After two months which we travelled Turkey, Clara and I arrived to the frontier and we entered to Syria; we were happy and we had many expectations. That night people from that village gave us a warm welcome, the owners of the shops invited us to sit down with them; so we accepted the disinterested invitation of Ahmed who invited us with more than a dozen of fatayier, some traditional pizzas that are cooked with meat.
Later we camped to the outskirts of the town and at midnight I woke up with a strong painful in the stomach and then I vomited seven times, as I never made it in my life; it was an endless night, it was cold and I didn’t see the time that it dawns to leave from there. I was intoxicated.
At the sunrise I was without forces and I lie on the land while Clara take charge of the tent and the bicycles, then we went to the village which was one kilometre far and there we met Mohamed who offer us one of the rooms of his shop to rest. I was very bad. Later one of his friends carried me to a doctor and after 24 hours of resting and some medications I got better.
But it was not Clara’s luck who after few days began to feel bad, and who took one week to recover and to come back to the route. Those were the last days of Ramadan when people abstain from ingesting any kind of food, drink or even of smoking, it was probably the reason why they drove like crazy. Aleppo, the second bigger city of Syria was ready for the great party, the Id al Fitr. People left to do shopping, the streets were plenty and it was dangerous to cycle among so much euphoria.
Different to the capital city, people in Aleppo are more traditional and in several occasions we felt uncomfortable. In the streets of the centre, where we were lodged, almost all the women go covered with veils, for this reason several times Clara was approached by women who made to her an expression of scorn about her loose hair or to use a garment short sleeve. And also the men put us out, because they looked at Clara in a bad way.
Also in route to Aleppo we were surprised; while we pedalled several times Clara was approached by mottos. They seemed child but they were not so younger. By this way we had to stop and Clara had to cover the arms and to tie the hair. “Another culture”, I told her, although we could not hide our anger.
The trip through inlands Syria lasted one month, it was too much cold and sometimes with some rains; by this way we visited archaeological places like Ebla, Afamia and Palmyra, or the dead cities which are 15 centuries old, and Hama and Homs, the other two main cities in route to Damascus. And by this way, slowly and curious we were living together with people of inlands, with their way of life and with their traditions.
I remember the history of Ahmed, a young man who married with his 15 year-old cousin “it was an agreement between our parents”, he told me; “now it doesn’t matter my happiness, but that of my children; maybe Allah wanted this by this way”.
We wondered about the matrimonial life created by this way, artificial. And it was enough to cycle other km to see it in Sarache, when we were invited to the house of a man who spoke some Italian. He had a good economic position and three children, of those only the male was his pride. His wife who was almost a score of years younger than him seemed a nonexistent and infinitely sad figure. That night we also met the house owner’s friends, two of them were polygamous and according to them they were also married with younger girls.
Clara told me that this people were missing a stage of their lives, they pass from child to men or ladies, and at once to mothers. They don’t have that lengthy adolescence as each time happens in occident. Only that people who are related with the western world through the university or English’s study are those who have desires to live another life, of leaving to another country, of studying out, of having more than a girlfriend or of going to dance, they are who dream with another adolescence which they watch on TV, often by American origin. “We are being conquered by occident through television” the friend of Mosab told me.
But we also met splendid people, who truly made us feel like at home, with whom we were moved when we said goodbye, they were who showed us that their true values are to create a family. I remember Mosab of Afamia or the numerous family from Khan al Sobl, we saw them so happy, they were very simple people, there were grandfathers, parents and children who lived all together, the men shared with the women who were not seemed nonexistent, they didn’t isolate them, they integrated them, the men respected the women.
A difficult day
In route to Palmyra we stopped in Al fruqlos, according to information it was a town with Christian people, but we didn’t realize. That night we were invited by Khalil to his house, a graduate university son of a Christian woman converted to the Islam. Then as many other times we were asked after our marital status, since we began our trip in Turkey people at once asked us about this, it would seem that the only way to get respect from Muslims is if we are married, so we always said this; but this time with Khalil was different, because he was a different guy, an open mind person. That night we talked during hours but everything ended in a bad way. Her mother didn’t like us because we discussed about the woman’s ideals between east and occident and she became furious even more when her children agreed with us, of course that we were a bad example.
Finally for a “question of space” we camped outside of the house; … and we suffered to much because at 1.00 am three dogs surrounded the tent and they start to bark savagely, they seemed that they wanted to attack us. It was almost a hour of terror, Clara trembled and she cried like a baby, and I was blindly as a lunatic sat down in the middle of the tent with my African knife, calming Clara while I waited to destroy the tent to guess right to the first dog that attack us. Then I could leave the tent and I jumped the wall to ask to Khalil to open us the door to camp in his garden. Truly we hoped that someone came to fright the dogs. But I had to be the one who had to react.
Early morning, when Khalil left to work his mother came to us to kick the tent and shouting she order us to leave, “Yala, yala!!!! “ We could not believe it, we didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours and we had to leave. We got up as we could and in the presence of more shouts I shouted her so she calmed down, and in few minutes we left the house. That fucking woman!!
Looking for some peace, to the few km Clara and I stopped to have breakfast, we left the main road and we went into a semi-desert area, but from far we listened children’s screams who began to run toward us and we preferred to leave, but the children who ran quick surrounded us and threatening us with stones asked us money. We could not believe it, we could not leave; we were being kidnapped by a dozen of children who weren’t older than 10 years. So we had to go to their house to look for their mother, to whom by means of signs I explained to her what happened. And it was amusing, because in a fit of nerves, which contemplated all the uneasiness of the last 12 hours, I grabbed for the nape to who seemed to be the boss of all children and I lift him from the floor scaring him, so we could go. I also surprised myself.
When we arrived to Palmyra Clara had another relapse and she stayed several days with strong stomach-aches, with temperature and vomiting. And I could not make a lot unless to accompany her, to go to the pharmacy or to cook what the doctor ordered her.
The Syria was presented in a hostile way.
Damascus, km 57,850
After a week of antibiotics, Clara’s uneasiness didn’t stop to worry me, so we travelled by bus to Damascus, but it was enough to arrive to the capital city and to stay in the Four Season Hotel for Clara gets better. Of course, it was a 5 stars hotel which as sponsor offered us 5 free days accommodation in one of its luxurious rooms with all inclusive.
Our stay days in Damascus continued by other 3 weeks, which we stayed at John’s home, an alternative musician who rented rooms for students. In that house lived Maria and Salvo, a Spanish girl and a Sicilian boy who studied Arabic, also Sandrine a Belgian who taught French and Adel, brother of John. That house was as our house and they became our friends.
We also met Luis, a Spanish guy who introduced us to the Damascus Shell Club, a foreigners association where I have made a couple of presentations about the trip.
Finally we left Damascus in route to Beirut, after almost two months in Syria we felt the need to travel to a new country, and in spite of the political crisis, Lebanon caught our curiosity.