Welcome To Syria My Friend!

Welcome To Syria My Friend!

By |2016-07-21T23:57:39-04:00October 20th, 2010|Syria|90 Comments

Turkey/Syria border crossing

There have been a few brilliantly memorable times in my life when I’ve been walking down some random street in some random town of some random country and suddenly I find that there’s a little extra kick in my step. The hairs on my arms stand on end and a tingling sensation runs up my spine and quickly spreads throughout my entire body. And then I glance around me in all directions with eyes open wide (and perhaps even on the verge of tears…maybe) and the widest possible smile across my face.

What I am feeling is pure, unrestricted happiness.

And this is exactly what I felt yesterday here in Aleppo, Syria. I had one of those moments when every aspect of my life – all of my efforts, plans, hopes, thoughts, struggles, doubts and dreams – just molded together into one perfect moment, leaving me to float around the enchanting streets of Aleppo as happy as I’ve ever been.

The factors that led to this moment are simply too complex to speak about right now but in simple terms, I can liken it to the feeling that a 15th century explorer must have felt upon finally laying his eyes upon the land that he had dedicated his entire life to finding. The only real difference is that my discovery did not involve some never before visited part of the world but a never before visited part of myself instead.

And all of this was brought on by the fact that from the moment I crossed the border into Syria, just about every single person I’ve met, from the hotel manager to the falafel vendors to the shop owners to the strangers I’ve passed in the street to ‘Tony’, the old man who sits in a chair on the sidewalk every night puffing away on his shisha, has welcomed me with nothing but a cheerful smile and open arms. I am simply unable to recall any other country that I’ve visited where I’ve been so instantly and warmly welcomed and I still cannot believe how many people have approached me in the streets just to literally say the words “Welcome to Syria my friend!” (I’m not sure if they learn that line in school but even those who don’t speak English know these words.)

I know I’ve only been here for five days but already I can hardly walk around this beautiful city without someone yelling out to me and saying hello every few seconds. In fact, this afternoon I went to explore the old souk (market) and literally, within one minute of arriving, I found myself sitting in a small tailor shop chatting with the owner and drinking tea. I ended up in that shop for four hours and by the time I left, the rest of the market had closed. It’s no wonder that I’ve only explored a small part of this city so far when I consider that such similar experiences have occurred at least twice every single day that I’ve been here.

Not once has anyone asked me to buy something from them or asked anything from me at any time. The people I’ve encountered simply want to sit down and speak with me, almost always in order to express their own genuine happiness and appreciation of my decision to visit their country.

Add to all of this overwhelming hospitality the exotic atmosphere borne from the awe-inspiring Arab architecture, the ancient maze of streets and tunnel-like back alleys, the constant sounds of traditional music on every corner and the aromas of freshly prepared Syrian cuisine and it’s easy to understand why Aleppo has captured the hearts of so many travelers before me, almost always leading to a much longer than intended visit.

I must admit that I’ve been captured as well and as a result, I have a feeling I’ll also be sticking around this fascinating city for quite some time.

Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo, Syria

Citadel in Aleppo, Syria

Tailor in Aleppo, Syria

Have you ever been to Syria or have you ever thought of visiting this region of the world?

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  1. Diana Roxas December 10, 2015 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Syria has always been one of my favorite countries to visit. I was saddened to hear about the war that happened there. I can’t believe so many wonderful people have suffered even innocent children. Now I guess visiting Syria will only remain a dream to me 🙁 don’t even know if there is still something to see as terrorists had ruined Syria’s beauty already but I guess what’s more important are the safety of syrians living in Syria. I’ll always keep them in my prayers. Thank you Earl for this lovely article about Syria. #stopthewar

  2. Robert Blohm January 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    Would you advise travelling to Syria today, mid January of 2012?

    • Earl January 19, 2012 at 4:25 am - Reply

      Hey Robert – I would personally feel comfortable going now after doing some research. You’d want to stay away from the ‘hotspots’ of Hama and Homs but other places such as Aleppo, Palmyra and Damascus seem to be fine. I know of a couple of foreigners living in Aleppo right now and they’ve told me there are no safety concerns up there.

  3. Amer November 27, 2010 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    I’m really proud that you had a nice time in my country, I’m from Damascus, a lot of people think that Syria is a scary or dangerous place but usually they fall in love with the country or with a city and comeback again, and.. the food is amazing here. Thanks Earl for this nice Article, and welcome to Syria my friend 😉

    • Earl November 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Hey Amer – Thank you for the welcome to your country! Syria is of course not a scary place at all as you said and it is one of those countries that people seem to visit over and over again. I’ve met quite a few travelers who are here for the third or fourth time 🙂

  4. Steve November 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Earl thank you that is what i have been trying to tell people about Syria for many years so thank you

  5. Alex November 14, 2010 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    Great post Earl. I have found all your posts truly inspirational for the nomadic lifestyle. I do have a question though. I was reading your posts in accordance with Syria and I was wondering the particulars of your method of transportation from Istanbul to the Syrian border?

    • Earl November 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Hey Alex – Thank you for the comment. I ended up taking the bus from Istanbul to Antakya, a town in the south of Turkey. The bus ride was about 17 hours and cost about $55 USD. However, I later discovered that you can fly the same route for less on Pegasus Airlines, so I would recommend the flight.

      From Antakya, there are a few buses each day (all depart before 12pm) direct to Aleppo. This trip takes about 3 hours or so and is quite easy. You can also take a bus that is going from Antakya to Damascus and about 15 minutes after crossing the border, the bus can drop you off at the turn-off for Aleppo. From here you can flag down a Servis (share van) for the 45 minute ride to Aleppo. It’s all really very easy to get around these parts…

  6. Andrew Murray November 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Really enjoying your posts on Syria, and passing them on to my wife Laura incase she venturews out that way with work. When she eventually does I think we’re going to need an extra ticket!

    • Earl November 13, 2010 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Hey Andrew – Ha! You should definitely tag along with her if she makes it out here.

  7. […] Welcome to Syria my Friend – Wandering Earl Posted in Miscellaneous by Gourmantic at November 11th, 2010. […]

  8. WanderingTrader November 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    I am so going to follow your footsteps my man… great post!

    • Earl November 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      Hey Marcello – Glad to hear it. More people definitely need to explore Syria. I didn’t have a single disappointing day and in fact, every day was full of more and more positive surprises!

  9. Kristin November 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful entry – your excitement, you happiness, and passion really come through around this true travel experience. Syria is definitely on my list of must visit places.

    • Earl November 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Hey Kristin – Thank you for commenting! It really has been such a positive trip so far and I’m certain that your visit will be similar. Hopefully Syria is near the top of your must visit list 🙂

  10. Tara November 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Honestly, I had never heard much or even though much about visiting Syria, but I do love other countries in that part of the world, and I am excited to add Syria to the long list of places I’d like to go. Truly good travel writing does just that, inspire a traveler to visit or take an interest in a place they may not have otherwise considered. Well done!

    • Earl November 6, 2010 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      I appreciate the compliment Tara 🙂 And I think it’s a good decision to add Syria to your list. I’m excited to hear when someone suddenly wants to go a place they never thought of visiting!

  11. Rebecca November 1, 2010 at 9:39 am - Reply

    I’d LOVE to go to Syria. My Arabic teacher (Australian) studied in Syria and her husband is Syrian so they’re a bit biased but they rave about Syria. The friendliness of people, the food, the ease of getting around. It’s on the list for sure!

    • Earl November 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Hey Rebecca – Whatever your teacher and her husband have said is most likely true about this country. Every aspect you listed is the exact same that I have experienced! Hopefully you’ll get a chance to visit one day 🙂

  12. […] the phrase “Welcome to Syria”, the second most common phrase that I’ve heard from Syrians is, […]

  13. szaza October 24, 2010 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Glad to hear you are enjoying Syria!
    I head there in April 🙂

    • Earl October 26, 2010 at 5:10 am - Reply

      Hey Samantha – April’s not too far away…I might still be in Aleppo with the way things are going 🙂

  14. Tran October 24, 2010 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Happiness is as much a journey as it is a destination. Congrats on “arriving”! P.S. Syria sounds like a dream. Will add to the list.

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Hey Tran – Thank you for your comment and the words you wrote are so very true! And I’m glad to hear this post encouraged you to add Syria to your list of potential travel destinations 🙂

  15. Caz Makepeace October 24, 2010 at 4:41 am - Reply

    What a treat it is to always read your posts! I always take something so inspiring away from it. Syria sounds wonderful and not a place I had thought of visiting until now. I just love how you are dispelling the myths that abound about the evilness of the Middle East. The people sound so warm and friendly.
    You are a true explorer Earl, traveling to discover the greatness that lives inside of you and to recognize the same greatness that lies in everyone.

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Hey Caz – I think Syria rarely shows up on traveler’s list of places to visit, and after what I’ve experienced so far I really do hope that others will consider traveling here. The friendliness of the people is a daily conversation topic among travelers in these parts and every story I hear is even more uplifting than the last.

      Thank you for reading as always 🙂

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  17. Corinne @ Gourmantic October 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    I know exactly what you mean about the Syrian welcome and hospitality! I had the best time in Aleppo and the food alone is enough to keep you for a while. Damascus is very different too and if you get the chance, it’s also worth seeing Hama and its ancient norias. Look forward to reading your adventures 🙂

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 3:10 am - Reply

      Hey Corinne – I will definitely be headed to Hama, hopefully at some point this week. And I agree with you about the food in Aleppo. There’s still a long list of places I want to eat at and after reading your last post, well, I’ve realized that I’ve barely touched the surface with Syrian cuisine! I need to start eating five meals a day 🙂

  18. Bryan October 23, 2010 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I’m so glad you’re in Syria, because we went last year and it was FRICKIN AMAZING! The friendliness of the people blew us away. It sounds like you’re having a similar experience. Aleppo turned out to be our favorite, but Damascus is great as well. The smaller towns can be a treasure, so don’t miss everything in between.

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Hey Bryan – I don’t plan on missing anything over here! The problem is forcing myself to leave Aleppo at some point 🙂 And yes, I am absolutely having a similar experience to yours…nothing but friendliness everywhere I go.

  19. Michael Hodson October 23, 2010 at 9:05 am - Reply

    LOVED my time in Syria. Was one of the countries that were most friendly to me — basically all the countries that Americans and my government hated that I went to all really went of their way to be really really nice (Colombia, Syria, Sudan). My time in Syria was great, and way, way too short. Thinking about hitting the Middle East again in 2011 — doing my dive master on the fabulous Red Sea in Dahab, then wandering around more slowly through the rest. Didn’t get to do Lebanon and want a month there also. Have fun!

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 3:07 am - Reply

      Hey Michael – Another Middle East trip sounds good…I just met another traveler who did their dive course in Dahab and is headed back there because they couldn’t get enough of the diving there. So it seems like an excellent destination. And it’s great to hear yet another traveler who has nothing but positive things to say about their time in Syria!

  20. Laura October 23, 2010 at 5:40 am - Reply

    I’m so glad you made it to Syria. It was never one of my top destinations until I met people in Jordan who had been to Damascus. Then all of the sudden, I wanted to go! Too bad I needed to get the visa in advance. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 3:05 am - Reply

      Hey Laura – The visa issue is the only problem for US citizens who suddenly decide they’d like to visit Syria. There’s no getting around the rule that US Citizens must obtain their visa from the Syrian Embassy or Consulates in the US. Well, perhaps on your next trip you’ll make it!

  21. Phil October 23, 2010 at 3:13 am - Reply

    Earl, this post should be adopted as the sales pitch for Syria’s tourism board. Really well written, great photos. B well, Phil

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 3:02 am - Reply

      Hey Phil – Haha! That’s not a bad idea at all. Maybe I will try to contact them and see if they’re interested. I’d be happy if my posts encouraged a few more people to visit this part of the world!

  22. Sandy @yesiamcheap October 22, 2010 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    I haven’t been, but I can say that following your blog makes me feel like I’m there with you! Thanks for taking the Yakezie along on your trip.

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 2:59 am - Reply

      Hey Sandy – Thank you for your comment and I’m happy to know that you’ve ‘joined’ my travels! I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am 🙂

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  23. Gillian October 22, 2010 at 11:55 am - Reply

    I had never thought of going to Syria but, while in Jordan on our RTW journey last year, we met people who were headed that way. It had never seemed ‘doable’ before that but those conversations made me want to go…one day I will. Thanks for such a fabulous description.

    • Earl October 24, 2010 at 2:58 am - Reply

      Hey Gillian – I hope you’ll make it to Syria at some point. It’s more than doable these days and is quite an easy place to get around. So far I’ve yet to meet anyone who was disappointed with their visit here!

  24. […] the flow, he bought some new camera equipment, his blog is growing and he is on his way to India!WanderingEarl – Earl writes a beautiful post about life coming together and molding into a perfect moment in his […]

  25. Erica October 22, 2010 at 12:32 am - Reply

    Oh wow those streets are a photographers DREAM. Syria looks amazing Earl! I never had really thought about going there but you definitely have piqued my interest.

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:55 am - Reply

      Hey Erica – It is absolutely a photographers dream over here! You’d barely make it 10 meters down the road before needing to recharge your camera battery 🙂

  26. Jason October 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm - Reply


    Glad your enjoying your time in Syria, and especailly Aleppo. Your experience described is exactly how I remember Syria from the nineties. If my memery serves me correctly, it is Aleppo that has some amazing souq’s to visit. You inspire me again Earl and keep on wandering……

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:54 am - Reply

      Hey Jason – Yes, the old souk in Aleppo is quite a place to visit. You can wander through the narrow alleys for hours and hours and you feel as if you’ve been transported hundreds of years back in time. And it really is so great to hear that the atmosphere and hospitality hasn’t changed since the 90’s. It really says a lot about the culture of this country.

  27. Nate October 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I had never thought about visiting Syria, but now it’s absolutely on my list. It sounds wonderful and I’m really happy that you are enjoying it so much!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:51 am - Reply

      Hey Nate – Excellent! Keep it on your list! Like I said, even after 10 years of traveling I’ve been blown away by what I’ve discovered in this country…

  28. Migrationology October 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Wonderful report from Syria Earl! Syria has been a destination I dream about for a few years now. I would like to take an entire trip to that area of the world but in particular, Syria sounds incredible. This article and pictures has got me even more excited to visit in the future! Keep enjoying that tea…and Syrian cuisine!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:50 am - Reply

      Hey Mark – Trust me, I will never tire of the cuisine over here. You’d love it as well as the options are limitless! There’s one street that has about 12 restaurants on it and I just go down the line each day and eat at the next one. And I’ve yet to have a bad meal 🙂

  29. Globetrottergirls October 21, 2010 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    I always wanted to go to Damascus (and I am looking forward to hear how you like it!), but had never heard of Aleppo before reading your post. It sounds beautiful and I think it has to go on our list of places to visit 🙂

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:48 am - Reply

      @globetrottergirls: I’m excited about Damascus as well. But for now, I’m quite content here in Aleppo 🙂 When you do make it to Syria (put it on your list) you’ll have to visit both as well!

  30. Catia October 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    I know exactly that feeling of suddenly realising that the moment is perfect, I had one just recently and I almost burst into tears I was so happy, content and totally overwhelmed with emotion.

    I’ve heard a few people lately mentioning Syria and saying they absolutely loved it, it’s starting to work it’s way up my list of places I want to visit. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:44 am - Reply

      Hey Catia – Thank you for the comment and I’m happy to see that Syria has made your list of places to visit! I’m sure it will continue to climb up your list 🙂

      And those moments of happiness, like the one you described, can be intense for sure. Yet when we finally take a breath and look around, there is no greater feeling than knowing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be and doing exactly what we want to be doing.

  31. Adam Mayfield October 21, 2010 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Great post! I know that feeling you are talking about and it’s amazing. I remember I was out hiking when I first felt it but I wasn’t sure if my hairs were standing up because I was in danger or if I was just totally happy!

    I would like to visit all parts of the world but from everything I read, the kindness of the people in the middle east is totally unmatched. I think that as long as you travel to that part of the world with no preconceived notions, you will have a great time!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:41 am - Reply

      Hey Adam – Hahaha…yeah, that could be a problem. You don’t want to mistake happiness for danger and then find yourself walking right into a bear while hiking. And I agree, you really need to explore this region with the most open mind possible. It’s hard not to think often about everything we hear and read about the Middle East but if you can ignore all of that stuff for a while, you’ll be able to truly explore this culture and in the end, discover an entirely different reality.

  32. Forest October 21, 2010 at 4:25 am - Reply

    I want to go to Syria pretty bad. I had an interesting experience at a party meeting a Syrian ambassador and I could really tell he loved his country. He was a very nice guy.

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:38 am - Reply

      Hey Forest – You should definitely try and make it up here at some point. Everyone I’ve met here is quite proud of their country which makes them even more intent on ensuring that travelers have the most rewarding visit possible. And I’m sure the ambassador could set you up with some good connections!

  33. Natalie October 21, 2010 at 12:21 am - Reply

    Never been before but now you talk about it, I feel like nipping over the border. The second picture is amazing.

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:36 am - Reply

      Hey Natalie – You’re so close that you must cross the border for a visit! Even a short visit to Aleppo would be well-worth the trip…I’ll be here for a while longer if you decide to come on down soon 🙂

  34. Yvette October 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    I LOVE that you love it! My ‘Habibi’ and I are planning to head back to Syria & then Iran next year.

    I also love that you are spreading the word. We’ve come back to Sydney and even the Middle Eastern community were surprised we visited Syria. They were often totally shocked to learn that we went as tourists given the way the country is portrayed. Like you, we were shown nothing but warmth and hospitality.

    We ended up staying with a family in a village called Al’Hawash, near Homs, the result of a chat with a lovely man named Amar. We call him from Sydney and post he and his family gifts from OZ (including Beyonce lyrics for the girls! They love their MTV!).

    Looking forward to more of your Syrian adventure as you spread the word about this wonderful yet misunderstood part of the world

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:34 am - Reply

      Hey Yvette – Thanks for the comment and that’s wonderful that you’ll be headed back here with your ‘habibi’! Your experience with the family in Al-Hawash sounds incredible and even better that you’ve kept up the communication. It will be great when you get a chance to visit them on your next visit (so you can all sing Beyonce songs together).

      I love how every person who has been to this country has nothing but positive things to say!

  35. Jaime D. October 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Oh Im going to be glued to your blog from now on! Visiting the Middle East is something I have always wanted to. I have heard/read such great and amazing stories of that region and how the people and culture are just amazing.

    I am currently planning my RTW trip and The Middle East is on my agenda I plan on spending 6 months or more in that region and Syria is on the list to visit.

    Cant wait to read more about your experiences there!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:31 am - Reply

      Hey Jaime – Glad to know the Middle East made it onto your RTW plans! You won’t regret that decision. Even if you take away the sights, just walking through Aleppo each day is about as rewarding a travel experience as you can have anywhere. It’s an endless stream of positive interactions (with the occasional falafel sandwich throw in every few hours!).

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  36. Alan October 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Have been waiting for this post! Didn’t get to make it to Aleppo, but thanks for uploading some pictures–what a breathtaking city! Make sure to visit Palmyra and Krak des Chevaliers. Old Damascus will also give your step a jaunt, no doubt about it.

    Ah, wish I was there with you! Keep enjoying, and keep us all posted!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:28 am - Reply

      Hey Alan – I just visited Krak yesterday and it was indeed unreal! I have no words to describe that place (although I’ll try soon in order to write about it in a post). I was left staring in astonishment after every step I took in that castle.

      Palmyra and Damascus will be coming up soon…this country is just too addictive!

      (Although there’s no Indian food here in Aleppo.)

  37. Lis Sowerbutts October 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    I travelled around the coast of southern Turkey and got lots of hassle from young men shouting at me in German (I’m blonde and don’t speak German) – I crossed the border to Aleppo -with I must admit some doubts about going there as a solo blond – just like you I ended up walking around with a silly smile on my face

    Syria was awesome -its was way less hassle to travel in than almost anywhere I’ve been. The bus system was chaotic compared to Turkey but the food and the people and sights (you have got to go to Palmyra and Aleppo) were just unbelievably friendly. My only regret was that I never got to Damascus as I ran out of time – and I had also been silly enough not to go to Lebanon (this was 97 – the border may not be open now not sure)

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:26 am - Reply

      Hey Lis – I understand exactly what you’re talking about. Almost every traveler I’ve met, especially females, who have come from Turkey have been quite relieved at the lack of hassle here in Syria. Sure, people may stare but that’s about it. They really go out of their way to make all visitors feel comfortable.

      And I will be headed to Palmyra as soon as I am able to pull myself away from Aleppo! Also, the border to Lebanon is open these days so I’ll be headed over there at some point as well. So much to see in this area!

      It’s great to hear that you had such a similar experience back in 1997. The fact that the hospitality hasn’t disappeared is even more incredible.

  38. Jennifer Barry October 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Wow Earl, I’m impressed you thought the Syrians were even more friendly than the Turks! I also didn’t think you could leave the baklava so soon. 😉

    I wouldn’t mind going to the Middle East at all, and just from these few pictures, the scenery must be stunning. However, I would be checking the US government’s attitude towards Syria before going there. I wouldn’t want to have the TSA experience you did after returning from Pakistan and Afghanistan!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:21 am - Reply

      Hey Jennifer – I definitely understand the hesitation because of the US government’s attitude but it would be a real shame to let that stop you from experiencing what is one of the most rewarding countries in the world. And if you have nothing to hide then there’s nothing wrong with visiting this region. You might get questioned when coming back into the US but just don’t carry any suspicious items with you and you’ll be all set!

      And as for friendliness, while the Turkish were definitely friendly, the Syrians have taken it to an entirely different level. They are friendly and overly welcoming as they seem so proud and happy to know that people are interested in visiting their country. I still can’t believe how friendly this country is!

  39. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler October 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    That’s so great, Earl! It sounds like a wonderful country. I hope to someday convince my boyfriend that this area is safe for travel and be able to experience it myself!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:17 am - Reply

      Hey Christy – Calling Syria ‘safe’ is an understatement! I even asked some locals about crime here and they had to spend five minutes chatting with each other before they could recall the last time there was any major act of crime here in Aleppo. And it ended up being 2 years ago! In all honestly, just as I wrote, I’ve yet to find a safer, friendlier place in all of my 10 years of traveling…

      Hopefully that will help convince your boyfriend 🙂

  40. Ozzy October 20, 2010 at 10:30 am - Reply

    It never occurred to me to visit Syria till now. Now this is just one more country to visit on my bucket list. Especially after seeing that picture of the fortress.


    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:14 am - Reply

      Hey Ozzy – That’s awesome that Syria interests you now! And that fortress is unlike any other. I’ve already visited it four times in the 9 days I’ve been here!

  41. Brian Setzer October 20, 2010 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Sounds wonderful! I’m hoping to get there next Feb/March and am looking forward to it even more now. First some more time in Mexico though 🙂

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:13 am - Reply

      Hey Brian – Well, that’s the path I took…Mexico and then the Middle East! Feb/March is a great time to be over here as well from what I hear…you’re going to have such a good time. I might still be here at that point as it’s going to be a difficult place to leave 🙂

  42. Sam October 20, 2010 at 9:38 am - Reply

    That’s so inspirig, Earl! I can’t wait to get there. Sounds like speaking Arabic should be welcomed too, which is good news for me, as that’s a big part of my reason for going. How long do you think you’ll stay in Alepo?

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Hey Sam – I just sent you an email actually to find out where you are!

      I’ll probably be staying in Aleppo for another week, then head down to Damascus and into Lebanon and then back to Aleppo. It’s an excellent base to explore much of Syria. Let me know when you think you’ll be headed down here…

  43. Erin October 20, 2010 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Wow, it sounds amazing! You are making me drawn to the Middle East even more – we definitely want to travel there at some point. I would be interested in practical things like costs and access to wifi.

    I recently read an Argentine book called “Vagabundeando en el Eje del Mal” – a true story about a guy hitchiking around the Middle East (including Syria, Iraq, Iran & Afghanistan) on a $5 a day budget. The hospitality he encountered was amazing. How can people’s perspective on a place be so different from the reality?

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:03 am - Reply

      Hey Erin – It really shows how a bit of media can really influence an entire world’s perception about a place. It’s so unfortunate that the first thing people think of when they hear Syria is “axis of evil” when this country is full of such warm and peace-loving people.

      As for costs, I will do a more in depth post in a couple of weeks time but in general, it is quite cheap. A decent budget hotel room (room w/ private bathroom) costs around $15 USD and a private room w/ share bathroom is about $8. Food is cheap. Yummy shwarmas and falafel stands serve incredible food for about $1 and a nice meal in a restaurant, consisting of salad, hommus, bread, rice and two main dishes will cost you about $4 – $5 USD.

      Wi-fi is a little trickier. Here in Aleppo there is one main (usually reliable) internet cafe and there is a hotel that allows you to sit in their lounge and use their wi-fi for free (where I am right now!). It’s a good but slow connection. I haven’t been able to read many other blogs because it takes almost 15-20 minutes to load one page sometimes. However, from what I hear, in the newer part of the city there are some more reliable internet/wi-fi cafes but it’s a bit of a distance from the old city.

      I’ll keep you updated with more cost info and put together a detailed post soon!

  44. Audrey October 20, 2010 at 7:23 am - Reply

    I started getting giddy just reading this! I’ve heard really wonderful things about Syria and its people and hospitality that I’m so heartened to hear that it is all true and not a thing of the past. Also, I hope that by sharing these experiences you help other Americans realize that Syria is not a dark, evil place full of crazy people as it is sometimes portrayed on the internet.

    Can’t wait to read the next Syria installment!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 2:56 am - Reply

      Hey Audrey – It really is true! The misconception about Syria is even more shocking now that I’ve spent a little more time here. Every night after a full day of exploring, I think about how in 10+ years of traveling I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so comfortable or safe in any other country. I too hope that more Americans consider Syria as a destination as they will also be blown away by the reality they discover.

      It needs to be experienced to be believed!

  45. David October 20, 2010 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Wow, your experience sounds amazing.
    I never considered visiting this region before. Unfortunately, so many people have prejudices against Arabs.
    Probably it’s always like this: When you go somewhere, where there are many other tourists, everyone is really pushy and tries to sell you stuff and rip you off all the time (my experience in Egypt). But when you go somewhere off the beaten path, everyone is really happy and proud to see you (my experience in some remote areas in the Philippines).

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 2:52 am - Reply

      Hey David – You’re right. Syria receives only about 2 million tourists each year and that really isn’t a lot of people. As a result, the people are thrilled to know that foreigners want to visit their country and they literally light up when you attempt to talk with them. Also, this is a very honest culture and in general the people rarely consider ripping tourists off. Such a good place!

  46. Nathan October 20, 2010 at 6:27 am - Reply

    WOW – that sounds like a cool place. I would really love to visit Syria sometime soon!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 2:50 am - Reply

      Hey Nathan – This city keeps on getting cooler and cooler every day and is well worth a visit. It really is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.

      Thank you for the comment!

  47. Kyle October 20, 2010 at 7:44 am - Reply

    I’ve heard the same thing about Syria, actually, and I’ve never met anyone from Syria. There’s 2 reasons why I should be going there!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 3:07 am - Reply

      Hey Kyle – Those are two very valid reasons to add Syria to your list. And if you’re into fresh falafel sandwiches then you’d be quite a happy traveler over here. Speaking of which, have you eaten at Jerusalem Falafel in Chiang Mai yet?

  48. Adam October 20, 2010 at 5:25 am - Reply

    I’ve heard such great things about traveling in Syria. It’s somewhere I’d definitely like to see for myself!

    • Earl October 23, 2010 at 2:48 am - Reply

      Hey Adam – Every great thing I had heard about Syria has definitely been confirmed on this trip. Glad to see you’re interested in visiting here as well!

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