here, there, everywhere

In Turkey

In Lebanon, Middle East, Turkey on October 19, 2002 at 6:47 pm

Lebanon was pretty cool, very European and quite clean.  The best story is from Baalbek but all I can say is that we were hosted by a local ‘tribal’ family that grows really ‘interesting’ plants which they ‘export’ to Europe.  Very nice people although I’m not sure you’d want them in your backyard.

We were in Beirut last week during the Francophone convention so the military presence was huge and unusual.  A friend of mine from accounting is originally from Beirut so he got in touch with his family and best friend who all ended up hosting me and one of the guys from the trip for all of Monday.  We got to see the sunset over the city while booting along in a Mercedes with suspension!!  Much different from the truck and very enjoyable.  The Lebanese people were much nicer than I was expecting considering that most reports have said the Lebanese are indifferent to tourists.  It was awesome to get back to Syria though and I’d have to say it is definitely my favourite country thus far.  Unfortunately we had to leave it yesterday to get back to Turkey where we are now staying in the Cappadocia region which has to be seen to be believed.

Currently we are sleeping in a cave and it is very comfortable.   Every morning the hot air balloons in the region go up so you can hear the hissing from the gas when they take off.  Today I finally got to a hammam (Turkish bath) and quite enjoyed it.  Got the massage thrown into the deal and I think I was thoroughly beaten and cracked to high heavens.  I thought with the 12 layers of skin they scrubbed off that I’d lose my tan but the cleaning actually made it more luminescent.

So we are now done the Middle Eastern part of the trip, shortened since we didn’t go to Egypt in order to spend more time in Iran.  My observations of the Middle East are this:

Western media does a great injustice to a region that hates war as much as we do.  I did not meet a single extremist and there were no violent outbursts the whole time I was there.

All people, especially Syrians, are thrilled that any westerner has come to see their country and the first thing anyone says to you is ‘welcome!!!’  This is always followed by a smile and an attempt to engage you in conversation. They will often go out of their way to help you find where you need to go, and everyone invites you for a cup of tea.  It was not unusual for someone to actually walk me to where I needed to go and then explain my situation in Arabic so I wouldn’t have to fumble through it myself.

The number one fun thing to do in Aleppo, Syria is cross the road.  Once you get rid of traditional road rules, the whole game is highly entertaining and risky.  The one woman who was driving me around Beirut assured me that there are rules, for example, she signaled left while driving into oncoming traffic since somebody would eventually let her turn…

The fruit drinks in Syria are the best anywhere and incredibly cheap.  You can eat yourself silly for less than a dollar and the food is all amazing.

Anyways, of course there are more impressions but they’ll have to wait til another time.

I’ve made another adjustment to my travel itinerary.  I am no longer going to the Emirates or Oman as I’m tired of trying to get those visas.  I’ve decided instead to stay on with the group and go to Pakistan and India.  Commercial tour groups cannot go through Pakistan at this time which means the driver has to transit the truck through while the rest of the group flies to India.   Since we’re private this does not apply.  However one of the commercial drivers is going through the same time we are so we’ll probably end up convoying with him.  Also wıth the current political climate being what it is we’ll probably get a military escort.  HOW COOL IS THAT??????  I’m putting the itinerary for that part on the bottom of this letter so that if anything happens and makes the news you’ll be able to see if we are anywhere near the mayhem 🙂

I don’t know when I’ll be writing again as Iran is a bit iffy on internet connections, until two years ago it was illegal.  So if I don’t write it doesn’t mean I’m dead.  It means I’m still having an awesome time but can’t find a way to communicate it.  I’ll be here in Goreme for the next two days so if you feel like writing a note please do so since i can get it here.

10.25  enter Iran
15.11  exit Iran, enter Pakistan at Taftan
16.11  to Quetta
17.11  Quetta
18.11  to Sukkur
19.11  to Dera Ghaza Khan
20.11  to Lahore
21.11  Lahore
22.11  Lahore
23.11  Lahore
24.11  exit Pakistan, enter India at Amritsar
25.11-5.12 Amritsar to Jaipur

I’ll still be coming home on Dec.19 so that is the only static thing at this time.  LIFE IS GREAT!!!!

That’s it from me on the Middle East so I hope you’ve enjoyed it and may even want to visit this incredible part of the world.  It really is incredible and undeserving of the reputation it has.  Hopefully I’ll be able to write from Iran but if not, happy Halloween and I’ll write again from India.

Alibaba in Bliss

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