Worth the wait in no-man's land
I recently got back from a quick trip up to Syria and Lebanon. I went with Jon, a college student from South Carolina who is on the tail-end of a year long trip to all the non western places in the world. We haven't much in common - he loves Dumb and Dumber - but we get along swimmingly. In fact, I will be going to see him when I get back ‘cause he’s a cook and his family specializes in cheesecakes. Uh, and 'cause he's a cool guy.
Damascus is only three hours from Amman, so it’s much like going to Monterey for the weekend… except that when you go to Monterey, you don’t get held up at a border for ELEVEN hours.
I can’t really gripe, though. It’s common knowledge that the long wait for Americans is a tit-for-tat thing with Syria. We barely let Syrians into the States at all; even with a visa, they are required to wait for hours (btw, I use semi-colons in homage to Kurt Vonnegut, jr, who once said that they were "transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.")
On the plus side, the no-man’s-land between Jordan and Syria has a café with excellent food, a hotel with a business center, and a really swank duty-free store. I bought the biggest bag of peanut M&Ms you’ve ever seen. They were from a French M&M factory, which means they were much better than the M&Ms one generally gets in Jordan, which are manufactured in the Gulf. On a side note, the Froot Loops here are also sub-par, also produced in the Gulf (UAE maybe? Saudi?). So, if anyone sends a care package, let it have American Froot Loops.
Anyway, after eleven hours, we were stamped and on our way. For the record, I don’t know of anyone from the states who has actually been denied entry to Syria…unless, of course, they’ve been to Israel.
As soon as we arrived in Old City Damascus, we were completely charmed. We had to wander these tiny ancient streets lit by lamps and shrines to find our hostel.
We stayed in the Damascus Hostel, built into the wall of the Old City. They had a bunny and two tortoises and a rope ladder that hung over the side of the wall. Damascus is very fairytale. It is known to be the oldest continually inhabited city on earth.
The hostel courtyard:
Jon climbing down the wall on the way to one of our escapades:
The hostel from the outside - our room was the one in the turret: