Queen Zenobia

Trip Start May 22, 2009
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Trip End Feb 16, 2010


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fun with the Syrian bus system Part I:

Time to finally go to Palmyra.  But we must have gotten off the ‘tourist train’ in our side trip to Homs as the Lonely Planet doesn’t say anything about how to get to Palmyra from here.  It only says that buses depart from Palmyra to Homs regularly.  So deduction tells me that the must go from Homs as well, but where and when?  A city of almost a million has two main bus stations:  one is 2.5km north of city center and the other is 8km south.  Lonely Planet, you are so useless most times!

I had noticed a group of buses hanging out not far from city center yesterday and thought it might be a good place to ask.  Brian’s testosterone power did it’s job and the first bus driver was taking Brian’s hand and showing him where to go to find a bus.  On we went where the next man guided us to yet another bus, but this time wrote the name of the station we needed in Arabic so the driver could drop us off, and another message asking to ‘please tell them about the buses to Palmyra’. 

On the right bus, the driver didn’t even charge us for the ride.  At the main station we didn’t even need to note as we were immediately found by a man who asked us ‘Palmyra?’ and started to guide us through the station, swapping off with another man who took us to the ticket booth.  I’m still amazed at the friendliness of the Syrian people and how they seem to sense what you need and help you out. 

The testosterone power stepped up a notch and got him flowers at the station (him, not me) and have his cay poured first and mine second.  Then on the bus a man walked down the isle, immediately shook his hand and started to make conversation.  After the initial attempt at selling us some of his fiance's’s facial masks, we had a great time talking about all sorts of things. 

Like camels. 

His father raises camels in Palmyra, and he’s just a good-old-boy who grew up on the range with a few camels to call his own.  He told us all sorts of things about camels that I’d rather we not know.  Like drinking camel milk will make you strong, and washing your hair with urine gives it volume.  But he was a hoot and we spent the 2 hour ride laughing at photos and singing along to tunes on his mobile like Kenny Roger’s ‘Lady’. 

The ruins were beautiful.  After driving for several hours through the stark desert landscape and see these beautiful ruins rise up with an oasis was amazing.  Built mainly in the 1st century AD these are ‘newer’ city remains, but they show the scars of wear from years of sand and wind whipping against them.  Huge columns rising out of the desert with camels grazing around while the Bedouins camped nearby. 

I couldn’t resist.  After all the camel talk on the bus, when I was approached to take a ride on a camel I had to say ‘yes’!  Very fitting considering the surroundings.  The most exciting period in Palmyra’s history came in 267 AD when the king was assassinated and queen Zenobia claimed the throne in her son’s name.  Rome challenged this suspecting Zenobia’s involvement in the assassination and sent an army to deal with her.  But she fought and won several battles and eventually ruled Syria, Palestine, and part of Egypt.  As a descendant of Cleopatra, she was willful, strong and beautiful.  She even assumed the title of Emperor (or Augustus) for her son and had coins minted in their image in Alexandria.  The Roman Emperor Aurelian tried to negotiate, but she was defiant until the end, charging the Roman lines on her camel. 

Not quite as good as Zenobia, I did get the camel up to a trot and drove him by myself, and he didn’t even spit at me!
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Comments

jaymyson
jaymyson on

I am sorry to hear about Brian's Bronchitis, that sure puts a damper on things..........time to come home for some ice fishing Brian!!
Hang in there, miss you guys!

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