Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Damascus to Aleppo by Bus - Just Like Boarding a Plane

Travelling from Damascus to Aleppo by bus was like boarding a plane - procedure wise, that is.

First of all, when we got to the Pullman Bus Station in Damascus, we had to get our bags scanned just like at the airport. There was no body search or else I would have laughed my head off. 

I didn't snap any photos of the bag scan machine cause cameras were not allowed in the area. In fact, when we were waiting for the bus to leave, I went around snapping photos. And then a guy who was walking by said it's forbidden to take photos in the station. Weird ... but I think it's a security procedure.

Anyway, the Pullman Bus Station is not a bus terminal in a single building, but rows of shops selling bus tickets, food, drinks and all sorts of stuff.

 Rows of shops at the Pullman Bus Station.

Like a typical bus station from an emerging nation (I'm thinking Puduraya here), many guys were shouting out names of places and trying to get passengers to buy tickets from their counter.

After asking around a bit, we decided on a company whose bus was leaving shortly. A one-way ticket to Aleppo costs 200 Syrian Pounds (SYP) and we had to show our passports.

This is how the VIP bus looks like:

Reminds me of school buses in Malaysia.

Notice the guy standing beside the bus in the pic above. He was the bus attendant who had the job description of a flight attendant.

After the bus rolled out of Pullman Bus Station, he drew all the curtains, and made sure they stayed that way throughout the journey.

 Drawn curtains always makes me sleepy.

He also distributed mineral water and biscuits and went from row to row with a plastic bag to collect rubbish. Just before the bus reached Aleppo he made sure all the seats were in an upright position; exactly like what flight attendants usually asks us to do just before the plane lands.

Mineral water and biscuits are distributed free to all passengers.

I was glad the journey to Aleppo took approximately 3 hours. Otherwise I would have to nurse a numb butt.

When the bus reached Aleppo, we didn't know which station it was or exactly which part of Aleppo we were at because all the signages were in Arabic. Moreover my Lonely Planet Middle East was an old edition with outdated information, fml.

So we asked around and was directed to take a bus to the city centre cause taking a taxi would have costs us an arm and a leg. That 30-minute bus ride was probably one of the cheapest bus rides I've ever sat - flat rate of SYP 5 only.

We got off at the last stop and navigated our way on foot to the clock tower and Sheraton Aleppo Hotel area where we kamikazed our way to Hotel Radouan.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Shopping in Syria

I told myself not to buy anything in Syria cause it would be a hassle to carry so many stuff home. Moreover I was on a tight budget and I don't usually carry much cash for shopping whenever I travel.

But the local stuff were so pretty, I couldn't resist the urge. So thanks to my friends, Visa and Mastercard, take a look at some of the stuff I bought from Syria:

Table cloth (SYP 400) from a souq in Aleppo.

These cushion covers reminds me of Christmas :-) Bought 'em for SYP 200 each from Husam al-Khouli Oriental Arts & Forklore that's located in the Old City of Damascus. Apparently the design is based on the Azem Palace.

Bought this approximately 70-year-old carpet from a shop called Scheherazade Oriental Handicrafts in Souq al-Hamidiyya in Damascus. I can't reveal the price in case my mum is reading this, she'll complain that I should have given her the money instead of spending it on a carpet. Typical Chinese mother ...

I don't know what to call it, but what do you think about this cup set? Bought it from the same shop as the carpet and this set's as old as the carpet too. Uthman the shop owner gave me a good discount for both items. Sometimes I wonder why am I buying old stuff ...


A set of 6 coasters for SYP 100 only. Again, I bought it from one of the shops in the Old City. If you're a shopoholic, the Old City may just charm you into shopping till you drop cause there's lots to see and buy. 

Rosaries (SYP 200 each) made from olive seeds. These were bought from the Chapel of St Ananias in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Damascus. 

Wooden inlaid box with Arabic inscription, "God Bless Our Home". Bought it for SYP 300 from a shop in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Damascus. Sorry for the blurred photo.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Attire Doesn't Determine Ones Religious Belief

I returned from Syria and Jordan on Monday dead tired and one skin tone darker "thanks" to the sun rays that beat down mercilessly whilst I was in Petra. I was also recovering from a bout of diarrhea which I suspected was from some exposed shawarma.

But I was happy and satisfied that I embarked on this journey that was filled with amazing history and rich culture as well as friendly locals and fellow travellers I met along the way.

To kick off my series of blog entries on Syria and Jordan, take a look at this picture:

An obituary outside St Mary's Greek Orthodox Church

This is an obituary that was on the notice board outside the St Mary's Greek Orthodox Church in the Old City of Damascus.

Take a closer look at the guy on the left. He's wearing an Arab head gear called the keffiyeh that a huge majority of us associate with Islam (think Yassir Arafat). We tend to think that all men who wear the keffiyeh are Muslims. But this guy in the obituary is a Christian.

This just goes to show that attire doesn't determine ones religion, or at least in the Middle East, that is.
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