Monday, April 28, 2008

Back in Hama


Two rifles, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

They are really a lot friendlier than they might seem from this photo, the Syrians. We have been honoured to have received a generous dose of their hospitality the past two days since we last posted a blog.

Again it is late and there is not so much tme before this place closes, so I will keep it brief. It is funny to be at the same internet cafe here in Hama as we were three years ago, staying at theame wonderful budget hotel - The Riad Hotel, Hama - being welcomed by theame Abdullah and having our room cleaned by the same chap (can't quite remember his name though).

We were brought up today from Damascus by Nasr, who was the driver we found two days ago on the street, who had offered to take us south to Bosra Sham. We had such a great day with him that we asked him to bring us to Hama, stopping at Maaloula and Homs on the way up, with an unscheduled stop in Qara to see a 10th century church with some frecoes. They were supposedly of Saint Sergius, of Sergius and Bacchus fame, but it turned out to be St George, rather disappointingly. Never mind, at least we got to see them and we had already stopped off at the Convent of St Sergius and St Bacchus in Ma'aloula on the way up. St Sergius and St Bacchus were two (very) good friends in the Roman Army, whoi somehow met nasty deaths because for being gay, no sorry, for being Christian... They are very popular here in Syria.

Anyway, later in the day, after wandering around Homs for a couple of hours we made it back to Hama, of the watermill - noria - fame, to find out that today was the start of the 11th Spring Festival of Hama, coinciding with the local Easter Monday. There was a wonderful pageant, which provided excellent photo opportunities - I could nto believe my luck. I will be adding the photos in due course... These two looked like a couple of Kurdish freedom fighters.

Yesterday started with a massive thunderstorm and a downpour, which eventually cleared to give us much coller temperatures, at least ten degrees cooler, such that it feels quite cool out off teh sun, especially in the evenings. Nasr was to take us south to Bosra Sham, an old Roman site near to the border with Jordan, famous for having the larest and best preserved Roman theatre in the world. It was magnificent.

Later, we would be taken to a number of towns and vilages with a high Druze population. They are very interesting people, originating from the Sh-ite, Ismaili side of Islam but without the five pillars and no prohibition against alcohol. The men have shaved heads under a white sarf and long bushy moustaches, which are often quite fair in colour. Very striking. The women also dress in black with white scarves. Nasr tunred out to be a Druze himself, which explained his love of whisky and he took us to see his brother in Seidnayeh, along with his brother's family. Apparently there are very many Druze who live in Venezuela, including over a thousand of Nasr's family and sure enough we met a party of them, speaking Spanish to us at our next stop...

Tomorrow, we are meeting Abdul, our driver from three years ago and he will take us again to Palmyra, in the desert and, hopefully, to the nearby bedouin market.

We are really having a very great time and according to our latets calculations, we have only spent 30 euros a day each since we arrived...

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