July 19, 2001 – Palmyra – Hama

 

 

 

Today begins with a tough morning, I really want to see the sunrise on the site. Fortunately, the first call for the prayer helps me to wake up. I will not climb the hill to go to the arabic castle but I will admire the show on the ruins from the ramparts near the hippodrome. The light is wonderful and it colors the stones in a very soft way. It is really what I was dreaming about and the site appears under its best side.

 

Palmyra

 

Around 6:30, I am back to the hotel to take my bag because I have a bus at 7:30 for Homs. From this town I will easily go to northern to Hama. At the bus station, there are a lot of people and I learn that every seat in the bus has a number, detail I didn’t notice yesterday. The passengers are nearly all locals, there are only two tourists, and they were among us at the castle.

 

I was ready to fall asleep for the journey but I didn’t know that our driver was a kind of a former Formula one driver who might be deaf. He was on its way to break some speed records and other music level records. As a result, he did all the way in less than 1h30 when the normal time is 2h to connect the two cities. It was only the beginning of the trip because, at the end, after some weeks in the region, you find the music level and the driving ability perfect.

 

At Homs, I walk to the next minibus station at 200m from the Karnak bus station where we get off the bus. This time it’s not a big bus but a smaller one full of colours. The driver insists to give me a seat, I thought that the bus was full but in fact there is a seat. Just before the grids, we stop to take two tourists, and they were the one with me in the bus from Palmyra. They also go to Hama.

 

After many stops and a 30 min journey, we finally arrive in Hama but in a station that is located on our maps. It is the moment that I meet my travelmates. They are Italians and are named Massimo and Eugenia. We want to go to downtown and more precisely to the Cairo Hotel. On our way we ask for some help because we are too sure of the street to take. At one time, Massimo told me that the guy with whom he was speaking is able continue in French so I start to listen but it was no French. A very funny time.

 

Finally we find the hotel, Massimo and Eugenia choose a double room, whereas for me it will be the terrace which os superb, very large and well protected from the sun. A little wind serves as air conditioning. So tonight it will be my room for SP 100 and I will sleep with 13 other travelers. The manager of the hotel is very kind with us and offers some tea. It’s a good start. I leave my bag in the room of Massimo and Eugenia before starting the visit of this town.

 

On this afternoon, I would like to do nothing so I seat on the terrace of a caf้ to admire the show of two norias. The norias are big wheels equipped with little wood boxes that bring the water from the Oronte river to the lands over the river’s bed. The noise they made is really specific and looks like a banging engine.

 

Hama : Norias on the Oronte river

 

After a long time under the trees, I resume the visit of the city taking little streets running along the river. I just have a look to a hammam (Al Osmaniy้). Then I visit the Azem palace (called Hama Museum) built in 1740. Some years later, Assad Al Azem will build another palace before leaving for Jordan. Just after the entrance, we are in a wonderful square with a fountain and a superb olive tree that offers a great shadow in this afternoon. The palace is under restoration but many rooms are open to visitors and contain reconstructions of life scenes. The ceilings and walls are covered with painted ebony wood.

 

          

Hama : Inside the Azem palace

 

After this little excursion, I am back to the hotel for a shower and another washing because the dust in Palmyra has devastated my clothes. I meet 3 Polish on the terrace, they are coming from Aleppo and before from Turkey. When the clothes are dried, it’s very quick in this country, I decide to go to the tell (an artificial hill) where was located the Citadel of Hama. Nowadays, there is no more citadel but a luxurious garden with a playground for the kids. All the grass invite visitors to have a rest. Many families seem to come around 5-6 pm to have some barbecue and smoking a good narguileh. The kids are playing freely, with hairs in the wind whereas their mothers wear the veil. On a side of the park, a young girl approaches me after watching that nobody can see that she is speaking to a foreigner. She only wishes to know where I come from, my name and if I like Syria. But she runs away very quickly just after these words because it seems dangerous for her to be seen with a foreigner.

 

In the evening, I choose one finest place to eat from the guidebook and it is the Sultan restaurant located near the two norias you can see on the picture below. In the menu, I choose two appetizers (homos and mutable) and a local meal called Sagie (rice cooked in yogurt, pita bread and sheep). After that I find my way back to the hotel.

 

Hama : Norias by night

 

At a crossroad, I hear someone calling my name, I look back and there are Massimo and Eugenia eating a falafel sandwich near the fountain. We speak about our discoveries of the day and our project for the next days. We decide that tomorrow we will visit together the site of Apamea. The rendezvous is set at 8 am. But for the moment, just after midnight it’s time to go to bed.

 

 

 

 

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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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