July 26, 2001 – Tartus – Krak des chevaliers – Beirut (1)




When I woke up at 6 am I didn’t know that it would be a horrible day concerning transportation. I will remember it for a long time.


Following the advice of Karam I go to the Qadmous bus station. Arriving at 7 am at the desk, I ask for the next bus to the Krak des Chevaliers, no problem as usual but the bus is only at 9 am!! At the desk I start talking to a young Syrian who is proud to show me that the buses are French. I insist to know if the bus I am going to take is going to the Krak and not somewhere else, no problem. I talk with another bus driver who wants to know how it is to drive on the roads in France. He is very surprised by my answers and especially for the driving license that is nearly given here in Syria. I understand much better now the way they are driving on the roads.


Finally I give my bag to the bus staff and I precise that I am going to the Krak and not Homs. In the bus I meet three Danish girls who are studying Middle East anthropology. We start a discussion and on the same theme, they explain me how the police has arrested their driver in Palmyra without a driving license. He went to jail but on the next morning, they were surprised to see him again in his minibus with a big smile after a bribe to get out the jail. After nearly one hour of driving I notice a castle in the background and I ask them if it is the Krak because I am not sure that the bus is aware of my will to go there. And it is the Krak! Of course it’s too late to take the exit and I have to go to Tartus to find a minibus to do the way back. The driver didn’t know that I was going to the Krak and after his proposal to leave me on the highway to hitch hike, I want to see the manager in Homs to find a solution.


At the garaj, neither the manager nor the police want to help me. Fortunately I meet a wonderful taxi driver who invites me to seat in his taxi for a free ride to the other garaj where I could take a minibus to the Krak. Choukrane! The driver is very relaxed and during this short time, he plays some western music: Eminem, Mojo. It’s a fan.


I take a minibus to the Krak (SP 25). We arrive around noon whereas I planned to be here at 9 am and in Beirut in the afternoon. I find the castle less impressive than Saladin’s one maybe it s due to its size but it is wonderfully preserved and it gives it an unassailable look. Once again the ISIC card is wonderful, SP 15 instead of SP 400. The visit is great and during a brief moment we imagine to be in crusades’ time and living in this castle. The inside weathering is well preserved.


Krak des chevaliers : The weathering


We can notice on the south part of the castle a water reservoir between the ramparts. It enables the inhabitants to catch the water from the aqueduct and also from the rain on the terraces. The gothic gallery in the inside square is opened on a 120m long room where 2,000 soldiers could sleep.


Krak des chevaliers : gothic gallery


Another big room (60m) is located under the donjon, there is a secret passage in the middle on the left. The passage is 1 kilometer long and reaches the village. But without a light I could go any further.


Krak des chevaliers : Room of 60m


Finally the visit took me 2 hours including a climbing at the top of the two tallest towers despite a great wind.


At 2 pm, I find the same driver to go to Homs. At first sight he tries to sell us the 4 empty seats to directly go to Homs but we decline so we will stop from time to time to take some passengers.


At Homs, I try to find a bus to Tripoli in Lebanon. The first price was SP 250 for a shared taxi but there is a bus departing at 5 pm for SP 200, I take it. While waiting for the departure, I see my first and last fight between two Syrians gathered by a growing crowd. Strange thing!! Before we start, there are a lot of people selling ice creams (more or less frozen), chewing gums and even socks. That is harder to find a customer!!


Our driver will be seconded by a very fast guy who kees on running to have the register signed, the tank filled… The driver is like all the others, he has a Syrian driving. He is a kind of modern Mad Max, always to the limit, using breaks ultimately to avoid ruts on the road. All the time he seems to bump into another car. So he turns back to me and with a big laugh asks me if I am frightened by his driving. Of course not because he would be dead for years but I can’t refrain simulating the brakes. However that may be, all the passengers are laughing, I am the only westerner in the bus.





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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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