowded with tourists taking photos and clinging to tours, try one filled with grannies doing their morni...

Hama and Hospitaliers
The city of Hama is famous for it giant wooden water wheels, called norias. They are picturesque to be sure, but are not the predominant feature of the place. What strikes me most about Hama is the general sense of a theme park in disrepair. Or of a much loved and time-worn summer destination in the off-season. The rivers are lined with empty, rusting playgrounds and outdoor cafe's covered in leaves with locks around their warped metal gates....

Dreamy Hubris in the Desert
The rise and fall of Palmyra is a simple case of hubris. The city's location was key: an oasis in the desert along the spice caravan from the east where merchants passing through could be housed, fed and taxed. Important enough to fall under the influence of Rome but remote enough to govern itself, Palmyra quickly turned into a beautiful, rich and independent state. Then comes Zenobia and things start to get epic: Lawrence of Arabia meets T...

Pleasant Pavements of Damascus
Since Damascus is vying for oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, it should look slightly decrepit. I was picturing unpaved and narrow streets, filthy and labyrinthine, along the lines of Fez. But Damascus wears its age with much more sophistication. The streets, albeit labyrinthine, are charmingly cobblestoned. And Damascus may just be the cleanest city this side of Singapore, thanks to a team of men in orange vests who come through e...

I have not been struck by lightening on the road to Damascus. I am still a sinner
9/30/09 Damascus is one of a few cities that I have visited that claims to be the world’s oldest city (Byblos and Sana’a being two of the others) so I got out my cell phone video camera and set off on a Michael Moore in your face documentary. This works out well because of all the baklava I have been eating I am now the size of him. I am going to have to day that Damascus wins being that Eve lived here. Damascus is also home to the world’s f...

To the castle
Syria 24/9/2009 Getting into Syria was what the Yemenis call a fish market and what the cruder among us (me) call a shit show. It reminded me of a scene from a movie where is shows a stock market with people yelling, screaming and gesturing with what seems to bedlam all around. I lost track of how many times someone grabbed my passport and then handed it off to someone else. At least 7. In the end things were fine and I suspect if you a...

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