Tuesday, 29 December 2009
We didn't go to the Bedevin tent last night because we were feeling tired and lazy. We had a quick bite at the hotel restaurant. Now we are in Aleppo. On our way, we stopped by Crac des Chevaliers. This is in a very different region of Syria in terms of landscape. It is very green. There are olive and pine trees in parts. Where the castle is and Tuscany are no different. The green area is on sets.
The castle is in the highest point of the region.
It was very foggy today. But when it is clear, it is possible to see the sea and the LebanonMountain from here. We forget that we are in Syria because it is so green and due to the way the castle is built.
All kinds of civilisations passed through here also. The construction of the castle was first started by the Kurds, then the Crusaders developed it, the Egyptian Sultan Baybars conquered it and then the Ottomans, and finally the French took over. All left their marks here. While going around in the castle, one feels like in a European castle built in the Middle Ages. This knight’s castle is really something.
Our hotel in Aleppo is Dar Zamaria. Our room number is 103. Like the Talismann hotel inDamascus, it is a restored house with a big courtyard within the old city walls. It is very beautiful. New Aleppo is much cleaner and orderly than Damascus; it even looks more developed.
It is possible to see road signs directing to Antioch and Gaziantep and come across cars with Turkish licence plates. But they still show Antioch and Iskenderun within Syrian borders in the maps. Even our charming, hospitable and helpful driver Bessam said: "It is possible to come across many Turks in Aleppo. Also in Antioch!" I guess that because it is not difficult to cross the borders and they are taught that way in school, they really think that Antioch is within Syrian borders.
The streets of old Aleppo are larger than old streets of Damascus; houses are newer, they don't look like they are about to collapse. Old Aleppo has a very Middle Age feel to it. It is clear by the large number of churches that it has a big Christian population. But Aleppo is much more conservative compared to Damascus and other places we have seen in Syria. I saw maybe one or two women in burqas in Damascus. Here, all Muslim women are in burqas. Whilst I was inclined to think in Damascus that Syrians are more open than some Turks, I found a different world inAleppo. Here, even some women's faces are completely covered with a black veil. Even their eyes! The elderly women walking next to the younger ones, lift the veil covering the younger ones' eyes slightly and hold them by their arm so that they can see where they are stepping!
I guess that they are not as used to seeing tourists here as in Damascus either. They are picking on us a lot more and stare. There is a ginger girl called Ani at the hotel reception. She tries to speak in Turkish with me. And she speaks very well. She told me that she learnt Turkish only by watching TV. I think she is Armenian. But in Syria, there are plenty of ginger, light blond and blue or green eyed among the Arabs as well.