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Team Turkey’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 16 Aug 2008

Location: Damascus, Syria

MapFriday 15 August

We arrived in Damascus yesterday. It is a huge city overcrowded city of 6 million people. We have spent the past 2 days visiting 2 amazing mosques. One was 1500 years old and big and impressive with a huge tiled square in the centre. It held the tomb of John the Baptist's head (he was beheaded by the Romans in the 1st century BC). The shrine was visited by the Pope in 2001.

other much smaller mosque was shiite, which means "light". It was really beautiful! It was covered in millions of mirror tiles over the walls and ceiling as well as many beautiful chandeliers. Inside the mosque was the body of a 5 year old girl, thought to be the great grandchild of Mohammed from the 8th century. It is a revered site with many people coming from Iran and Pakistan to pray there. Maree and I had to wear a black cloak to visit both mosques and had to remove our shoes. The women enter the shrine room where the little girl is thought to be entombed from a different doorway to the men. It was an amazing sight as all the women, mostly dressed in black were kissing the cage surrounding the tomb, grabbing onto it with desperation and many women were crying pathetically and wailing. I felt very privaleged to be a part of this amazing scene and fully respected their beliefs.

Over the past couple of days we've all been sick apart from Brad. Unfortunately this happens when you travel! For the first few days we needed medication to make us "go" and now we are taking medication to make us "stop"!! It's been quite difficult having stomach cramps and nausea, being dehydrated, and rushing off to find a loo somewhere!! Oh the joys...!!

The Crac des Chevalliers, a medieval castle, the best restored military castle in the world, was awesome. We explored the narrow passageways and secret tunnels like children in a giant playground! The sight of the castle perched on the side of a steep hill, on top of a high mountain was indescribable! It was one of the most amazing sights we have ever seen! Almost as good as the Taj!!

The next day we travelled by bus to Palmyra. It was a one hour trip by minibus followed by a 2 hour trip by taxi into the desert to see the ancient ruin of the city. It was vacated by the Romans in the 11th century after an earthquake. The city was Muslim at the time, after previously being Christian. It was a spectacular site made up of huge columns, tower tombs and a massive temple. On the way we came to a junction where Damascus was in one direction and Iraq was in the other, only 240kms away!!!

Tomorrow we are leaving early for Lebanon to see another ruined city. We are going to stay at Beirut overnight then back to Turkey. So until next time...