Difficult to see though the haze...

Trip Start May 31, 2007
Trip End May 20, 2008

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Flag of Syria  ,
Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sitting in a second floor "Internet Cafe" right next to a chain smoking man....aaaargh! Finding I'm loving some good sheesha (flavored water pipe)...but still hating cigs! One of my tourmates who just gave up smoking has a sheesha at every opportunity so I usually steal a few puffs from him each evening.

We are staying in a converted old house in the middle of the souk / market.  Continuing to hone my bargaining skills and found some beautiful Syrian silk screened scarfs this morning after our great tour of the Citadel.  Our guide was the best!  Ahmed Modalla, amoudallal@hotmail.com if you come to Aleppo.  Super enthusiastic, smart and funny.  We ran into some traveling Christian Koreans who broke out their guitars and started singing "It's a Small World" while we clapped along.  Didn't expect that one I can assure you...but really it's these moment that make you smile and sometimes cry as you realize how interconnected we are. 

Ali our tour leader took us to a shop to meet some hilarous guys...a mixture of straight and gay.  Between being asked by the straight one:  "Are those real"...and he didn't mean my silver necklace and then hearing his brother, the gay one, tell our Brazillian, that he could just lay there and the other guy would do all of the work....I had to pick my jaw up off the ground a few times!  Did manage to get the great deal on the scarfs I mentioned above though! 

Took a few days to warm up to Syria mostly because I wasn't feeling well in Damascus.  We stayed in a grotto like hotel.  The rooms were mostly underground without any windows.  I gave a bit of a safety protest and ended up in a room on the first floor without any windows...just accepted my fate at that point and reassured myself that most of the structure was concrete anyway.  Not much to burn. We walked thought the maze of Old Damascus and saw a beautiful old mosque called Ummayad...a converted church so an interesting mix of styles.  Found I needed some solitary time and spent most of the time in my room enjoying the A/C in between the power outages!  The infrastructure is a bit spotty here.  The reason given from a few people is that Syria is supplying power to some neighboring countries like Iraq...  In fact, heard a bit from a few men in Palmyra about the war.  They were not pleased and I won't repeat what they had to say but they also said that they were glad to meet a nice American.   I try to put a friendly face on our country but really, it's a tough task at times to counter the impact of our foreign policy in the world.  The countries that are labeled 'bad' etc at home such as Syria and Iran on some level are really those countries that aren't buying into what America's selling.  I have to have some respect for countries who are interested in their own nationalistic priorities and don't just bow down under American influence.  

Prior to arriving in Aleppo, we visited the hill town of Crac des Chevaliers where we stayed across the way from a large castle which we explored part of one day.  The views were fabulous and in the morning the fog had rolled in just like a typical morning in the Sunset of San Fran.  I couldn't see past the railing in my room.  Luckily the view of the castle and the sunset had been spectacular the night before.  We had a fixed price dinner the evening before of many types of small dishes and some lemon/olive oil chicken.  Our most amazing meal to date for the price for sure.  We all ate so much many of us became a bit ill!

The city of Aleppo is mostly grey: streets, buildings, etc. In need of a splash of color occasionally.  Lots of activity and color in the souk and in the courtyard of our hotel.  There are elaborately detailed lights hanging from the ceiling and it looks quite special in the evening.  Last night we shared some wine in the courtyard with our feet in the central fountain!  Tomorrow we are off to Turkey for the final bit of our tour....over too soon for sure.

A bit of Syrian history (Thanks Rohini!)...
1.Hıstorıcally syrıa ıncluded jordan, ısrael,palestıan terrıtorıes,lebanon, and syrıa ıtself.
2. Due to strageıc posıtıon ıts costal areas were ımportant phonencıan tradıng posts, later the area became part of the egyptıan,persıan, and roman empıres
3.Then became part of ottoman empıre
4. Was dıshed out to france when ottoman empıre broke up after wwI
5.France trıed to carve up the country ınto mını states ex. damascus, aleppo whıch led to revolt agaınst french
6. After surrender of france to germany ın 1940 syrıa came under way of the vıchy government, ıts overthrow ın 1941 paved the way for syrıas ındependence
7.Brıtısh helped the syrıans get the french out
8.1954 the natıonalıst Ba ath party (means renaıssance)
9.Assad (defense mınıster) was elected as presıdent, ın 1998 he was elected to 5th seven year termö hıs death was announced on 10 june 2000.
10.Followıng Assad death hıs son Bashar acceded to power.
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