1221 (local time)
“Salam-ma Lakum, Kefuk” right now I'm sitting on a bus that is heading to Deir ez-Zur from Palmyra whilst watching one of the craziest Syrian movies ever! The last 48 hours have been fantastic! I've really enjoyed them! I have been in Damascus and Palmyra which are both in Syria. I hade a great time in Damascus because of 2 reasons, #1 I was on the hunt for nuts! And boy did I get some! I think I had over a kilo of nuts in one of those zip lock bags! Because I had so many, I was offering them to everyone at the hostel. Pretty sure by the end of it, they thought I was some crazy Australian that has had too much sugar! The #2nd reason why I had a ball is met some pretty cool pommies, Dan and Anna from England, who were both doing the same thing as me, travelling the world. Anna grew up in Melbourne as well which was pretty cool, small world.
It was their last night in Damascus, so we went to the Christian section in Old Damascus, found a bar and played card games whilst drinking the local beer called Barada, which I have to say is one of the worst beers I have ever had in my life. After a few beers, we found the local shisha bar, and smoked some shisha played more card games until they kicked us out, then we went back to our hostel, finished off the end of some Vodka and fell asleep. I was woken in the morning my Dan saying his goodbyes and giving me their copy of Syria & Lebanon Lonely Planet, it was so kind of them. I made them make sure that when they were coming to Melbourne in April to give me a bell, so I can take them to an AFL match! Cant wait!
Anyway. so I was sorted, I had my nuts! I met 2 Polish people (the first for my travels) who were going to Palmyra, so I asked if I could join them on their bus ride to Palmyra and in doing so maybe even save some money.
So we caught a taxi from our hostel for 125 SP$ or 40 SP each (1AUD) the taxi was taking us to one of the many bus stations in Damascus that was to take us to Palmyra. For reference the bus station was called Pullman. We arrived at about 10am and we had to wait for 1.5 hours for the bus to leave. So we bought our tickets to Palmyra for about 150 SP$ which is just under $4AUD. No worries! So we got on the bus and headed off. It was about a 3 hours journey, which I spent asleep and listening to music!
We eventually arrived in Palmyra and were greeted by some of the most amazing ruins yet! You could actually picture the town. When we hopped off the bus, we were assaulted by Syrian blokes yelling at us to stay at their hotel. We settled at a price of 200SP P.P, and then got driven to his hotel called Hotel Al Faris. Maya and Barttomiey (the Polish guys) had just put their bags down in the hotel and they were ready to set off to explore the ruins! I would have loved to take it easy, but I tied my shoelaces and headed off!
We were driven to the museum, where we walked towards the ruins. We walked along the ancient Great Colonade and through the Monumental Arch, where the Syria & Lebanon Lonely Planet front cover was taken who was given to me by Dan and Anna from the UK.
So we took some awesome photos and progressed to the ‘Temple of Bel’. Unfortunately my Student Card failed me, so I was forced to pay 150 SP which really pissed me off, but not to worry we were in.
We walked around for a bit and took photos then we entered the main part or the Cella which was created in 32AD. Its hard to describe, but (the photos will help) there was like an ‘constructed cave’ in the temple, which I thought I should climb inside to get some photos, I looked to me right, and there was a stair case leading up! So because I'm a boy, and I like to explore and climb I checked it out! It lead to the top of the Temple! When I got to the top, I was able to take some amazing photos! Then a group of maybe 20-30 Italian tourists rocked up, which one or two saw me on the top, I told them to keep quiet as I sat up their and watched and took photos! The photos that Barttomiey are quite funny! Ill posts them up when I get the chance. (just remember the Syrian internet is RUBBISH)
Anyway we left the temple and we were able to hitch a ride to the top of the Arab Castle to watch the sunset! It was amazing! The sun was so big and ‘Jamiel’ (Syrian for Beautiful).
We got a lift back to the city centre where we had some dinner, which was a Bedouin dish called ‘Mansef’ which is Rice, Chicken, Almonds with natural Yogurt! REALLY NICE! This was quite expensive costing about 200 SP, but was definitely worth it.
The guy that served us was almost as crazy as me, his name was Mohammad and I've never heard a Syrian talk so quickly! As soon as we arrived at his restaurant he went flat out like a lizard drinking, and didn’t leave us alone, was always cracking jokes! I funny man!
After dinner we went on the hunt to look for dates! Palmyra is the place for dates, it is where they come from, and I think that October is the season of dates! So we all bought a Kilo each for what started off at 200SP we bargained him down to 100SP using friendliness and me rattling off conversation in Arabic.
After we got the dates Barttomiey really wanted to find a scorpion, so we wandered off into the desert with flashlights to look for them, but unfortunately we didn’t find any, instead we found a whole lot of Dung Beatles, so were even beginning to roll up the poo.
We retired that night after grabbing a drink, and were asleep by 1am.
Which brings me to where I am now, which is on the bus to Deir ez-Zur. Cant wait!
Just and Update! 1848 (local time) I have met up with some people from Slovenia who I'm sharing a room with for 300 SP, expensive, but there is not much we can do! The rest of the hotels are expensive and they are terrible.
So we went for a walk to look for a bus station that will take us to Mari, where there is some ruins. Mari is close to the IRAQ border, so I'm not planning on staying there for too long.
Anyway, after hours of searching, the Slovenians wanted to go one way, but I had other ideas, so we left and I went in the opposite way to them.
The reason we couldn’t find the bus station, is because the map in the Lonely Planet sucks, and the proper map that we were also given, is just as bad!
Anyway, I found the major bus station at the end of this major road, inquired about a ticket. It is 100SP to Mari, which is way to much, but if you want to catch a big bus, that’s the price it costs. 100SP is only $2.30AUD anyway!
So I got that sorted. On my way back, I stopped at a tiny little shop on the side of the road, I kinda invited myself in, and ended up staying drinking straight Syrian Coffee, watching the soccer and eating nuts. Whilst in the mean time trying to talk to the guy that works there, I forget his name but it means “Happy” in English. After a few hours of hanging out with him and his friends, I thought it was time I made my way back to the hotel. As I walked down the street, I would say “Salama-ma-lakum” which means “Peace be with you” when I say this to locals, I get a few replies: “ma-lakum Salam” is common, which is the reply, I get mumbled Arabic, what I find most amusing, I get grown men, look at me in with a confused look upon their face! I don't think they can believe that a Westerner is here, speaking to them in Arabic! I feel a little bit like a celebrity.
Anyway, tonight my friend from the shop is going to pick me up around 8 o’clock to take me around the city. I'm not too sure if it will happen, but we shall see!
Comments for the photos coming soon!!!
See the cave on the left, this got me to the top...