Friday, 20 May 2011

Trip to Palmyra - Bride of the Desert

Our trip to Palmyra began early in the morning when our driver picked us up from our hostel in Damascus.

Most of the attractions in Syria like Kraks de Chevaliers and Ma'aloula are located in remote areas where there's hardly any public transport. So the next best option is to arrange for your own transport.

Costs us USD 120 to hire a car and driver for the entire day. It would be cheaper if you have more passengers to split the bill with.

Along the way we stopped at Baghdad Cafe for breakfast. The cosy diner is unique and warrants an entire entry on its own, which I'll complete soon.

Baghdad Cafe

Breakfast at Baghdad Cafe costs us SYP 250 each. I though it was rather expensive but I closed one eye considering the fact that Baghdad Cafe is located in the middle of nowhere. So must take into consideration transport costs and other costs.

The portions were too much for 2 people. Looked as if though we were feeding 5 people!

After breakfast we continued our journey to Palmyra which is about 220 km from Damascus. The journey was long and boring. To spice things up, we made a few stops along the way to snap photos like these:

 Prove that I was only 152 km from Iraq :-)

Sheep grazing by the highway. These sheep are taken care by bedouins, the local people of the area.

Soon we arrived in Palmyra and headed to the Tower Tomb of Elabel.

Palmyra is a city made up of tombs, temples, theatres, etc. - but all are ruins of course. The area is huge and it would be horrendous to walk from one ruin to another. And the scorching sun would not help either. At that point, hiring the car was an extremely good decision.

It's free to enter the grounds of Palmyra. However there are separate entrance fees at the different temples and tombs. For instance, the entrance to the Tower Tomb of Elabel was SYP 75 each.

Personally I felt the tomb was unimpressive and we could have given it a miss. Maybe that's why I didn't take many photos there and only have these to show:

Picture 1: That's me in front of the Tomb of Elabel
Picture 2: Description of the place (if the text are too small, click on the picture)
Picture 3: Ceiling of the tomb

As I left the tomb, I saw a peddler selling these cool stuff at the entrance:

I was extremely drawn to the collection of Aladdin lamps. But I didn't buy any cause unless a genie can emerge from it and grant me wishes, I know it's gonna end up on my shelf collecting dust.

Next on the list was the Temple of Bel which is the "most complete structure and most impressive part of the ruins in Palmyra", as how Lonely Planet described it.

Some sources mention this place as Temple of Ba'al instead of Bel. And for this I was afraid to enter because Ba'al is a demon who is one of the Seven Princes of Hell. Gives me the creeps thinking about it. Nevertheless we paid the SYP 150 entrance fee and went in.

Soon I was happily snapping my camera. Here's a collage of some of my shots:

Temple of Bel.

As I was wandering in the temple ruins, I noticed this guy lying underneath a piece of ruin. I was curious  at what he was doing.

 Imagine if the ruin had given way ... horror story, man ...

So I waited for him to leave, placed my camera under the ruin and clicked on the button. I didn't dare lie down like he did because of obvious reasons!

And this is what I snapped:

Why do you think the guy was so intrigued by this carving? Is that an image of the devil Ba'al himself?

Moving on, we headed for the Theatre. Our driver dropped us off at the Monumental Arch where we made a short walk to the Theatre.

Read the description about the Monumental Arch by clicking on the photo.

Having visited so many Theatres in my travels, this one looked the same as every other ancient theatre I've been to. Entrance fee was SYP 75 each.

Crew members were setting the place up with audio visual equipment for a concert in conjunction with the Silk Road Festival, an annual festival in Syria.

Here are more photos of the Theatre:

Scenes from around the Theatre.

After the Theatre, we headed back to Damascus and saw this along the way:

It was my first time seeing a mini tornado.

All in all, I didn't find Palmyra as impressive as how so many travellers and writers have claimed it to be. Probably I've seen one too many ruins to last me a lifetime, and Palmyra has become just one ruin amongst a sea of ruins. But hey, that's just my opinion.

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