20 juillet 2001 – Hama – Apamée – Alep




As said yesterday, we start our way to the minibus station just after 8 am. On the way, the driver of a delivery tricycle takes us on its platform with our backpacks, what an adventure. We look like Ben Hur in the streets of Hama. Choukrane !

Apamea : The north part of the colonnade


From Bab Trablous station, we find a minibus for Al Suqelbiyeh and from this location another minibus for Qalaat Al Moudiq (name of Apamea’s citadel). Without taking a breakfast this morning, we buy some fruit juice, water and biscuits before climbing the road that leads to the archeological site. At the remains of the theater, on a dirt track, we meet a Syrian who wants to sell us some antiquities. We decline his invitation for the moment but as he proposes us to keep our backpacks during the visit of the site, we will talk about his offer later. We are now lighter to continue the climbing.


The entrance of the site costs us SP 15 and immediately, we have the two parts of the colonnade in front of us. The north part is the longest one and the most interesting because it is continually restored under the patronage of Osmane Aïdi, the owner of the hotels Cham Palace. At first sight, I am a little bit disappointed by the landscape mainly composed of burned grass at this season. Spring or winter can be more impressive.


From the site, we have a nice view on the citadel.


Apamea : The citadel


The visit consists in walking through the colonnade to the north gate while admiring the remains of the town and the beautiful columns alongside the Cardo Maximus.


Apamea : restoration in progress


Just before the agora and in front of the Tycheion, they are the symbol of Apamea, the cabled columns. During the whole visit of the site, I constantly have the soundtrack of Gladiator in mind.


Apamea : cabled columns


At the north gate, I climb the vault of the gate to admire the fantastic view on the colonnade. After this climbing, Khaled, the gatekeeper, invites us to drink some tea under the tent. We start introducing each of us and welcome each other in many languages: Welcome, Benvenido, Benvenuti, Bienvenus, even in Japanese... Khaled while preparing the tea starts a conversation that will last 2h. We speak about various subjects and we learn a little bit more on his daily life, his family, and his work. This is when he explains us how marriages are done in the region. As far he is concerned he married his wife 17 years ago, they have 8 children (4girls and 4 boys). He also tells us that he owns a perimeter of 20,000 meters of lands where he cultivates cotton, tomatoes, some fruit trees that enables the life of the whole family. His work as a gatekeeper on the site is a part-time job but he knows exactly at what level the excavations are. A Belgian archeologist conducts them. So it was a nice talk and we made a great picture with Khaled as a souvenir.


Apamea : Massimo, Eugenia & Khaled


We finish the visit of the site and come back where we left our bags. The guy is waiting for us with a friend to propose some antiquities maybe stolen in the site, who knows. Massimo and Eugenia are very attracted by a little vase. This is the beginning of the inspection of the object by professor Indiana "Massimo" Jones to know the truth on it. I am very perplex but I will realize when I come back in Damascus at the national museum that it might be trueThe Italians also buy two other pieces.


Apamea : Professor Indiana ‘’Massimo’’ Jones


At 4 pm, with no more green banknotes, we find our way back to the village of Al Suqelbiyeh where we would like to find a means of transportation to Aleppo in the north. But the prices were too expensive in this village so we decide to come back to Hama to take a direct bus to Aleppo. In Hama, a young Syrian tell us to choose the Al Rayan bus company whose office is located just near the Cairo hotel. We take advantage of the time left before the departure to see the norias one more time, taste one of their most delicious sweets: halawat al-jibné, rolls of semolina with soft white cheese inside, it was delightful.


Finally we leave Hama at 7:15 pm for a 2 hours journey. One more time driving in Syria is amazing or even dangerous when you are seated on the first row to perfectly see the drivers’ habits. Our driver was driving at around 120 km/h whereas the speed limit is clearly indicated at a maximum of 90 for buses. Driving is done in this country by all the time activating the horn to warn other road users. During the night the lights replace this sytem. In the morning we see tractors coming in front of us on our lanes (too few exits on the highway, so it gains time and gasoline) but this time, at 120 km/h we face a truck at a very low speed maybe 50 or 60 on the far left lane. I think that our driver was as much frighten as we were !! Despite this eastern way of driving I did not see any crash during my stay.


At such a speed we arrive before the schedule time and many taxi drivers were waiting for the passengers. A Syrian guy offers to bring us in town for free at the rear of his truck. That is how we arrive at the Tourist Hotel in downtown Aleppo. At our arrival another guy try to persuade us to go to the Spring flower hotel but Massimo and Eugenia had already booked a room at the Green Star Hotel (Najem Akhdar). With nowhere to sleep, I follow them to see this hotel, and to know if there will be room vacant for me. At this hotel there is no roof available for sleeping but a single room at the last floor with a big terrace and a magnificent view on the enlightened citadel. For SP 150 the room is mine, abargain !! The owner is very friendly, he is always here to help us and he speaks a good English. I will learn a lot of Arabic words with him. On the terrace I meet two Australians who follow the road written in the Lonely Planet : Cairo to Instanbul. They started their trip one month ago so I ask them some advice on Jordan where I will be in 10 days or so.


Massimo and Eugenia join me to go outside and test the local cooking. We choose an address common to our guidebooks: the Al Kindi in a street near the clock tower. The bill is as always very light (SP100 per person). We stay a long time talking on movies, travels… Finally we go back to the hotel.





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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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