15 January 2001

Syria, Jordan, Lebanon


I am staying in Damascus for 3 more weeks, learning some Arabic which is very hard! We're staying with a family in the old city, which is amazing. However, it is like living in the centre of a big maze. No really - i keep getting lost and i've got a really good sense of direction. Having difficulties living without western luxuries (they have squat toilets and no showers - so you have to throw lukewarm water over yourself, in a really cold room). The house we are in is nice - it's an old damascan house where they have a central open courtyard in which all the rooms open on to it. It's quite funny when it rains, because it feels like it is raining inside the house (in the courtyard). Since it is winter here (quite cold in the evenings) it's a bit of a pain to have to go outside just to brush your teeth...but never mind. It's a similar style to an old roman house.

We're gonna do some travelling after the language course, around Syria and Jordan, but not sure exactly where. The food has been good - we get a huge feast at every meal time, which we can never eat all of. However, i woke up this morning with a bad stomch ache and npw i've got diarhea. Not what i needed really. Howvere, i have just discoevered that this internet place has a western toilet, which makes me feel much better!

Apart from this, I am enjoying the overall expereince. Missing western luxuries though - i dont think i could live here for more than a few weeks! I have been working so hard though - i dont know where the time goes. I've doing far more work than i did last term!


Classes are over and I've been travelling around Syria for a week now. First went to a place called Bosra which was the best Roman Theatre in the world (really well preserved) and there's an old roman town like Pompei, where some people still live!

Then went to Palmyra which is Syria's most popular tourist destination. It's a huge Roman city in the middle of the desert. It was unbelievable - located in an oasis in the middle of the desert! We took a camel ride, which was scary! We then went to Aleppo which is Syria's 2nd buggest city. And we bumped into Peter Mandelson! He was shopping in the market and we kept bumping into him all day around the castle in Aleppo as well. We said hello, but he seemed nervous... He was with a tour guide, but on his own... How strange!

There's a castle near by which we went to, but our driver didnt want to take us there because we were short of time. We convinced him in the end, but it only gave us 15 mins to run round....another Delphi experience! Then we went to the most amazing Castle in the world - no really - it's 1500 yrs old, but really well preserved. It was built by Richard the Lionheart and is unbelievable. Saw quite a few other places as well, but those were the most impressive.
Next stop is Beirut for a couple of days (still havent been yet!) and then into Jordan.


Arrived in Beirut (Lebanon) 2 days ago from Syria and I cant believe how different it is. It's an almost completely Western city - everyone's got mobiles, it's full of western multinationals (and food outlets) and has nice looking (modern) buildings! There are still quite a few bombed out buildings from the civil war which ended a few years ago (Terry Waite etc..) which remind me of Sarjevo, but there's been huge amounts of reconstruction work. The centre of town looks like Docklands and being next to the sea (The Med) makes it a really nice location.

It really is unbelievable having just come from Syria which has hardly any foreign influence and no Western companies. We've been taking advantage of the food outlets which have been soarly missed (Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Coke...) - I've had enough of Middle Eastern food.

Off to Jordan tomorrow - there's some amazing scenery and ancient cities to explore.