12.08.2009 - 13.08.2009
After a rather hectic week and 6 day 'detour' (3 days of solid travel from Eastern Turkey to Sakhalin in Far Eastern Russia and back, over 30 hours on a plane etc.), I returned to Gaziantep and miraculously found Chuck again, who'd been traveling around Turkey while I was away. We were now ready to go into the arid world of the Arabs.
Waking up, we had a kebab and some baklava (a local specialty) and took a minivan heading south to a small town near the border, where we managed to get a car heading south to Aleppo, aka Halep, aka Haleb. After some standard beurocracy and waiting around at the border, especially the Syrian side, where we needed to see the doctor, who was inexplicably absent for almost an hour, we crossed over into Syria, and entered a country with yet another alphabet. That makes it the 5th alphabet in the 5th country on this trip, full house.
The level of development immediately got lower, the road got a lot worse, driving standards went from fairly western minus seatbelts to "drive wherever the hell you want at any speed", the amount of donkeys on the roads increased by 1000% (although livestock on roads is waaaay below Caucasus levels). The buildings changed from being quite colourful neat apartment blocks to a monotony of beige and white blocks. The land suddenly lost the irrigation and so the arid scorched grass and bushes were the main feature on the parched landscape, a change from the many fields of green that the Turks had planted what is essentially the same land, still a very far cry from the lush and verdant mountains of Georgia.
From our exploration of Aleppo so far, it is a very mad and bustling city, a trading town since the beginning of time with the souqs (markets) still going strong. A very loud place, with cars honking, the sound of the workmen near the markets still making things by hand, the calls to prayer and the Arab pop music blared out of shops all melding together to create a loud and vibrant soundscape. Amidst all the chaos, the courtyards of the beautiful old mosques somehow retain a stillness and peace about them.
I think we need to wander around the the small winding streets of the old town some more, and drink more of the strawberry and honey juice that Aleppo offers...