Although I have only had a week in Syria, the country has made quite an impression on me. Kind people, magnificently old ruins, rich foods, deep traditions and desert sands that stun the soul…
Finding the time to see all that Syria has to offer has been a challenge. From a leisurely start in Aleppo’s wide streets, through Roman, Ottoman and Crusader ruins, via Bedouin desert towns and into the modern hub of Damascus, the past week has only been as small taste of Syrian culture and hospitality
Yesterday I took the comfortable local bus from Palmyra to Damascus (three hours) and then a very eventful taxi ride from the bus station to the city centre (involving twenty sets of directions, kerb-mounting manoeuvres and crazy, tooting traffic). Hitting the streets straight away, I found Damascus far less conservative than other Syrian cities, more laid back than I imagined a capital city, but still brimming with contemporary development. I did find the city to be oxymoronic at times: it’s modern office buildings sit next to weathered old mosques; half-constructed pavements littered with stalls are also lined with chain stores and cafes. It is this mix of traditional and exotic with fresh expansion that gives the city and exciting but welcoming feel.
Today I wandered the mosques, the souqs and the palace, feeling at times like I could in a European city. The narrow cobbled streets in the old city are trimmed with vines and scattered with Italian, French and German tourists.
I wish I had more time here but tomorrow I’m off to Jordan; another country, another adventure.
I am finding my days are busier, the heat is more draining and the amount of time left at the end of each day to write, debrief and unwind is becoming less and less (so apologies for the short post).
I expect you will hear from me next when I am in Aqaba, Jordon, after five days of driving through the desert, exploring Petra (oh the excitement), riding camels and camping with Bedouins under the stars.