Mediterranean Cycopaths

Syria – So, So Evil

14 March 2007

After spending an extra day in Amman where we received such warm and generous hospitality, we set off for Syria. With the assistance of a hearty breakfast, packed lunch (courtesy of M.Kerr) and a surprisingly efficient border crossing, we managed the 210kms to Damascus in 1 day.

With Syria infamously labelled as part of the ‘Axis of Evil‘, we entered the country knowing that we would need to be permanently on guard against evil behaviour.  As we crossed the border, we were immediately approached by two uniformed customs officials … what depraved agenda were these guys operating off we wondered?  Their questions were answered cautiously and every attempt to provide us with ‘assistance’ politely declined.  THEN they smiled, shook our hands and said “You are very welcome in Syria”!  What to make of this?  Sarcasm? 

We moved on with a higher degree of vigilance knowing that we were dealing with very crafty people that have refined their wickedness over many years.  We cycled the 110kms up the road to Damascus with our heads down, refusing to acknowledge locals or be drawn into any correspondence lest we become unwilling pawns in some sort of scheme involving a “Giant Laser”.

This proved difficult when we arrived in the Capital at dusk and had some trouble finding our hotel – dozens of beastly people were eager to ‘help’ and the fact that we found the place was surely due to the fact that it just happened to be on the same road as some other iniquitous establishment they must have been directing us to in their ‘broken’ English (“Why don’t you get it fixed then? That’s right, because you’re evil”).

The modus operandi appears to be gaining the subjects confidence by either engaging them in ‘friendly’ conversation, complimenting them or their home country, asking if they have ‘everything’ they ‘need’ or simply saying “Welcome in Syria”.  It is then that the unscrupulous plans are slowly rolled out – “I’ll post that for you”, “Why don’t you and your friend come back to my place for dinner?”, “If you need anything, please just ask”.  Unbelievable.

We could write a book on all the schemes (Sean did fall victim to one when a ‘complimentary’ bowl of nuts was placed on our dinner table – they had sneakily disguised a pistacio to look like a peanut and the Team Cycopath stud was lucky to escape without a chipped tooth) but our cautious approach saw us avoid getting caught out too often.  They somehow made me roll an ankle though (which will be rigorously tested on the way to Beirut tomorrow) and gave Sean a stomach bug, not too sure how they managed that. 

I did get one guy back when I spilt some orange juice in his taxi.  The cup was over half full (as it always is with Team Cycopath) and the stuff went everywhere.  Of course, as he helped me clean it up, the kindly rhetoric continued (“Oh, don’t worry”, “It’s old carpet anyway”) while he was secretly contriving a way to exact revenge.

Through it all we manged to explore the labyrinth like alleyways of what is one of the world’s oldest cities – particularly enjoying the souqs and the grandiose Umayyad Mosque – and also visited the Roman ruins of Palmyra on a day trip.  It is difficult to continually do justice to such world class ruins as we’ve seen so much over the last two months, but they’re all a bit different I guess (or so Sean keeps telling me).

Jon

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March 14, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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