Friday, October 23, 2009

Deir-El Zur and the Desert of Dura Europus!


1825 (local time)

Almost 10/10/09... small things amuse me! Right, well the last time I wrote I was telling you about hanging out with the Slovenians, I hung out with them all day today, and ill tell you, it was a full packed adventure day! Quite fun really!

Also, the last time I wrote I was meeting up with an 18 year old Syrian guy whose name is Sayed! I’ll should probably start with Sayed! So like I said before, I wasn’t really expecting him to come to my hotel and take me around the city! But it came about 8.15pm and I get a knock at my door. It was the hotel receptionist saying that I had a visitor! So I put on my runners and walked down the stairs to find and smart looking Sayed waiting for me (this sounds like a DR SEUSS book) So Sayed took me down the the river to see the French made suspension bridge that goes over the Canel that I think is the ‘Euphrates River’ Euphrates is greek for ‘Gental River’ According to the Lonely Planet the river starts 80km North East of Turkey and makes its way through Turkey, Syrian until it meets up with the Tigris in Iraq before heading into the Persian Gulf. Also according to the LP the book of revelations in the New Testament says once the river runs dry it will mean Armageddon follows. Which is almost true because Syria, Turkey and Iraq have all invested money into the river for Hydro-electric energy, so once the river runs dry it will mean that millions of people will lose their livelihood, so there is some pretty interesting facts there. Anyway, so Sayed took me over the river across a bridge bought me popcorn and we chatted. His English was basic but enough to get by! After this we walked into the Souq (markets). So there we were arms linked as all Syrians do, walking through the Souq. I wanted to buy some Smarties for my trail mix, but Sayed bought them for me, I walked into a music shop and went to buy an Arabic CD but Sayed bought it for me, we then had a Shwarma and Coke but Sayed bought it for me! Don't get me wrong, I practically forced money into his hand, but he denied. So off we went again, arms linked walking around. He then called his friend, who invited us over to his house! Brilliant, I couldn’t wait. So I got in the Taxi and was driven to Sayed’s friends house. When I walked through the gate into his ‘front yard’, so to speak, there was his mother and I presume his father outside. His father was fixing his motorbike whilst his mother watched, as soon as I entered everyone stopped what they were doing and there eyes were fixed on me. It was until I said “Salam-a-mLakum” when I was greeted by handshakes and kisses from the men. I was then shown a place to seat on their lime green with gold trim couch, where I tried to explain to them where I was from and what I was doing in Syria. I was then taken outside, where there was music being played from the next door neighbours. They grabbed my hand and took me up stairs so I could see what was happening. I couldn’t see much, but I did see a lot of people dancing around in a circle arms linked and singing. Apparently it was the party after the wedding.

The music was quite good, so I did a bit of a dance and they all loved it... or at least thought ‘what is this guy doing’ but they laughed and took me back down stars where they sat me in front of the TV. A channel was chosen and it was an Arabic music channel. They then motioned me to dance again so off I went. Sayed joined me, whilst his friend got out his camera phone and proceeded to video tape me, so I can only assume that he will put that on You Tube under Crazy Man Dancing...

They then asked me if I wanted Tea and Shisha, I happily agreed and was taken back outside to the front yard, and was made to sit on some cushions. Sayed’ friend was bringing out the Shisha, but held it wrong and it smashed all over the concrete outside.

I don't think anyone was very happy, but never mind, they offered me boiling hot Syrian Tea. I only but one and a half sugars in mine, but in theirs they put 4 or 5. In the mean time, another one of Sayed’s friends arrived who spoke English quite well, so we chatted whilst we waited for another Shisha pipe.

After 10 or 15 minutes another Shisha pipe arrived and we were all good to go, over the many months of smoking the Shisha, I have become quite good at it, so I surprised the boys when I took control. I have had a few chats with Syrian and Egyptian boys before and the conversations generally involve: Listening to Arabic music off their camera phones, watching movies on their camera phones, questions such as: Why I have come to Syria, What I do at home, what do I like better Australia or Syria, do I have any brothers or sisters and the mega uncomfortable one... Do I Like Sex? Now, before you have a giggle to yourself, just remember that this is a Muslim country so they only get sex once they are married which means at 18 years of age, SEX IS THE ONLY THINGS ON THEIR MINDS!!! I normally try my best to either answer and move on, or just try to avoid the question completely. Anyway it was going on 12, so I said to Sayed that I must get going because I had a busy day tomorrow. He acknowledged so I took some photos of all the boys and said my goodbyes to the family. To say goodbye to the men, you shake their hand, then give two kisses on their cheeks and one on their shoulders or give two kisses on either sides of their necks... or any combination of the two.

So I was dropped at my hotel, we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and I quietly snuck into my room and fell asleep.

I woke up today at 650 in the morning, had a quick shower and by 8am myself and Andreya and Tomaz aka ‘the Slovenian’s’ were on our way to the bus station, to catch a bus to Dura Europus which is in the middle of the desert close to the Iraq Border and Mari. The bus cost us 100SP, and as Tomaz and myself were looking out the window, we joked about ‘imagine if the bus stopped here and we were left in the middle of the desert’ and of course just as we said this, the bus man said “Tell Salhiye” and too our surprise 1-2 kilometres into the distance we could see Dura Europus, so we got off the bus in the middle of the desert and walked towards the entrance. It was a very weird feeling it be ‘in the middle of the desert’ We paid our entrance fee to the man that must just live in the middle of the desert and just wandered in. We took some photos of the entrance, and then just walked straight to the other side, where we were greeted by the Euphrates River. A pretty amazing site, as one side was desert and the other side was lush green. I spotted some women picking things out of the bushes so I stumbled down the steep cliff to see what they were doing, I obviously knew I wasn’t too welcome, because they were in full Muslim dress face covered and everything. So I slowly walked over to them and yelled out “Salam-a-mLakum”, I got a reaction so I slowly walked toward them to see what they were picking, I realised it was cotton. It actually looked like Cotton Balls like you get from the super market. I gestured to them to see if I could take a photo but I got a stern “LA”! which means no, so I just stood and watched and helped. After five minutes of watching, I'm pretty sure they wanted me to leave, so I walked back to the cliff and climbed up, obviously I took a few for souvenirs. I then climbed but the top of the fortress wall and just took some photos and chilled in the nice cooling breeze.

It was getting 12 o’clock and hot, so we left Dura Europus collected our bags and wandered back to the highway to try to hitch hike or score a lift from someone. Luckily we saw a mini bus go past, so we flagged it down, paid our 100 SP and got taken back to Deir ez-Zur. We got a bite to eat and got on another bus that was going to take me to Raqqa and the Slovenians to Aleppo.

So after 2 hours on the bus I was woken from my sleep said my goodbyes and got off the bus. Luckily a guy that was on the same bus as me saw me get off and then called me over and we wandered into the town of Raqqa. Raqqa is in the Northern part of Syria but in the middle. His name was Mohammad, and is a really cool dude that lives here and studies business in Aleppo. So we walked, talked and ate my nuts as we walked into town. He showed me to some hotels/hostels that are crap but MEGA expensive, we eventually found one that is costing me 400 SP ($10AUD) a night at a pretty rubbish hostel I think this is almost the most I've paid for a hostel in Syria (almost).

My reason for coming to Raqqa, because I thought I could visit Qala’at Ja’abar which is an awesome castle that has the river as a backdrop. Ill speak to Mohammad tonight about it, but I think its super hard and expensive to visit if you don't have a car. So I think ill be going straight to Aleppo tomorrow then, which is a bummer, but can’t do much about it.

Anyway, its now 1923, and ill be giving Mohammad a call at 2030 tonight to see what he is up too, in the mean time I might go for a walk or watch a movie!

Peace out!

Deir-El Zur

The army blokes i met at the bus station... who ended up drinking all my water!

When we look at a map in Syria, people flock to see if we are O.K!

My friend Sayed, that took me around the city!

Sayed bought me pop corn!

Then Sayed took me to meet his friends and their families!

I kid you not... this kid is about 4 smoking the Shisha!

Sayed and his friends!

Dura Europus
To get to Dura Europus, we were literally drop in the middle of the desert!

Honestly this was pretty much all the ruins were...

But once we kept walking further into the ruins, we saw the Euphrates river!

This was it...

The women out there were picking cotton, i had to check it out!

This was the cotton that grew on the bushes!

'Selfie' photo, of Dura on the right, and the Euphrates on the left

Dura in the Background!

We hitch-hiked on a mini bus to get home, this was one of the kids on the bus!

Their eyes were flicking from each of us (myself and the Slovenians) they had never seen Westerners before!

Chat soon guys!

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