Syria






















28/9 The border, Syria-Turkey
Lat N 36° 14,27', Long E 36° 39,24'
Today: 87.8 °F ( +31 °C)
28 Sep 2005
20859 km

A day full of action from beginning to end. We parked for the night at the border. In the morning just in time for breakfast there was young man selling fresh bread passing by, excellent!

At the Turkish side of the border there was a total chaos. In the midst of everything we happened to leave our passports and clearance papers with a non official “messenger” that are helping people though and afterwards charge you money for it. It is not easy to know who is who because a lot of the people working in places like that are not wearing a uniform. But in 15 minutes the “messenger” was back with the necessary stamps in out passports and waved us though the chaos to the exit spot. It saved us a lot of trouble and cost us 4 $US.

Next was to get in to Syria. We had an appointment with an agent that who should bring us a visa and help us through. We knew that the Syrians demanded that everyone should apply for a visa at the embassy in their home country, and that they might say no if we tried to apply for a visa in another country. We were short of time for meeting our friend Cairo and we choose the easy way out contacting Mr Fajer instead.

Mr Mahamoud was a very professional agent. He helped us through it all swift and easy. At the Syrian border we had to pay 9 $US for road tax and 60 $US car insurance. For the visa and the assistance at the border we paid 80 $US per person. But that includes a multiple entry visa and assistance by an agent at all four border passages.

Syria was really a different country compared to the countries we traveled this far. The scenery, the houses and the clothes look different. There are few women in the streets and all of them are wearing a scarf. Catharina hurried to get one to. Of obviously it was not enough to melt in, she was still looking like a two meter telegraph pole but that is kind of hard to do something about.

We thought that the petrol ought to be cheaper in Syria and we passed the border with a nearly empty tank. That was not a cleaver very move. The petrol was only 0,5 $US, but that makes not much of a difference when there is no petrol. We traveled 80 kilometers and tried to buy petrol at eight different places without any success. There was absolutely no petrol anywhere.

Instated we tried to find an ATM in the closest town. We where lucky to find a guy that helped us find a bank. But there was no ATM machine and we could not use VISA card or Master card in the bank, or to use traveler’s checks. Cash was king and we had to use our emergency dollars. It is important not to put all eggs in the same basket.

We found yet an other petrol station with no petrol, but at time we where there the tank lorry arrived and we had to wait for an hour before we could fill up our tank. During this time we got invited to the house of Mr. Major Samhar the son of Mr. Hassan Baghdadi for a breakfast. We got to meet his family , friends and neighbors . We got Mezze and they had a good laugh when they realized that we did not know how to eat Syrian food.

When it was time for us to leave we had to promise to visit them on our way back through Syria when we are not in a hurry. We are looking forward to this.

At the campsite in Damascus we met a couple from London that was on their way to Cape Town and another couple from Germany that had traveled the Middle East with a baby of four months. The father of the child turned out to be a pediatrician.

This was really an exhausting day. The things we had told you about is only a fragment of our experiences.


















29/9 Damascus, Syria
Lat N 33° 32,86', Long E 36° 20,99'
Today: 89.6 °F ( +32 °C)
29 Sep 2005
21228 km

At 9AM we had an appointment with Mr Fajer at his office in Damascus to pay him for his services arranging the visa for us. We have to say that we are very pleased and highly recommend his services. If you are interested you can take a look at his website www. levantsf.com.

Swift and easy we exited Syria with the help of the agent that we had an appointment with at the border, but getting in to Jordan without an agent as a totally different thing. It took us three hours and we had to pay 55 $US for a car insurance and 15 $US for a ”blue card”. The process took us three hours which is quite normal.

We went strait to the Dead Sea and camped at the Amman Beach. When we arrived it was dark already but we went to the beach anyway. We met a truck-driver from Amman and his family at the beach and they invited us for food.


















27/10 Bosra, Syria
Lat N 32° 31,10', Long E 36° 28,98'
Today: 82.4 °F ( +28 °C)
27 Oct 2005
24179 km

It is five things a good muslim should do: 1. Pray five times a day, at sunrise, noon, mid afternoon, sunset and night. 2. Go on one pilgrimage to Mecca. 3. Fast during Ramadan. 4. Give alms to the poor. 5. Publicly declare ”Ha il Allah Mohammed ar rasul Allah” which means “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his Prophet.

Now it is only one week left of Ramadan and we felt that it was time for us to try to do a “Ramadan”. During Ramadan you are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke or have sexual intercourse between sunrise and sunset.

Okay. As most of the muslims we went up before sunrise to have breakfast and to drink as much water that we could swallow. Then we went to bed again. The muslims are taking the day as calm as possible and so did we.

Anneli and Catharina slept until 11 am. Meanwhile Bert was photographing the ruins of Bosra. He met a muslim man who wanted Bert to by Coca Cola from him. When Bert told him –No thanks, I’m doing Ramadan, the man got all excited, held his hands to the sky and said Allah, Allah.

Hungry and deadthirsty we counted the hours to sunset. It was hard to think about other than the hunger and the enormous thirst. We never thought that one lousy day would affect us this much. And the muslims does this everyday in a whole month.

At lunch we drove to Damascus. After a whiles searching in hectic traffic we found our hotel. Bert was not that much affected by Ramadan as Anneli and Catharina. Annelis stomach screamed and Catharina was too dizzy to think of anything.

Anneli and Bert found an internet café where they spent a couple of hours waiting for sunset. Catharina did as the muslims. She slept.

When sunset started we went out to have a meal. We were really proud and satisfied. We made it! And it was just as hard as we thought it would be. Finally we got to eat and drink. We had had a day with +28C and no water so we really needed it.

Damascus is a noisy and hectic big city with chaotic traffic and a lot of people. However, a strange ghostlike feeling comes over you when sun sets. The city gets totally empty and silent. Everybody leaves the streets and goes for there first meal of the day. After an hour or so they are back and the city turns loud and chaotic again.
















28/10 Damascus, Syria
Lat N 33° 30,92', Long E 36° 17,98'
Today: 82.4 °F ( +28 °C)
28 Oct 2005
24317 km

Today we went to Souk = market and we also visited the mosque Umayyad which are located next to each other. The mosque Umayyad is ranked second sacred after the holy Mecca. We spent the afternoon there, feeling the atmosphere. There were a lot of people today. It is Friday and Friday is like our Sunday and people did what people do at Sundays, relax and go to church, in this case the mosque.

Catharina and Anneli had skirt and t-shirt when we went out today but it didn’t feel right so we went back to the hotel and changed to trousers. At the Souk we bought scarves to cover our hair. You get a lot of attention as a foreigner, especially as a woman and it is nice to rest from that once in a while.

It is cheap here in Syria. For a meal with a lot of small dishes and grilled meat on a really nice restaurant we paid 7$ for three persons. The scarves cost 1$ each. A nice double room is 12$.
















29/10 Damascus, Syria
Lat N 33° 30,92', Long E 36° 17,98'
Today: 75.2 °F ( +24 °C)
29 Oct 2005
24317 km

Today’s plan was to visit a haman. On our way there we passed the Bird Market. They sell all kinds of birds there, roosters , pigeons and canaries.

To find a haman we got to search in narrow, cozy alleys behind the souk. Since most of the hamans is for men only, Bert had to go by himself. Anneli and Catharina finally found a small local haman which had access for women at special hours. There were only women masseuses and washers.

The haman visit was just as exiting as we thought it would be. When we entered two big met us. It was the masseuse and the washer. We changed to blankets and wooden slippers, totally impossible to walk in. The room had a cupola ceiling and a fountain in the middle. It was old, charming and non-touristic. Except for us it was just a few women visiting the haman.

Now it was time to enter the sauna. They really worked the steam up for us, it was nice! When we were all steamed up they told us to lay on the marble floor for a proper skin rubbing. After that we got a well deserved massage and soaping. Afterwards we had a nice cup of tee and relaxed. With skin like babies and remarkably fresh feeling (and looking) we returned home. We promised ourselves that we must do haman again!

In the evening we bought eleven dvd-movies from a street salesman. They will be fine a rainy day.

We have found a “hole in the wall” favorite, lemon ice-cream . It is just like sorbet and costs 40 cents. Extremely tasty.














30/10 Damascus, Syria
Lat N 33° 30,92', Long E 36° 17,98'
Today: 68 °F ( +20 °C)
30 Oct 2005
24317 km

Today we have had a girl’s day with shopping and hairdressing. Anneli and Catharina bought “penguin-clothes”. In Iran it is forbidden by law for a woman to show her hair and women have to wear long clothes for cover legs, arms and all the female shapes. The clothes we bought was black, thin, non-wrinkle and fast drying. Perfect! We actually believe that we will blend in now. The only thing that can ruin our disguise is Bert with his long red hair. It will be interesting…

In the afternoon we went searching for something to eat. Now, when it is Ramadan the restaurants don’t open until sun set. That means that if you are a hungry tourist you still have no option but to wait. Starved we finally got seated and they served us plenty of food. It was a real Ramadan meal with at least nine different dishes, bread, tee and dessert, all for only 5$. It was an interesting experience to be there with the locals who had there first meal of the day, relaxing, smoking water pipe and playing backgammon.

Bert stayed at home today. He has caught a cold and has got also a bad stomach. He missed out of our power-shopping day, but he promised that it was no loss for him…

We found a really trendy hair salon with only young men working. A well done haircut was only 3$.

For the first time in a long time it was raining today and it was also a bit cold. In the last three weeks it has been a striking change in the weather. Now it is actually time for long armed sweaters and jackets. In six weeks they say it will be snow in Damascus. It feels a bit strange.










31/10 Damascus, Syria
Lat N 33° 30,92', Long E 36° 17,98'
Today: 66.2 °F ( +19 °C)
31 Oct 2005
24317 km

Shopping again today, hmmm, twist my arm… This time it was Bert that needed suitable clothes , a long shirt for 7$US. We also bought a warm luxurious fleece blanket to be used as an extra cover now that nights are getting real chilly. Last night it was only +12° C. We expect it to get even worse in the mountains in Turkey. To prepare for this even more Anneli bought really sexy pyjamas trousers for 3 $US and in another store we found long sleeved t-shirts to were in bed. Nice and warm!

It is hard to bargain. We really do not know how and when it is time to do it, this means that we try it almost every time. Today we did not have much luck at all. It seems that most of the places have fixed prices and that it is only possible to bargain for small amounts. But that’s no problem because everything is really cheep here. We have discovered that the three of us can make it on 70 $US, including all the things we bought in Damascus.

In the evening Bert took the opportunity to fix his cheep plastic slippers, again. Maybe it is time for a pair of new slippers…
















1/11 Damascus, Syria
Lat N 33° 30,92', Long E 36° 17,98'
Today: 62.6 °F ( +17 °C)
01 Nov 2005
24317 km

We have stayed in Damascus much longer than we planned from the beginning. We like Damascus and since we also found a nice and cheap hotel located near the city center, we didn’t see any reason not to stay. However, after five days here it is time to continue. We headed for Palmyra, the number one tourist site in Syria. There are more ruins from the roman era.

On the way out of Damascus we found a SAAB salesman. We stopped for a new air filter since ours is filled with dust and sand. Unfortunately they only had spare parts from 1993 and newer.

At night we went out to check if we could see the moon. If you don’t see the moon at all it means that Ramadan is over. We couldn’t see it but apparently the muslims could, so it is one final day of fast tomorrow.


















2/11 Palmyra, Syria
Lat N 34° 33,80', Long E 38° 16,19'
Today: 62.6 °F ( +17 °C)
02 Nov 2005
24652 km

One more ruin. A big roman remain. We have had enough of them now. Dusty, sandy and hot. This is definitely the last one in a long time.

We watched the sun set from a hill just outside Palmyra. You can clearly see the oasis that the town is built around. Outside the town it is desert as far as you can see. As the sun went down they started several fireworks to declare that Ramadan is finally over.

In the evening we played backgammon. Yesterday we introduced Anneli in this noble art and now she wants to play all the time.

We want to tell you a little about the language difficulties that we meet. Many of the Arabic people want to speak English and practice makes perfect. Here follows a couple of examples:

We asked the way to Jabir, and the following conversation took place: ”Excuse me, do you know the way to Jabir?”, ”No english, welcome.”,”Excuse me, Jabir?”,”Ehhh???”,”Jabiir?, Djabir?, Djabrrr?”,”Ehhh???”,”Djaabir? Jaber?”,”Ahhh, Jaber!”,”Yes! Yes please. (puuh)”,”You go straight, no left, no right, no back, after, right hand, after left, no straight and back no!”,”What??? hmmm thank you so much!”. Still confused but on a much higher level we continued our journey…

Anneli speaks with the hotel manager about the Bird market: -For you not okay, woman, but for you, go, maybe, I help! Hmmm… can I go or not, that’s the 1000 dollar question!

Last but not least, the classic: -What my name? When they are asking for yours…




















3/11 Palmyra, Syria
Lat N 34° 33,80', Long E 38° 16,19'
Today: 68 °F ( +20 °C)
03 Nov 2005
24652 km

Ramadan is over and now starts a three days of celebrating. All shops except the food stores are closed. There are lots of people in the streets and all of them are dressed in their Sunday best. The kids are completely wild. They yell, jump around and throw fire crackers around themselves. Gangs of kids hang around us when we walk through the streets. As son as we get rid of them a new gang comes rushing to practice the few English words that they know, beg for pens and nag about us taking their photo.

For the afternoon we booked a camel ride in the desert to watch the sunset and to eat an traditional Bedouin dinner – Maslaf. We are tremendously pleased that we choose a short trip. A four hour camel ride is more than enough for your bottom. It was really cool to ride home in the dark hearing the soft paws of the camels against the ground while watching the stars in the sky.














4/11 Palmyra, Syria
Lat N 34° 33,80', Long E 38° 16,19'
Today: 57.2 °F ( +14 °C)
04 Nov 2005
24652 km

A short résumé of the day; been driving 300 kilometers through sandstorm and rain from Palmyra to Aleppo. Parts of the way were in both rain and sandstorm. How big are the odds for that?

We took a room at the ”Byron hotel”, an old fashion hotel that used to have guests like Lawrence of Arabia and Agatha Christie. This hotel was far over budget but one night we could afford.
















5/11 Aleppo, Syria
Lat N 36° 12,31', Long E 37° 09,01'
Today: 60.8 °F ( +16 °C)
05 Nov 2005
25010 km

The breakfast at Baron Hotel is a fun experience. An old man stumbles around serving tea and gives even more atmosphere to this old and cozy hotel which is well worth a visit.

Uploading the site is rather difficult in Syria. Most of the internet cafes do not let you connect your own computer and finally we gave up and sent everything to Peo in Sundsvall so he can do it. It took a few hours to hassle with this so we had a quick meal at a “hole in the wall”.

Unfortunately we can’t afford to stay at the hotel another night. Instead we sleep in the car which is parked in the street right outside the hotel. We can still use the bathroom, drink a couple of beers in the bar and watch TV. This is a great budget alternative!

Since we stayed in the cinema district we decided to catch a movie. It was certainly not the hottest movies they showed but as long as the movie theater had heating and an English speaking movie, it suited us perfectly. We paid 1$ for Mission Impossible two with Arabic and French subtitle. The theater was filthy and the movie a pirate copy with terrible sound. We couldn’t here a word the said.

Very frustrated Bert went to speak to the manager about having the money back. They couldn’t help him so he helped himself. He opened the cashbox and took back the money. He came to get us with the words: Come! Now! I’ll explain later!


















6/11 Aleppo, Syria
Lat N 36° 12,31', Long E 37° 09,01'
Today: 57.2 °F ( +14 °C)
06 Nov 2005
25010 km

Today we went to the post office. The mission was to send two bottles of whiskey home to Sweden. We soon discovered that this was not the easiest thing to do.

We were well prepared and had wrapped the package real good. The first thing that happened was that the postman ripped it open and spread it out over the counter, saw the bottles of whiskey and said “NO!” and went away. Hmmm, ok? what now? We asked another man, who luckily was the post master, to help us. It took him almost an hour to make the bottles ready for there journey to Sweden.

When we rang the doorbell of the family’s flat in Idlib we heard loud scream from inside. It was the youngest daughter. She was really happy to see us again. We got invited for chai (tea) and she called her friends and family to tell the news. Samhar, the man who invited us in the first place, was unfortunately in Damascus working. He was really sorry that he couldn’t meet us before we left Syria.

Anneli and Catharina were taught the Middle East “cry of joy”, the kind of shout that women use when they are extremely happy, for example at a wedding. You put your head up a little, your hand over the mouth and flip both hand and tongue while you make a loud noise. You get the best result if you do it group, so that’s what we did. It was really fun.

It goes with the concept that guests should be shown for one and all. All afternoon friends and neighbors came to have a look at us. Samhar´s cousin, Mohammed, had started taking English lessons. Maybe our last visit inspired him to do it. Cool. We went to visit Mohammed’s English teacher. We sat in a beautiful room with golden chairs and thick luxury carpets. The teacher had lived in several different countries in Europe when he growed up so his English was very good. It was nice to have this chance to speak without the language barrier.

We felt really sorry that we have to leave Syria the next day. The family wanted us to stay longer, at least three or four days. But our visa expires and we have no choice. In the evening they helped us to find the best way to go to the border. We realized that it was absolutely no use for us to try to get to sleep in the car and we accepted to sleep in the children’s bedroom.

They eat a lot in this country! All the time they put something at the table and they expected that we ate of all. When we first arrived they served us tea and cookies. After a while it was time for coffee and of course cookies. A little later we had a big dinner with several dishes and as dessert we got candy. After that we went to a restaurant and had ice cream and finally we got fruit before bedtime. We almost didn’t make to the end, eating all the time is a hard job...












7/11 Idlib, Syria
Lat N 35° 55,15', Long E 36° 38,22'
Today: 57.2 °F ( +14 °C)
07 Nov 2005
25095 km

After a hot shower, breakfast and goodbye to the family we headed for Aleppo. We had some Syrian money left that we had to spend. It was easier said than done. We bought food, long johns, new carseat covers and filled up the car and bought oil. We also had lunch before the border and still we had money left. For the first time it didn’t cost anything to cross the border. Typical. We still got a few hundreds left.

We drove a quick 500 km in Turkey before we stopped at a gas station to sleep. It shows that we are climbing, the nature turns, first red and yellow and soon we saw snowy mountains. It felt a little like home, no signs with Arabic letters, real stores and most of all, it was clean.

On the way we got stopped by a man who wanted to take a picture of our car. They took it, said thank you and drove off...