"The Passion" Aleppo Travelogue by travelinxs

Aleppo Travel Guide: 757 reviews and 1,842 photos

Day: 119 5,540 km / 3,441 miles

The security officer at the border studiously looked over our bikes, pen poised over a clip board.
"Where are your registration number?" he asked.

"Registration numbers? They are bicycles. No registration numbers."

He continued looking for the number plates. How could he complete the paperwork without them?

"No registration numbers?" he asked again.

"No," I confirmed politely. "Only bicycles. No registration numbers."

He sighed heavily and waved us through. We were in and I was elated beyond words. The real journey had just begun.

The first question we were asked in Syria was where we were from. Some lie about their nationality, especially those from the UK or USA, believing it will avoid confrontation, but I have learnt not to patronize the intelligence of others; people are astute enough to separate politics from the individual persona. Of course we were warmly welcomed to Syria.

The second question; where were the motors on our bikes? I was loving Syria already.

Away from the border we were swallowed up by the franetic maelstrom of a Middle East highway.

Blaring horns, vehicles belching black toxic fumes slicing alarmingly infront of us, tyres screeching on baked asphalt and crippled trucks lumbering under outrageous loads bounding over pot-holes inches from our shoulders.

I cycled one-handed, the other continuously employed in returning the waves from drivers and the bewildered who stood at the roadside and gawped. It was hard to concentrate with so many distractions.

We rode hard to complete the 120 km day to reach Aleppo before the light would fade shortly after 6pm. As we rode into the city I stopped to ask for directions a couple of times with inept Arabic and by a miracle found the hotel we wanted almost immediately.

Set amid a typical ocean of a thousand stained ochre cubes of concrete, it was a quintessential traveler's hangout with simple rooms, ours with a shyared shower and squat toilet. It redeemed itself with a tempermental satellite TV. We made ourselves at home.

Our days were spent exploring the ancient souq. Covered passageways of tiny shops. Mostly they sold bright fabrics and glittery clothes, gaudy ornaments and house wares to local Syrians. There were probably insufficient numbers of foreign visitors to warrant gift shops. So the atmosphere was gentle and authentic with few touts.

Nearby, the skyline was dominated by the impressive citadel and to the north lay the quieter cobbled passageways of the Christian Quarter. The remainder of the city was the usual huge Middle East urban sprawl.

Frequently, as we strolled aimlessly through the city, we would be stopped on the sidewalk. 'Is everything okay for you in Syria?' we would be asked. 'Yes, thank you. Everything is fine,' we would reply. With a handshake and a smile the stranger would be gone.

We found what must be one of the best ice cream parlours in the world. For less than 30p you got ice cream in four delicious flavours in a cone a foot high! Magnificent!

But the ice cream, or our daily diet of kabab, took revenge on Juliet's stomach and all hell broke loose in the hotel lactrine.

This became a good excuse to spend long evenings in the room watching the movie channel.

After a few days we were ready to move on. To give us a break from the bikes we would take a detour south by bus. So I chained the bikes to railings on the roof and stored our panniers under the hotel manager's bed and we boarded a bus to Beirut.

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  • Page Updated Nov 22, 2008
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travelinxs

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