Date pancakes vs. bananas

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
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Trip End Sep 26, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Syria  ,
Sunday, September 12, 2010

When we left Crac des Chevaliers it dawned on me that the 3 day Syrian holiday was over. This is very good news for two reasons:

A) More shops and eateries will be open.
2) No more little bastard pikey kids running around shooting everyone in sight with BB guns. Give your head a shake pikey kids.

Driving into the desert was pretty damn cool. This was much more of the desert you picture  from the movies than the Thar desert I visited in India. Hot baked sand that stretched as far as the eye could see and nothing else. One straight tarmac road that disappeared over the horizon. It really feels like I'm in a whole different world.

Finally the landscape changes a bit and some large sand and rock hills appear in the distance, a big citadel perched on top of the biggest hill. The road curved around the hill with the citadel on it and then right before my eyes was Palmyra, a little green oasis out in the middle of the desert. Buildings were interspersed with greenery. We hit the main road and didn't have to go far before we piled off the bus and into our hotel.

I will be honest, I did not do much the first day I was in Palmyra. I did manage to wander out of the hotel long enough to enjoy a nice street-side cafe Bedouin dinner. I had mansaf, a Bedouin specialty. It is tasty spiced chicken served on a bed of rice and smothered with generous portions of peanuts and pistachios. The usual yogurts and sauces accompanied the dinner. I then quickly retreated back to the safety of my room and having a bathroom nearby. That was my night.

Thanks to a winning combination of 23 cent re-hydration packs purchased in India, the constitution of an ox, 3 antibiotics pills, and level 6 willpower, not to mention a good attitude, I was feeling quite chipper the next morning, so it was time to explore.

I left the hotel and wandered out into the desert. I saw the ruins Palmyra is famous for, and especially enjoyed the aggressively reconstructed amphitheatre. On the way back to town I tried some local dates. Risky perhaps, but sometimes one just has to eat dates in Palmyra regardless of how ones stomach might later protest. I then enjoyed a pancake and had a banana to hopefully neutralize the previously consumed dates. My stomach is a war-zone and I am just an innocent spectator.

Nap-time and then at 4pm I wandered out of the hotel lobby and found the oldest bus known to man ready to transport us to the tombs out in the desert. It was actually from 1960 but looked quite a bit older. And a bus from 1960 is no spring chicken either. Checked out the first tomb, which was built up from the ground in the form of a tower. Then headed to a second tomb, this one of the underground variety, and much more impressive. We then had a group photo which involved all the mature and sensible members of the group posing normally for a photo in front of the bus. The immature people (read: Nathan and I) climbed on top of the bus and performed ridiculous but hilarious martial arts poses for every different camera. People enjoyed it though as everyone was scrambling to see what kind of epic battle scene we were performing on top of the bus on their particular camera. After declaring Helen the winner of the best photo, It was onto the citadel to catch a desert sunset. I managed to find a spot where I could see both the sunset to the West and the ruins to the East. It was a good sunset too, much better than the cloudy nonsense on top of Mt. Nemrut.

I decided to walk back to town from the citadel and it was quite surreal. The sand provided a wonderful base to an epic scene as it remained very visible and light even as the sky grew a darker and darker blue. The moon appeared very visibly in the distance. It was glowing so brightly and the visibility was outstanding. I really enjoyed this moment, just wandering back through the desert. The best part about it was seeing the ruins off to my right hand side, lit up by moonlight in the distance. Amazing.

The night was spent again at the pancake house, indulging in more pancakes. I could not leave Palmyra without trying a date pancake, the local specialty. I also tried a cheese and apricot jam pancake as well, which was quite nice. Salty and sweet combos are tough to beat. The night came to a close drinking beers and playing cards with a bunch of people outside the hotel on the street. I'm feeling much better and ready to get on with more adventure. On to the ancient city of Damascus tomorrow!

-js
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