2010
08.16
I’m not super proud of this video but with constant over 40 degrees I just haven’t been able to do better.
Notes to the video:
– The trip to the border was much longer, from Syria we had to go to turkey which was like 5 hours, then from turkey to Iraq border was 9 hours, not 7, plus the shared taxi.
– Sulav is higher than 1000 meters, It´s nearly as the same height as Amadiya that is 1800 meters high.
– Ah, the advantage of having just one hotel is that you don’t have to think, hehe, didn’t say it in the video! It was supposed to be funny but if I don’t say it all… it doesn’t make sense in the video.
Matt has liked this things of videos so he’s decided to do a video blog for the Iraq days, if you want, you can check it out in his page, it’s looking very good! : http://leavemehere.wordpress.com/
Working on the second part already!
Fernando

I’m not super proud of this video but with constant over 40 degrees I just haven’t been able to do better.

Notes to the video:

– The trip to the border was much longer, from Syria we had to go to turkey which was like 5 hours, then from turkey to Iraq border was 9 hours, not 7, plus the shared taxi.

– Sulav is higher than 1000 meters, It´s nearly as the same height as Amadiya that is 1800 meters high.

– Ah, the advantage of having just one hotel is that you don’t have to think, hehe, didn’t say it in the video! It was supposed to be funny but if I don’t say it all… it doesn’t make sense in the video.

Matt has liked this things of videos so he’s decided to do a video blog for the Iraq days, if you want, you can check it out in his page, it’s looking very good!  Here is the link: http://leavemehere.wordpress.com/

Working on the second part already!

Fernando

2010
08.14

That’s the first question we are ask in the border just after getting into the country. Here we were, sitting in the sofa of an immigration office, handingn a glass of tea with the tip of our fingers, the tea has a huge lager of sugar at the bottom, with no preliminary the man there ask that.

“Sorry, can you repeat?” His English was not very clear, “tourist” sounded like “terrorist” and “terrorist” like “tourists”, we cant believe what we’ve just heard.

He repeated the question, this time more clear while a little smile came out of his lips. He was teasing us, black black humour, the kind I like. Even we knew he was teasing us we answered astonished “tourist tourist” as self confident as we could nodding our heads bluntly.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, border, phone

He gave us his phone number in case we needed anything. I’ve removed the last two numbers, don’t think it’s so short.

He was in fact a very nice guy, his name was Mahdi, he helped us to solve all of our questions we had. The most important one to be able to move around the country was if there were cash machines, a thing that makes long trips life much easier. After the “tourists or terrorists” the answer to the question of if there were ATMs disoriented us a bit; “Yes, I’ve heard about it, you insert something, a card or something similar, and then there’s money going out… we don’t have of those things here.” This time he was not teasing us, in Dohuk(the first place we went to) there was a cash machine but it was broken, we were told that it would be fix in one month. As we were prepared, we changed money with no hassle.

In the taxi excited and tired we talk about this kind of interview-welcome in which at the beginning we thought we were being ask tramp questions, and then we saw that the only think they wanted was to help and ensure we knew what we were doing. The surreal image continues, we were in Iraq, at night, by a road with no painted lines, with a taxi driver that had no English and with Britney Spears out loud in the car. we continued to Dohuk. We leave Zakho a city descrived as “sex city” by the kids in the turkish village we stopped to cross the border.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, Duhok

We arrive to Dohuk, a disorganized village with some modernization, the buildings looked all new or rehabilitated and seemed all cars had been bought in the last four to five years. In the afternoon there’s quite an activity as during the day over 40 degrees it’s quite unpleasant to be out in the street.

Searching for the hotel we started talking with some policemen, the emblem on the uniform was an eagle grabbing a rifle with her claw. They had very little English but they help us, they like football so I had one of those “World Champion” conversation. They had purelly “Michael Night” style sunglases.

Iraq, Irak, kuristan, Berashi, hospitality, hospitalidad

We go for a walk to the souk. In our walk there was a guy approaching us, Berashi, he had been in England and had an English with some funny brit accent. He gave us his phone number and we used him fro a few days as a translator. On the left Mathew, my company in Iraq.

People is extremely calm and kind, they have some face features that I don’t know where to fit them; the skin is a bit darker but not as much as in Syria and Jordan and many of them has the eyes less rounded but not as the Chinese, Koreans or Japanese, maybe here the change starts.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, sulav

Kurdish Iraq does not have many choices of transport, basically you have to go everywhere by taxi. They are not very expensive and you can share them with more people to make it cheaper. So to go to Sulav, we take a taxi. Sulav is a retreat place for Iraqis, it’s high so it’s not that warm, even though to be fresher they put the tables on the stream. The water was super cold!

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, sulav, swimm

Upstream the restaurants there’s a place for swimming, the kids came to ask us things and also jump from a bridge to give some show.

Iraq, Irak, sulav, kudistan

Wet.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, sulav, shop, tienda

What a toy!.

We met a Kurdish family that lived in Holland. The girl talk perfect English. They have a house in Choman, a village that we wanted to go through, they give us some information to move around the area and they invite us to their house… WOW! People is ultra kind everywhere.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, sulav, young, jovenes

We are clearly different and there’s people stopping to say hello all the time. When we leave we see this group of youngsters we talk a bit with them and they tell us to get a picture so we do. The clothes are the normal ones they wear, girls are very colourful. The golden things are just things they bought in the shops to play. Look at the girl that is looking at the camera through his friend arm. They were fun.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, amadiya

In front of Sulav it’s Amadiya, a village sitúate 1985 meters above sea, the village it has nothing, not even a cafe but it has this wall remains. The guy sitting the was our voluntary “guide”, he had some English and he took us round the village, I think he wanted to practise his English apart from the fact that there´s footing else to do in the village. I kind of thing also that it’s cool walking by a foreigner also.

amadiya, Iraq, Irak, kudistan

Amadiya also has the views.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, hotel, sulav

Sulav was an expensive place for Iraqi standards, if eating the previous day cost us six euro here it was double so we decided to prepare a sandwich in the crappiest hotel room in the planet.

From here we want to go to Gully Alli Beg, a canyon that seems to have some good landscapes. We are thinking on calling the Holand-Kurdish family so maybe they can show us around. The taxi to got o Gully Alli Beg want’s to charge us 90 dollars per person so we decide to hitchhike.

Opposite  to what I thought, there is not a big army presence. The border is like any other with no extra reinforcement and in the country you don’t see that many army vehicles(I’ve seen more in the Kurdish Turkey area). The only thing that makes you remind that you are near a war zone is that there are checkpoints in the roads where you just have to show your passport and hardly ever they ask you anything, it’s a procedure with no tension.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, travel

On the way to Gully Alli Beg.

Iraq, Irak, kudistan, Ali Beg
Views of Gully Ali Beg canyon, there’s really no much here so we keep going to Choman, we haven’t been able to contact our new family.

Iraq, Irak, kurdistan, hospitalidad, hopitality

In the gas station in Gully Ali Beg the assistant there helps us to get into this car. It breaks in the middle of the way, it’s 46 degrees and something got broken.

See you soon.
Fernando

2010
08.13

It all started three days ago.

Going for a walk, next to my hotel  to wind up, I  see a bookshop. I have been thinking lately of reading a novel , I would like to disconnect from the trip thing, read about people with another life different from going  from one place to another. My readings are based on travel guides, books from the country where I am, news about new countries I am going to vist, and to continue with the same subject, most of the conversations I have with other travellers are about places and routes. The conversations with the locals are similar, I usually tell them about my trip to satisfy their curiosity. I ask for books in English. She takes me to a little shelf with a dozen books.  Great! They have some! A French girl comes as well.  Another person looking for a book.  I put away Dan Brown ‘s books, very thick and addictive, I don’t want to get too hooked. I see some books from Paulo Cohello, as I haven’t read any of his, it takes my fanc. They are very thin,  I take “The Alchemist”. The French girl recommends it to me,  she says it’s the best one from Paulo Cohello.  I don’t think anymore, I get it, pay and leave.

I find it funny that it starts in Andalucía(south of Spain), and after that I don’t like that the main character starts travelling. I wanted a settled life. I laugh a bit and carry on reading, maybe my fate is to read this book so that’s what I do. To top it he starts travelling in Arabic countries and in the deserts,  he wants to get to Egypt, to the pyramids. I like the book,  it’s very iconic, everyone can find something with which he can identify himself. The main character learns to believe in omens. I like the idea: follow the tips life brings you, follow that tip-instincts to see where it gets you.

It could be the cause of it, next a breakfast a quite cocky guy starts to talk to me, I met him waiting for the shower and we had one of those travelling conversations. He has travelled a lot, but he is a little bit egocentric. I enjoy him, but couldn’t stand him for three full  days. His ego is a little bit extensive so he enrols in the conversation a guy who is in the table next to us.  Mathew, a serious Australian guy.  The “boring” goes and I talk to Mathew, he has been travelling for a year, he also has a blog, he takes pictures with old cameras. With only 26 years old, he has travelled to 62 different countries.I see his Middle east Lonely Planet , the countries it contains are Egypt,  Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. We talk about Iraq, I tell him that I have met people who have known people who have been there, which sounds like that the friends cousin neighbour has had an affair with the work colleague of his bother in law. I can see he is curious about the country. The Kurdish Iraq seems to be a quiet zone and independent of the Iraq war.

I go to buy a juice and send a postcard, I think about “The Alchemist”, in the American woman had met travellers that loved Iraq, in the news I saw the last day by chance about Iraq Kurdistan, in Matt who is interested in Iraq, in the selfish man who” introduced” us, in that me on my own wouldn’t go, but now that I have someone to  go with…  In my trip which is being so easy, and I would like to get it more complicated… It’s all clear, they are omens as the main character of the book says,  “ you must follow the omen”. I get back to the hotel and look for Mathew, who does not seem to be a so serious any more, and tell him that I, on my own I wouldn’t  go to Iraq, but if he wants to come with me, we could go together.

Two days later, after going through Mar Musa monastery, at 2 pm we are in the new bus station in Homs. We need to cross all of  Syria to the north and 549 km of Turkey , because the border from Syria to Iraq is closed to foreigners and the only way to go is from Turkey.

After  the minibus and the bus to Homs, a two hour bus, a taxi of another two hours, night in Antep, and a nine hours bus to Silopi in Turkey, we are  20 km from the border, bargaining the taxi, a yellow Berlingo, ready to enter Bush´s “the axis of evil”.

See you soon… I hope
Fernando

2010
08.08

To wind up I walk to the souk to have an ice-cream with pistachio over it mmmmmm’

I just spent the night, next day I want to go very early to Mar Musa Monastery on the way to Turkey. It is a monastery from the 6th century that was abandoned around 1830. The name comes from Moses-Musa. In 1982 Father Paolo started the reconstruction until 1991 when he settled there in a permanent way. The monastery is ecumenical mixture. This means that there are monks and nuns from different religious sects. It is possible to visit it for the day or to overnight.

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Instead of staying in the hotel with many stars I stayed with my father a week ago I go to mi Hotel-hostel. It costs me less sleeping in Al Rabie than in the star studded hotel. It’s true that in the hotel you have great advantages such as being able to ask for your praying mat.

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The best thing of my hotel is the patio, a place with silence, plants, fountain and a water melon in the fountain. It´s ideal to meet other travellers.

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Syria has an elaborated cuisine, the photo only has the starters or mezze. This is in the hotel Orient pearl.

Here are some other restaurant recommendations:
– Orient Pearl is one of the newest and the food is excellent.
– Naranj in the Christian neighbourhood.
– Al Hallabi, with Aleppan cuisine, known as the best cuisine in the country.
– If you want a night view(or daylight) from the city, you can go to one of the countries up in the hill but don’t expect either great food nor service.

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I buy some bread.

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Stairs to go up to the monastery, there is no road. I arrive just for lunch.

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I think summer is not the best moment to visit it, there were around 50 people for dinner and the monks are not even 10. I expected a more inaccessible place, with more monks that visitors, so my experience got a bit adultaretad. In winter it has to be much more interesting being able to talk more in depth than the “Where are you from?”.


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It’s sunset, a group leaves the monastery walking to another nearby monastery, I read for a little bit enjoying the image.

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Do you like my room?

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In the morning and afternoon they have a meditation hour, after that there is the prayer. The praying has quite a lot of singing, you can’t expect less form a country with the oldest score in the world. It’s from the 1500 B.C.

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Being so many people the place looked like a free hostel run by monks more than a monastery that hosts people, but I’ve liked visiting. I love these places where different people try to get together instead of separating, maybe these places are seeds and the world can improve bit by bit.

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When I say hello to Father Paolo, a former Jesuits, I say hello from Barbara from Antilock. Father Paolo has an incredible personality, he is one of those people that when he talks everybody just pays as much attention as possible.

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I leave the place with a bit more hope in the world. With me I have a Belgian and a German that are travelling in the area. We are in the minibus with our bags on top of us. I keep going north to leave Syria. The next stop of the trip is Georgia, but… plans are meant to be change, aren’t they?

I leave this country with it’s dentist president, amazingly hospitable people, deserts, roman ruins, abandoned cities, water Norias, forgotten castles, exciting history and good food. From all these things the one that makes you feel good even with the huge language barrier is the people. Syrians ar honest, jokers, helpful and positive. I hope the rising tourism will help progress and have a less hard life and that it does not change the pleasant character I’ve found in their people.

See you soon.
Fenando

2010
08.05

Petra

A very quick shower, breakfast and we are at the ticket office by 6.30, when it opens. We want Petra to ourselves! Hahahaha we are very pragmatic people and we know it’s impossible, but at least we’ll avoid the hordes of people.
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Even before you get into Petrá’s valley you start seeing carved temples.

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Light plays with rock shapes.
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Rising sun casts long Shadows, our early wake up is paying off, nearly nobody in the Siq, the passage way canyon you have to walk to get into Petra.

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The Siq is only two kilometres long but with all the stops for pictures it takes quite a while to walk it.

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No history for this post. If you want the history of Petra  get into Wikipedia.

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The ultra typical picture but this time I like it more, I took it myself!

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Camels resting, then they’ll start ferrying lazy tourists.
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The amphitheatre matching the colours of the rest of the buildings.

 

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Collapsed columns – As if sliced by a chainsaw

 

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Legend has it that Samson got his strength from his hair… That cannot be true here!!

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Stunning walls. The carved rocks are amazing, but the show nature produces is even better. I’d spend another one or two days walking along the different trails of Petra.

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Panoramic view of the monastery.

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Now.. which rock should I photograph. I’m wearing the clothes I use for the gym, don’t like how they look, but is the best for super high temperatures.

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The landscape is amazing, but looking into the micro world pays back.
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Amazing colours and shapes in Petra Rock.
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Petra is the Greek for Rock. I wonder what the Greek for ‘Stunning’ is??

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A very sad ass.. they really work them hard in extreme heat

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There are not many trees, this one looks ancient.

 

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Dermot on the ‘highplace of sacrifice’ of Petra.

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I love taking self portraits!!!!

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More colors.

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Just about to leave, the heat has given me a headhache, I´ve drank 2 litres in the last hour. I can only thing on finding some sahed!

We’ve like Jordan, we have left the Red Sea and the desert of Wadi Rum for other time. People are very nice but they have had tourists around for too long, you always have to check prices before doing anything or maybe they try to rip you off. It’s a great country to visit, perfect to rent a car and enjoy the desert drives, and great to get a taste of the middle east.

I go back to Syria after leaving Dermot at the airport. While heading to the airport at 4:30 am we got lost, sleepy minds, bad signs and some wrong interpretations got us there 45 minutes before flight but he made it!

Another shared taxi to cross the border. The guy seems to be quite an asshole but it’s just going to be two hours so I don’t care. We cross with no incidents apart from the fact that he fell asleep driving. I saw he was tired so didn’t stop to pay attention to him, I saw how his head fell over the steering weel and a shouting insult in Spanish came from the inside of me produced by an instant deep hate. When we arrived I got my backpack and didn’t even say good bye, didn’t wanted to see his face again.

It’s 9 a.m. sky is blue. I’m back in Damascus, I’ll probably walk to the souq to have that amazing ice-cream again. I’m happy with myself.

Fernando

2010
08.03

Jordania, Jordan, border, frontera

Crossing the border I had the welcome sign.

Jordania, Jordan, Amman

When I went to Podgorica, in Montenegro, I thought it was the ugliest capital on earth. Now I think it´s Amman. Concrete over concrete, disorganized, dirty…

In Amman I’m here just one day, waiting for Dermot who has come to visit for three days. We have rented a car to do as much as we can in just these days. It turned out to be a great idea since we have enjoyed the driving a lot and have been able to do everything we wanted.

It´s been very intersting going through Syria and Jordan, they are both Arabic contries with Muslim majorities, before them I had been in some Muslim balkan countries and Turkey that were Muslim but not Arabic. All is a bit different. The most obvious is the clothing, however many dress in western clothes now. The way of thinking is different too, probably further from the west than the other Muslim countries I´ve been. Here there´s an exception, the Christians I met in Syria were very western thinking and maybe this is because the west has some meaning of Christianity or at least of non-Muslim… we´ll keep thinking about this while travelling.

Jordania, Jordan, biblia, bible

“And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo” (Deuteronomy 34:1) Where Moses was supposedly shown the ‘Promised Land’ by God. Not far is the place where Jesus is supposed to have been baptised.

Jordania, Jordan, Kings higway, autopista de los reyes, panoramic

If I’d be there with Moses after crossing the desert for weeks and he tells me that this arid place is the promise land I think I’d beat him. What a dissapointment. In support of Moses I have to say that this area was not as arid as it is now.

Jordania, Jordan, Kings higway, autopista de los reyes 2

A dam and reservoir to store a very scarce commodity. WATER! We are going south to Petra, but instead of driving in the boring, and fast, desert highway we are going by the kings highway.

Jordania, Jordan, Kings higway, autopista de los reyes, break, parada

Relaxing in the Mountain Side Café. This bedouin had taken sofas up to the top of a hill where the kings highway goes, you have shade and all you want to drink with a stunning view. He had a funny Texan accent as he used to work for the Jordan army and stayed there for nine months.

Jordania, Jordan, Kings higway, autopista de los reyes

The loo and its view amazed me!!!!!

Jordania, Jordan, Kings higway, autopista de los reyes, castillo cruzado, crusade castle

We visited a crusader’s castle It had four floors! It could be a topic for a separated post to talk about what was the real mission of the crusades. Under the religious banner some historians add economical and imperialism reasons. The photo is pretty bad but I wanted to tell this little bit with some context.

Jordania, Jordan, Dead sea, mar muerto, salt, sal

Salt line on the rocks from the Dead Sea.

Jordania, Jordan, Dead sea, Mar Muerto

Floating in the Dead Sea. Don’t swallow it or get the salt in your eyes… it hurts a lot. The taste is alot worse than what I thought.

Jordania, Jordan, Dead sea, mar muerto, rocas, roks

Canyon in the shade

Jordania, Jordan, Dead sea, mar muerto, autopista, highway

We drove over 700 kilometers in this tiny country.

Jordania, Jordan, Dead sea, sunset, atardecer

Sunset over the Dead Sea with Israel in the background. Pay attention to the colour of the water, doesn´t it look kind of metal? When you look at the water you can see how it has “something” floating, it´s not homogeneous.

Jordania, Jordan, Dead sea, mar muerto, atardecer, sunset, rocas

No green to be seen anywhere. Brown and harsh landscape.

Jordania, Jordan, Petra, entrance, entrada

About to enter into Petra, but we´ll tell you about this long and hot day in the next post.

Petra´s pictures are coming on quite well. We are looking foward to post them.

Dermot & Fernando