Trip Diary - Africa

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SYRIA – Thursday 28th Dec

Aleppo was our first call. We spent that night in a cheap motel, thankful for a bed, shower and loo (albeit a squat loo). The next morning we popped in at the Baron Hotel, famous for it’s guests, Agatha Christie, T E Lawrence and many others. Mr Walid, who had worked there for 43 years greeted us warmly, served us cups of tea, taught the children how to write their names in Arabic, gave us directions to an out of town campsite, and asked us if we were interested in his carpets!

The campsite was in a very remote village. We were the only campers there. It was quite expensive, when all you got was a squat loo. Due to high population density and a lot of military presence, rough camping was out of the question.

Aleppo was my favourite part of Syria. We spent an evening browsing through the souks. The atmosphere in there is like nothing I have ever experienced. It wakes the senses, and I felt as if I was in a movie set. In one section there were tables of freshly chopped meat, slaughtered fowls dangled off ceiling hooks, all so beautifully displayed that they could have been floral arrangements. I don’t mean to be macabre but it was impressive.

We visited the old Crusader Castle of Crac de Chevaliers, with it’s awesome fortifications. It is still in very good condition as I believe it has been used in more recent times.

We rough camped next to a ploughed field on the edge of the Syrian Desert. It was very picturesque. However it was cold and we awoke to frost and ice everywhere, so named it Frozen Scarecrows camp, after the 4 Smiths who emerged from their tent the following morning.

Palmyra, another ruined Roman city, this time built from sandstone, was next on the visiting list. A temple to Baal still stands there. We wondered around for awhile but moved on fast as the wind was biting.

As we moved south on the road to Damascus, the weather started to improve. Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world. We wandered the old town and the old streets. The most famous one is Straight Street, mentioned by Paul in Acts. We found the house of Annanais, where Paul was baptized and then visited the Chapel of St Paul, built into the old city wall at the point at which Paul was supposed to have escaped the city in a basket. Now I can appreciate so much more of Paul and the letters he wrote.

PS. Most poplar children’s toy in Syria, from age 2 to 20…………GUN.

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