This young boy is visiting from Saudi, just a short hop and a skip from Bosra.
We thought our decision to cross from Jordan into Syria on a Friday would mean less congestion at the Nasib/Jabor border. Remember Friday is a Holy Day here for the Muslims and we thought they would all be at the Mosque or taking it easy. Wrong. It seemed every Jordanian and Syrian took advantage of the day off to visit each other's country and the border crossing was bedlam. As usual the officials were rude and after waiting in the foreign passport line for over half an hour, the official gestured, without even looking at us, to move over into the line designated for foreign diplomats. There we were expected to include some cash with our passports, buckshee's (bribe money), but declined and when others were getting processed ahead of ours we decided we should explain our frustration... in no uncertain terms. Even customs and immigration officials can be shocked by what western visitors can say when provoked. Suffice to say we were able to motivate them into action. The squeaky wheel... and all that sort of thing.
We also needed to renew our bike insurance before we re-entered Syria and again they tried to con us. The charges were clearly displayed in Syrian Pounds, but the insurance guy insisted he could only accept Euros or US Dollars. We didn't have any Euros or Dollars but they were happy to change Syrian Pounds at a diabolical exchange rate. This time Dianne felt she should 'explain' that we were not going to change Syrian Pounds into Euros or Dollars and that they ought to become more co-operative and quickly else she may release more fire and brimstone on them. Funny how sometimes people can seem to understand exactly what you mean even though they can't speak a word of English. Needless to say we got our insurance and paid for it in Syrian Pounds. Even the customs wanted some bribe money to process the bike papers, strange, to date we had not come across this much corruption.
Feeling somewhat buoyed by our success but frustrated by the delays we rode into Syria and headed for Bosra, an ancient black basalt town and site of a huge and well preserved Roman theatre. Dianne assumed that this place would have a choice of accommodation as it is quite well known on the tourist circuit, but there is only one hotel in town and it is upmarket and really expensive. What to do? Well we rode into the main square and an enterprising young man invited us to stay in a spare room at the back of his restaurant. Not the most comfortable accommodation suffice to say that it was modest, quite grubby with no facilities and we slept on a thin matrice on the floor.
Bosra is an extremely ancient city dating back to the fourteenth century BC. an important trading centre on the crossroads of several caravan routes.
Palmyra is 243 km north-east of Damascus, and we have left Syria’s most famous tourist attraction to the last. Situated at an oasis in the desert, this ruined city is at a considerable distance from any other water source. The ruins have been extensively excavated and painstakingly restored. Initially we were feeling a bit over Roman ruins and quite happy to sit in our little room to wait out a sand storm in the first couple of days.
An encounter with an Arab and his favourite young albino camel...
In Palmyra I had made several enquiries about the road through desert communities. On our map there was a road that cut across to the Euphrates River but it was shown as just a dirt track –"Oh no it is now finished and had a good black top" several people ensured me. In the scene below you will notice Haydn is doing it on his own, even in the heat I felt better on my own two feet through many km's of sand – just a dirt track.
The effort was definitely worth while though, we were able to pass through remote desert communities – another unexpected and very different experience. We were always greeted with smiling friendly faces though it is hard to imagine what a strange sight we must've been as we passed by.
The unique desert communities and friendly people...
What a memorable journey through Syria. Just a short ride now, due east of Aleppo, and we are at the border with Turkey again, near Rayhanli in the Hatay Province.
Click on Next page below to continue our journey through Turkey.