When discussing housing for students in southern
These are the words of an embittered tourist. The short story: I paid the equivalent of one hundred Canadian dollars for a four-hour camel ride in a country where a fifteen-minute taxi ride costs fifty cents and a shwarma is under a buck.
It was only at 8 am on the first day of my five-day weekend that I received a call from a fellow Canadian teacher asking me if I wanted to accompany him and his wife on a three-day trip to Palmyra, which Lonely Planet calls “Syria’s prime attraction and one of the world’s most splendid historical sites.” Since my weekend plans had been fluid to begin with, it was a matter of minutes before I was packing my bags for a little road trip into the
Why should I have worried? I was traveling with a couple who, despite only having lived in Syria for six months, knew their way around Aleppo better than many of the Syrian teachers at the school in which I am teaching; furthermore, they proved themselves effective bargainers as we went through the different shops that evening. Both John and Wain (Yep, that’s her name. It was a constant struggle to avoid making John Wayne comments during our time together.) effectively and repeatedly brought venders down to sixty, fifty, and even forty percent of the original asking price through effective haggling. If they were not worried about having a price nailed down, who was I to argue?
(Our fearless leader, aka An accomplice in the scam)
As I discovered at the following morning, camels are a comfortable mode of transportation for approximately fifteen minutes, and this quantity diminishes as the camel’s speed increases. We rode out into the freezing desert as the sun rose behind our backs, but since I was more concerned with staying warm and atop my hump-backed steed, it proved particularly difficult to turn around and capture the ruins against the first light of the day. After riding for a little less than two hours, we broke our fast with a meal of flat bread, olives, pickled peppers, and apricot jam in the tent of a Bedouin family. While I definitely questioned whether invading this family’s home was a responsible choice or not, I was grateful for their hospitality and the opportunity to stretch my legs by playing some soccer with the two boys living in this particular tent. I even got a laugh out of the entire family when I was putting my kufeyya back on. Upon returning to our camels, our guide led us through more of the desert and then into the oasis. It was beautiful but way, way, WAY too long a camel ride. Of course, when we finally arrived at our stopping point and John informed me that we still needed to pay another S£7000 ($140), I knew two things: that we had indeed been taken for a ride in more ways than one, and that
Middle: Worst form of transportation ever;
Bottom: Okay - so you can get some pretty impressive pictures)
(Tourists are often followed right to their car by locals trying to sell a variety of trinkets)
I arrived back in Aleppo in the afternoon on Good Friday just in time to get changed, start a load of laundry, ride a taxi downtown (all by myself), and meet another teacher to watch the Passion processions taking place that afternoon in the Armenian Quarter. The Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, and
When I was having dinner with yet another Syrian teacher (you can tell that I’m being looked after while I am here) that same evening, we ended up talking about how being present at the Passion processions, along with hundreds of other Syrians and Armenians who lived in Aleppo, was so much more meaningful and tangible for me as a visitor in comparison to my trip to Palmyra. Maria and I agreed that
As a combined result of my own weariness, my “ruin-fatigue,” and my conversation with Maria, I did a very unhistorical thing and decided to cancel a visit planned for the following day to Apamea and a museum filled with ancient mosaics. Instead, for the next two days I slept in a little, finished my laundry, and went on some long walks through
I am still incredibly excited to visit the Crusader castles next week. These fortresses, which are more complete than the ruins of
(Note: I owe my readers an apology for both the length of the above post and for the number of posts appearing all at once. The amount of free time has enabled me to reflect copiously upon my experiences in