Tartus

Trip Start May 10, 2009
1
11
24
Trip End Jul 17, 2009


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Where I stayed
Daniel Hotel

Flag of Syria  ,
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Since I wasn't really fealing Hamah I decided to head to Tartus on a whim. Tartus is a small coastal city of maybe 100,000 and it had a very liberal feel to it, with head scarf-less women dressed in designer clothes and groups of teenagers parading through streets on bar crawls. People here were incredibly friendly and it was the first time I didn't spot a single tourist for 2 days straight. Also, my chance encounters proved Tartus to have a very diverse population, as I met scores of Iraqis who relocated here during the war, as well as a few Greek Orthodox Christians and Lebanese. My hostel- Daniel Hotel - was a very friendly family run establishment and I had the luck of visiting during their son's birthday, which meant lots of free cake!

The other reason I decided to spend two days in Tartus was because of the town's proximity to Krak des Chevaliers, although getting there was rather difficult. I had to take a coach bus bound for Hams, which let me out at the side of the highway mid-way, but thankfully a taxi drove by shortly after and took me up the mountain for a mere 200 pounds ($4). Krak des Chevaliers is a *massive* and incredibly well-preserved crusader fortress located beside a village with a scenic mountain-top setting. A world heritage site, Krak was very impressive indeed, and I got lost on numerous occasions exploring the dark, musty halls and caverns... And it wasn't very difficult to imagine what the halls looked like in their prime.

Now, where getting to Krak (maybe 50km from Tartus) was only slightly difficult, getting back to Tartus was insanely difficult. A taxi that took me down to the highway wanted to charge $20 to take me back to my hotel, which would've set me way above my budget, so I decided to hitch alone for the first time. After waving my hand on the side of the highway for about 5 minutes, an incredibly generous young guy, Fayed, invited me into his car. He was hauling bakery goods to a store about 20km toward Tartus, and when we got there I met the store's owner and was offered a generous free portion of insanely delicious regional baklava topped with cashews, figs and pistachios. I figured I would try to hitch again for the second leg of the trip, but Fayed insisted on driving me, and he took scenic village roads instead of the main highway. After we got to my hotel he refused to accept money for petrol or the bakery goods.

After a quick nap I took a boat ride to Arwad island. It was incredibly charming, and I bounced balls with some of the kids and wandered through the cobble-stoned streets of the old city which ,at points, are only wide enough for a single person to pass through. Most of the adults work on the mainland, so when I visited it seemed like the entire island was populated by grandparents and kids -0 scores and scores of little ones.  
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