21.03.2008 - 31.03.2008
I'm not up to much at the moment. I've been hangin' out in Hama, which doesn't have a lot to see as far as tourist sites go. But I'm up for relaxing anyway...I've got some time, after all. Also, for me, a big part of travel is just to hang out and absorb the culture of wherever I am.
Also, I've been spending time with Aisha, a girl who lives here (met her through couchsurfing.com), but grew up near Seattle. She met a guy from Syria back home and got married and has been living between here and the US for the past 14 years. Now she's been living here continuously for two years with her four boys (!) while her husband wraps up their affairs back in the US. She's unflappable as she accopmlishes life with her boys orbiting around her. Her youngest is 9 month old Yusef. She's muslim and gets more stares than I do when we walk around. They don't know what to make of an American in full muslim covering speaking fluent Arabic.
For the record, women here wear anything from hotpants to full black with veils covering their entire face. The clothing shops are interesting because they are full of over-the-top brightly colored dresses covered with sequins. It's difficult to find any simple clothing for women at all. With the help of Aisha, I bought some cloth and designed some clothes to be made by a tailor. I'm waiting for them now...if it pans out, I may come home with a whole new wardrobe.
The one thing that Hama is known for is the Norias - ancient wooden water wheels. They're over 1000 years old, at least. Difficult to nail down exactly how much older than that. Some say they're here from 1200BC. I've managed to arrive when the water's been blocked off for bridge repairs, but normally the norias are turning. They have an eerie groaning noise while in motion...or so I've heard. It's likely that I will come back this way after Jordan, so they should be up and running by then.
...as I'm writing this, staff at the hotel keep reaching in and giving me cups of tea and nuts. The hospitality here is remarkable. Not just at the hotel, but out in the streets. If a Syrian knows only two words in English, they are 'hello' and 'welcome'. And if you are wondering, this is even after they find out where I'm from.