yesterday morning, the 6 of us got to syria after taking the night bus, and as usual, were pretty trired. the city we’re in right now is Allepo and is one of the two largest cities in syria. syria is very different than turkey.. actually, in some ways i’d kinda say that it has some similarities to morocco. unfortunately, it was pouring like crazy yesterday, and so we were hardly able to go out at all. we went and barved the rain to go hit up tha atm, but when we got there, the atm was broken. out of the blue, this guy comes up and offeres to show us where another atm in town is. we ended up talking to him and his name is Ahbit (sp?).
back home, a lot of people hear “middle east” or “syria” especially, and immediately imagine a place filled w/ angry terrorists who despise america and probably have a few bombs chilling in their hut back home. when i first told people that i was going to come here to syria, a lot of people freaked out. i heard “dont go” countless numbers of times. “it’s dangerous!” etc etc. i think many people thought that i’d be basically entering a war zone. on the flip side, i kept reading on lonely planet etc that the people of the middle east are extremely friendly… among the friendliest people around, and that they are very welcoming.
i knew that i had to see this for myself, so that i could have my own opinion. were the people in america right? i was definitely apprehenisve on coming here, but hoped for the best. one of the things i am most curious about is what people here think of america. back home, i also heard people urging me to tell people here that i was from canada, or anywhere else. so anyways… we talk to this guy Abhit for a while. turns out, that he has some family that lives in NY… but when i ask him if he’d ever go there, he says that he would never. he tells me that he absolutely hates the american government, esp bush and condoleeza rice.. but then stresses very strongly that in no way does he hate the american people.
and i think thats the main thing that everyone really needs to remember. hating a government isn’t the same as hatig the people from that country. all of the people here in syria that we’ve told that we are from the US have been extremely friendly to us. no one has hassled us about it or made rude remarks or anything at all. later on that night, we randomly ran into ahbit again (he keeps popping up around town) and he was telling us about how syria has lots of mosques and chuches side by side. when i asked him which he visited, he said that he is a muslim, and followed that up by saying “i am muslim, but not terrorist! not all muslims are terrorists! not all syrians are terrorists either, even though your president says so…”.
i dunno… all of this is really disturbing to think about. the syrian people here have open minds about us americans despite our governmet, but so many people back in the states dont have an open mind about them. heh, and i’m just talking about people from liberla california… not even to mention the conservatives in the middle of the country who want the whole middle east blasted back to the stone age! i guess, really, this is why traveling is so important. part of it is to gout into the world and gawk at all the differences in the way people live… but another every important part of it is to see just how much people are all the same. the syrians etc are people just like us… and not evil diabolical killers.
anyways.. enough on that. when we wewre hungry enough that we just ahd to go out and find food despite the downpour, we found this nice restaurant serving traditional syrian fare. no menus! when we walked in the door, the guy just montions for us to come back into the kitchen w/ him! he uncovers pot after pot after pot of different kinds of foods and tells us what each thing is and we got to choose right there in the kitchen. all of the food was great! and fairly cheap. in fact, everythig here is cheaper than turkey. our hotel room is 9 bucks. you can get street food (like a wrap or something) for like 50 cents. nice!!
later at night, as i mentioned before, we ran into Abhit again. he took us out for a “drink”. of course, in the Us, going out for a drink means alcohol, but he took us out to get fruit smoothies. the smoothies were really really good, and abhit insisted on paying for all of us. nice!!
we got up tofay and walked to go check out the citadel on the hill. it stopped raining finally. getting through the streets here is sometiumes really difficult. it’s just madness. first off, allepo has for some reason, a billion and one taxis. taxis taxis everywhere. and the streets are jam packed w/ these taxis and other cars. traffic runs rampant, and when you try to cross a street, it’s like that game frogger. you run this way and that, avoiding cars, and hope for the best!
on the way to the citadel, we walked through dsome fo the covered souqs here. it was not quite as crazy as the souqs in morocco, but also wayyyy less hassley which was really nice! despite the fact that i’ve seen a ton of souqs in morocco, and some souq-like shops in turkey, i still find it so fascinating to wander through these. it’s definitely something very unoique to the middle eastern countries. everyone yelling, spices gallore, rugs, weird meat, strange smells, silk scarves, etc etc. so fun! on the other side of the souqs, we wandered through the citadel on the hill. the price for the citadel was a mere 150 syrian pounds (3 bucks!) but with our student cards, it came down to 10 syrian pounds (about 20 cents!). it’s nice being a student!
after the citadel we wandered a bit more. lots of random people just walked up to us off the streets and talked to us, and even gave us mini-tours without asking for anything in return!! caryn and the girls went off to the baths in the afternoon, and the rest of us just headed back to our hotel…