Monday, September 14, 2009

March 15th & 16th: Hama, new friends and Lattakia [updated with pics and more; first posted 03-04-09]

Oh, I forgot to mention that while I was downstairs writing, Abdullah made me share his dinner - a burger (half) and some fries. Tasted great, but I ate too much that day. :S
I got up at 8 to get ready and have breakfast. After finishing my small breakfast, I went to my room to pack up my stuff as my plan was to leave around lunch time for Lattakia. While there, Abdullah called me to say I had to join him in the salon as he was having his breakfast of fuul (beans) and bread and such. He said I was in Syria and had to try the Syrian bean dish. Okay then. I had a second breakfast. It was so good!!! Once again I was eating too much. Ugh. Oh well. It was a good chance to try different things. After eating I went out to wander around Hamah, as I had yet to really do that. I went to the Azem Palace museum. It is small but nice. A man there sort of took me around and opened some doors for me. Even outside he kept saying photos were not allowed (there were only signs inside the rooms saying no photos). He would say no photos, then look around as if trying to be sneaky, and then say I could take a photo. He was actually telling me to take photos of certain things in some of the rooms, which I had no interest in taking photos of. Sort of like 'ooh! a window! picture okay!' I said no thanks and then he said no photos but okay for me to take photos. After a while it got kinda annoying but whatever. In the end, he was asking for a tip since he was letting me take pictures when he wasn't supposed to. It was all in order to get money, of course, which I knew right from the start. That seems to be the way it is everywhere over here. After I saw all there was to see in the museum, I wandered over to the nearest norias (water wheels). The water wheels in Hamah are amazing. There are so many of them!!! 17, to be exact, including the largest waterwheel in the world. They are very old, dating back to the Byzantine time, though of the course the wooden parts have been replaced fairly regularly to keep them running. Too bad I didn't get to see them actually moving (though it seems they can be VERY noisy!A street in the old quarter near the Azem Palace.While I was there taking pictures, a guy nearby asked if I wanted him to take a picture for me so that I could be in a picture. He seemed quite sincere (I always use my intuition and it has served me quite well), so I said okay. He kinda looks like Andrew McCarthy. Every time I looked at him it reminded me of the movies Pretty in Pink and Mannequin and I kind of laughed to myself. I walked with Alaa' for a while talking about all sorts of things - Syria, work, travel, etc. He spoke some English but not a lot. He took me to the big Hama Museum. It is big on the outside, but there is not much there to see. Then we went for coffee. I said I was going to Lattakia and he decided, if it was okay with me, he would join me to sort of show me around. He was enjoying my company. He called his co-worker/friend to get him to cover for work the next day (only one of them really has to be there at a time).
I went back to my hotel to check out and he went home to change and then picked me up at the hotel. We went to the bus station to get tickets, but the soonest bus was sold out and the next one was several hours away. So we decided to take a micro bus. Well, the micro bus that was there was already full and was just pulling out so we had to wait for the next one to fill up. They said maybe 30 minutes. That turned into a couple of hours. We were talking to 2 girls on the bus infront of us (we had the whole back seat because of my bag - I had to pay for the extra seat, which is really not much). They were both students, taking nursing in Lattakia. One of them, Fihal, had to go to the hospital by 5 to work. Eventually, after the bus was still not full, we all paid a little extra to make them go. Fihal was late for work as we didn't arrive until after 5. On the way, Rasha, the other girl, made arrangements for us to stay in a beach house (which they kept calling a chalet), as she knew someone that had one. It was fantastic and relaxing. The beach house was large, with 2 bedrooms (with 5 beds), a large living room with a view of the sea, and good sized kitchen (all on the 2nd floor). The Mediterranean Sea is beautiful! The next day we wandered along the shore and I got my feet wet. I can't go to the sea and not at least get my feet into it. ;) After talking a while, Alaa' decided he wanted to go to Aleppo, too. He lived in Aleppo for several years when he went to university, and wanted to show me around. Okay then. After leaving the beach house, we went to the train station to get tickets and leave my bags at the cafeteria (thank goodness they will store bags, as I didn't want to have to carry them around or sit there and wait the whole time). We had several hours to wander. We went along the corniche and down the steep side to the water's edge. So nice. The color of the water there was amazing!! I made Ali follow me and climb up a huge rock/hill, all vocanic rock, I think. On top, it was very windy. Though it was cold, it was very refreshing and the view was great. After sitting there for a while, we tried to get a hold of the girls again, but they were both busy. Rasha was on her way back to Hama already. Oh well.
On the way down the rock, Alaa' noticed that the heel of his shoe had at some point, fallen off. So our next activity was finding a cobbler to fix his shoe. As we searched, we stopped for a felafel sandwich for lunch... SO good. It took a while, but eventually we found a shoe repair shop in the downtown area. The place was literally a crack in the wall. The width of the room was only slightly wider than the guy's shoulders!! It was interesting watching him work. He did a great job of giving Alaa' two new heels. It only cost 50 Syrian pounds, which is about $1. The train to Aleppo was so nice. A lot of space, a smooth ride, and fairly fast. Definitely better than a bus ride! In Aleppo, we caught a taxi to the hotel that I had sort of picked out from my Lonely Planet Guide. It was absolutely horrible!!!! It smelled so bad, the paint was chipped and peeling off the walls. When they opened the door to a room to show it to me, all sorts of dust came flying off the walls. Yuck!!! We were out of there fairly quickly. Around the corner we found another hotel. It wasn't great but was much better than the other one, and cheaper. My room was very large, with my own bathroom/shower and heating. Alaa's room was nice but smaller, and no bathroom. He had to use the shared bathroom and shower with other rooms. Of course, his was cheaper.
For dinner, Alaa' took me to his favorite pizza place in Aleppo, a little place near the university called Mister Taster. The pizzas we had were sort of sampler pizzas with 3 kinds on one - 1/3rd mushroom, 1/3rd sausage/meat, and 1/3rd spicy chicken. It was delicious. Much better than I had expected.
I am still unable to upload any pictures. :( For some reason the computers here won't recognize my camera. I guess you'll just have to wait.

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sivaluk_htn said...
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