July 18, 2001 – Damascus – Palmyra




Going to the Harasta garaj, I do the journey with Bertrand and Jacqueline. The manager of the hotel writes us the Arabic name of the station and our destinations as well. We have to take a minibus with a green inscription on it and give SP 5 for the transportation fees. No problem, we arrive well in advance of our respective departure time (8:30 am). The journey to Palmyra will take 3 hours and costs SP 100. In this bus and in the other ones during my stay here, there is an employee walking in the alley offering the passengers sweets and a glass of water. A high level of music (sample there) surrounds us.


The journey did not take a long time because I sleep all the way, I just wake up before Palmyra in order to see the old city and the famous colonnade from the window. At 11:30, I am on the street trying to find the location of the hotel. The hest is at the rendezvous, it was hot in Damascus but here in the middle of the desert the record is broken. I go to the information center to get some help to find the Omayyad Palace hotel that someone told me about in Damascus. The hotel is located on a square after 200 meters on the main street from the bus station. The son of the owner welcomes me, I am the first guest and for SP 100, I can slep on the roff under the stars. I leave my backpack and take 2 bottles of water, and I am sure that I will need them under this warm sun.


I start the visit of Palmyra by the archeological museum located in front of the Karnak bus station and I first use a wonderful card, the ISIC card. Try to get her even if you are not a student because it will save you a lot of money, you will pay an average entrance price of SP 15 instead of SP 300). The museum has only one floor and the visit starts on the right with a room full of palmyrean inscriptions and a great model of the Bel sanctuary. It enables you while visiting the sanctuary to have in mind the huge proportions of the site. The visit of the museum continues with sculptures that adorned public buildings. At the end, we penetrate into a room dedicated to funeral art where we can find a lot of busts representing dead people. Some pieces are composed of the whole family.


I leave the museum to go to the Bel sanctuary (god of the palmyrean gods), one of the major sites in Palmyre with a surrounding wall of 205 m by 200 m (entrance fees with ISIC SP 15).


The temple is located in the middle of a vast esplanade. On the left, towards the entrance of the sanctuary, we can see a pit that was used to bring animals to the sacrifice on the altar in front of the entrance of the temple. This entrance is a little bit strange because it is not right in the middle but more on the right. There are many wholes on the wall, it corresponds to copper tenons that were stolen by Ottomans.


Palmyra : Bel temple


The uprights of the doors are wealthy decorated with grapevine leaves and olive tree leaves, bunch of grapes, palm leaves, eggs… Inside the temple, we can clearly distinguish the Christian period with the remains of some paintings on the wall. Outside the temple, a beam of the peristyle on the ground symbolizes the fight of Bel against a monster (on the left of the picture).


Bel sanctuary : the fight


When you exit the sanctuary you have one of the best view on the colonnade with the Arabic castle in the background.


Palmyra : The site and the Arabic castle


The colonnade starts with a big arch conceived in three parts followed by a row of columns.


Palmyra : The monumental arch


The colonnade is one kilometer long and on both sides were located official buildings and merchants’ shops. The theater, quiet small with only 12 rows and a five doors scene, is just before the tetrapyle.


Palmyra : The tetrapyle


This is where I decided to stop and have a rest. It’s nearly the only place on the site to have some shadows at that time of the day (I look like the coyote in Joshua Tree National Park in California, see the picture in the American West section when completed). Very quickly, I see a young guy on a motorcycle coming to me, it is Ali who wants to sell me some necklaces. It is normal because there is no tourist around us, maybe it’s too hot. So we start a long discussion on various themes (Soccer, France, Army, Life in Europe, Family, Sex…). When he decides to have lunch, there are two other Syrians who to chat with me and ask me the same questions. They also want me to buy some items but I decline their proposition. After these conversations, I resume my walk to the north part of the site near the Arabic castle. Near the ramparts, I am solicited by a young Syrian to have some tea in his home. I follow him and discover the whole family. His sister bring some tea but also a plate full of potatoes with some bread. We talk a lot and specially about France ("France very good, Jacques Chirac very good, Zidane very good") and his brother wants to ask me a question about Zinedine Zidane, a French soccer player ("Zidane son of Jacques Chirac ?"). Here I can’t refrain from laughing and I have to explain the personal situations of M. Zidane and M. Chirac.


After all these conversations, I say a big choukrane and resume my walk to the Arabic castle. At the top, there are no one excepted 4 kids who are waiting for tourists to sell postcards and ask for sweets and pens. For SP 10, I enter the fortress to have a splendid view on the site before, during and after the sunset. Below is the view you can have on the old Palmyra and the new city. We can clearly see the hippodrome, the city, the tombs. The sunset is really impressive. And as for the visit of the site during the day there are few tourits, maybe 40 whereas there are plenty of desert hotels.



Palmyra : View on the site from the Arabic castle


Palmyra : The valley with many tower tombs


The sectacle of a sun declining on the site is breathtaking and when the sun disappears behind the mountains, it is time to go down and to look back from time to time to look at the outline of the castle against the coloured sky.


At the hotel, I take advantage of the heat to do a quick wash, which will be dry in less than one hour (another record). Tonight no other travelers on the roof they preferred to stay in the rooms with nearly no fans. It will be better outside. I go down to see the boss to have a look to a Syrian map and he invited me to have some tea with them.





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D1 : Lyons – Damascus

D2 : Damascus (1)  (2)

D3 : Damascus

D4 : Damascus – Palmyra

D5 : Palmyra – Hama

D6 : Hama – Apamea – Aleppo

D7 : Aleppo

D8 : Aleppo

D9 : Aleppo

D10 : Aleppo – San Simeon – Aleppo

D11 : Aleppo – Qalaat Al Saadin – Tartous (1)  (2)

D12 : Tartous – Krak des chevaliers – Beirut (1)  (2)

D13 : Beirut – Tripoli

D14 : Tripoli – Damascus

D15 : Damascus – Maaloula – Damascus

D16 : Damascus

D17 : Damascus – Bosra – Damascus

D18 : Damascus – Amman – Dead Sea – Amman

D19 : Amman – Jerash - Amman

D20 : Amman – Madaba – Amman

D21 : Amman – Kerak – Dana

D22 : Dana

D23 : Dana – Petra (1)  (2)

D24 : Petra

D25 : Petra

D26 : Petra – Wadi Rum

D27 : Wadi Rum – Aqaba

D28 : Aqaba

D29 : Aqaba

D30 : Aqaba

D31 : Aqaba

D32 : Aqaba - Amman

D33 : Amman

D34 : Amman – Lyons




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Last update : January 2002

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