Damascus, Palmyra

Well, we’ve been in Syria for about 5 days now, and to be honest we haven’t done a lot.

We arrived in Damascus latish at night on the 11th. Our first order of business was to get ripped off by a taxi driver. We’d originally agreed to pay a price higher than we’d been told we should because we only had very large bills, and needed change. So after confirming that the driver could provide change, 100 Syrian pounds (about $2) seemed reasonable. When we got to the hotel, the driver says “no change,” and requested as payment $3 US (this was after he went on a spiel about Canada, Italy, France… good, USA, UK bad during the ride), which we ended up paying just because we were too tired to bother arguing.

On our first full day there, we wandered around Old Damascus a bit. It’s a really fascinating place, with API Call Errornarrow streets and houses that look like they’re API Call Errorfalling down. Being a Friday, though, we were unable to visit any mosques, and the one other site we’d wanted to visited closed for a couple hours around noon, when we happened to be there. So that was about all the sightseeing we did that day. We did take the time to discover just how cheap street food can be…you can feed 2 people for less than 100 SP.

We took a day of rest on Saturday, just reading and went to a movie (The Pink Panther) in the evening. The trip to the cinema was actually quite a surprise, mostly in the way other people were dressed. Few of the women wore headscarves, and many were dressed in tight clothes, some even showing some leg, something that’s been unheard of elsewhere in the middle east.

Sunday, we did go back to old Damascus to see the API Call ErrorUmmayad Mosque, and the API Call ErrorAzem Palace, the sights we’d missed on Friday, but still took a generally lazy day.

We’re now in Palmyra. Our trip out here was quite pleasant. Syria has had a recent explosion in luxury bus companies, so while the bus station was a bit confused…there was no central source of schedule information, just offices for the separate companies, we were able to find a bus leaving almost immediately after we arrived, and, for a total of 250 SP (about $5), we got a ride on a fairly new bus, and were even served snacks (well, candy) and water at no extra cost.

Palmyra itself hasn’t been as interesting as we’d hoped. It’s mostly a API Call Errorstandard Roman city, not all that different from Jerash. The API Call Errortower tombs were one point of interest though. Common in more ancient sites in Mesopotamia and along the Euphrates, they’re basically just towers where bodies were almost warehoused…there’s a lot of alcoves, and it looks like there were probably shelves that bodies were placed on. We also took a trip at API Call Errorsunset to the Arab castle high above the Roman city, which did have a API Call Errorfantastic view.

Tomorrow we’ll be getting a private car tour to some of the harder to reach sites. A Ummayad dessert castle, Rasafa (an ancient walled city), up to the Euphrates, and then going around the country a bit and dropping us in Hama, on the Orontes River.

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