Syria, Lebanon, Jordan

January 2005


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The highlights of this trip were the ancient cities of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.

Itinerary

  • Lebanon:
  • Jan 13: Beirut. Visa $17. $1=1500 liras. Taxi hotel $25. Pension Home Valery $10.
  • Jan 14: Bus from Beirut/Charles Helou to Byblos $1.25 1 hour. Ticket 6,000 liras. ++Byblos (oldest continuously inhabited town in the world): King's tomb (1700-1500 BC), Crusaders castle (medieval), Early bronze-age dwellings (4000 BC), Tower temple (2700 BC), Water source (2700 BC), L-shaped temple (2700 BC), Obelisk temple (2700 BC), Northeastern gate (2700 BC), Northern quarters (2700 BC). Bus to Beirut/Kola station $1. Bus Kola-Baalbek 5,000 liras 2.5 hours. Baalbek: Pension Schuman $13.
  • Jan 15: ++Baalbek (Bronze-age sanctuary, Heliopolis) ticket 12,000=$8: Temple of Venus (3rd c AD), Holy precint of Temple of Jupiter (60 AD), largest temple in the Roman empire, including the only hexagonal court in the Roman empire, and Temple of Bacchus (150 AD).
    Once at the top of the stairs, one has a breathtaking view of the complex. Past the hexagonal court, one enters the great court, from which the size of the complex appears even more imposing. The Temple of Jupiter looks like a fortress. The corniche alone was gigantic (pieces are visible at the lower level of the southeastern side). Best time to take pictures is the morning, but make sure there are enough tourists around: you need human beings around for your pictures to deliver the size of the temples.
    Shared taxi to Shtura (1 hour 2,000 LL) and Anjar (30' 1000 LL) plus walk three kms to the ruins. +Anjar: abandoned Umayyad (8th c) city (Chalcis) near border with Syria, ticket 6,000=$4.
    Shared taxi to border (15' 1000 LL) and to Damascus (1 hour, 6000 LL).
    Damascus. $1=50 pounds. Hotel Al Haramein 350=$7.
  • Tyre (Roman ruins), 3 hours south of Beirut
  • Syria:
  • Jan 16: Harasta station to Tadmor/Palmyra 125+$2.50 3 hours. Ticket 150 pounds (most of Palmyra is free, you only pay to enter the Temple of Bel).
    ++Palmyra (abandoned pre-Roman city in the desert 150 kms NE of Damascus): +Tombs (age? Egyptian-style structures but Greek-style paintings), Castle, Colonnade, +Tetrapylon, Agora, Theater, Temple of Nabo, ++Temple of Bel (32 AD), Monumental Arch. The archeological museum (150 pounds) has a reconstruction of the Temple of Baal (but photography is forbidden). Warning: do not visit Palmyra when there are few tourists around: you will be harassed the entire time by vendors, camel riders, etc. Also, you want tourists in your pictures to show the size of the structures.
    Bus to Homs 75 pounds 2 hours and bus to Aleppo/Haleb (northern Syria, near border with Turkey) 75 pounds 2.5 hours. Hotel Al Gawaher 350=$7. Dinner at +Khan al-Khalili (on Zaki al Arsuzi near clocktower).
  • Picture of Borsa theater
  • Jan 17: Haleb/Aleppo old city: Khan al Jumruk (1574), Citadel/Tell (mosques of 12th c) ticket 150 pounds, Great Mosque/ Jamma al Kebir (10 years younger than the mosque in Damascus), + Minaret (1090), Souq, +Qalaat Samaan/ St Simeon (459 AD) ticket 150pounds.
    Haleb ideal as last stop for a shopping spree.
    Bus to Ebla/Tell Mardik 1 hour ticket 150. Ebla (city-state of 2250 BC, 54 kms south of Aleppo): Ishtar temple on top of the hill (Amorite, 2000 BC), Palace of the Prince (20th c BC), Sanctuary of the Dead, ++Royal Palace (2400 BC). Unfortunately most of the pieces found in Ebla have been moved around Syria (Idlib, Aleppo, Damascus), so it is almost impossible to get an accurate idea of their civilization.
    Bus to Marrat and minibus to Hama 1.5 hour. Hama: Hotel ++Cairo $8 with shower and tv.
  • Jan 18: Hama: +Nouria, mosque (1162).
    Bus to Homs 25 and to Hosn 25.
    Hosn: +Krak des Chevaliers ticket 150 (near Homs, 100 kms north of Damascus)
    Bus Homs to Damascus 50 and shared taxi from Baremque station to Amman $10. Change $1=0.7 dinar.
    Amman: Farah Hotel 7 dinars=$10.
  • Bosra (Roman ruins, near border with Jordan)
  • Apamea/Afamia (abandoned Roman city of 7th c)
  • Ugarit/ Ras Shamra (bronze age canaanite seaport, 50 kms north of Tartus) but artifacts have been moved to Damascus museum
  • Jordan:
  • Jan 19: Bus from Amman/Wahadt to Petra 4 dinars 3 hours. Walk down from the village to the ruins (2 kms). Entrance Petra 21 JD = $30 (most expensive site in the world). It takes about 1 km from the entrance to the most famous temple, then 1km from that temple to the museum (and this is the most intense km) and 1km from the museum up the 1,000 steps to the "monastery".
    ++Petra (3rd c AD, Nabataeans), 200 kms south of Amman: Nabataean temples carved into cliff-face. Obelisk temple, ++ Khazneth, +Facades, +Royal necropolis, Amphitheater, Colonnade, ++Palace, Qasr al Bint, ++Monastery, ++Church mosaic (600 AD, oldest Byzantine mosaic).
    Pictures from book: page 66, 58, 87.
    Petra +Hotel Al Anbat 10 JD = $14.
  • Jan 20: Bus from Petra to Amman 3 dinars 2.5 hours. Madaba (50 kms south of Amman): +St George's mosaic map of Palestine (6th c AD). Bus Madaba-Wahadt station 30'. Bus Amman/Abdeli to Jeresh (Philadelphia). Entrance JD5.
    +Jeresh (abandoned Roman city, 40 kms northwest of Amman): Hadrian's arch (129), Temple of Zeus (162), Oval plaza, South theater (92 AD), Colonnade, Cathedral, +Church of St Theodore (496 AD), Temple of Artemis, Propylaeum, North gate, Nymphaeum (191 AD).
    Bus to Amman 30' 1JD. Hotel Remal (in Abdeli, near police station) 12 JD = $20.
  • Jan 21: Bus Amman/Abdele to Mafraq 1 hour and pickup truch to ruins of Um Al Jimal 30' 5JD.
    +Umm Al Jimal (749 AD), black basalt Byzantine ghost town (50 kms north of Amman near border with Syria): Castle, Houses, Church with Mosaic, Church with arches, Houses.
    Bus to Amman 1 hour. Theater.
    Shared car from Amman/Abdele to Damascus/Baramke 10 JD = $14. Hotel Najmet (Al Mejreh square) 500 pounds = $10 x two nights with bathroom and tv.
  • Iraq al_amir (2nd c. BC, 13 kms west of Amman)
  • Pella (abandoned Roman city, 80 kms northwest of Amman)
  • Jawa (Chalcolithic site of 3000 BC, 26 kms eastof Umm Al-Jimal)
  • Quseir Amra (desert castle, best of the "desert castle loop", near Arzaq, 60 kms east of Amman)
  • Beida (Little Petra, inhabited between 7000-6500 BC, 15' walk from Petra)
  • +Qasr al-Kharanah (desert fortress of 7th c, 60 kms east of Amman)
  • Syria:
  • Jan 22: Damascus. Tekiya al-Sulemanyya (1554 by Sinan),
    +Museum: Qasr al Heir Al-Gharsi (8th c castle, 70 kms from Palmyra) door and facade; ++Ugarit tablet, Palmyra triclinium (two), Hall of Gabal al Arab (mosaic), Three-saint fresco from St Jacop Kara (Byzantine, 12 AD???), Shabah fresco of Justice, Philosophy and Ecucation (3rd c AD), Underground tomb of Yarhai (Palmyra), ++Dora Europos frescoes (256 AD), Basalt stele in Aramaic (750 BC) from Sfire near Aleppo (treaty between two kings), one of the oldest Aramaic inscriptions, Mari statuettes (2600 BC), WEB Monster from Qasr al Heir Al-Gharsi.
    Souq al Hamidiyya, Temple of Jupiter, ++Great Mosque (705), Az-Zahiriyya Madrasa (1277), Al Bimaristan An-Nouri hospital (1154), Pacha Dawishiyya mosque (1571), Assibaiyya mosque (1543), Sinan mosque (1590), Al-Qali mosque (1490)
  • Dora Europos (Roman outpost in the desert, near Abu Kamal and border with Iraq), but the wall paintings have been moved to the Damascus museum
  • +Mari/ Tell Hariri (3rd and 2nd millennium BC, near Dura Europos, 300 room Palace of Zimri-Lim , 200x120m)
  • +desert palace Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi (728)
  • Lebanon:
  • Jan 23: Taxi Damascus/Baramke to Beirut $14. Pension Home Valery $12. Taxi to National museum $2. Entrance to museum: $3.5 (no photography allowed in the museum). Taxi to airport: $10.
    National Museum: +Idol of Byblos (9000-4000 BC), +Colossus of Byblos (?), WEB ++ Aharim sarcophagus (10th c BC), oldest Phoenician inscription, WEB of inscription + Sacrophagus with Achilles' legend (2nd c AD), WEB can't see left side and back (lions) Copper fishing hooks from Byblos (4000 BC), Pectoral of Byblos king (2000-1500 BC), Chariot of Kamed El Loz (1500-1200 BC) from the Beqaa, Tribune of Eshmun near Sidon (350 BC)

Notes

Trip difficulty: easy
Length: 14 days
Best season: Fall or Spring
Approximate cost: $1,500 (incl air ticket)
  • Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are among the safest countries in the world. Furthermore, the people (especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and, with a few exceptions, in Jordan) are the kindest, most honest and most hospitable in the world. There is frequent transportation (either buses or service taxis) to just about every village. There is absolutely no crime. There are no beggars. The kindness of the Syrian people is impossible to put in words: you have to go to believe it. Countless people paid for me. Countless bus drivers did not want me to pay the ticket. Countless vendors gave me goods for free. Add very low prices for hotels, restaurants and transportation. These are among the ideal vacation destinations in the world.
  • Visas for westerners are easy as far as Lebanon and Jordan go (usually, you get them when crossing the border). The only one that can be tricky is Syria: get the visa before you leave your country because Syrian embassies have a reputation for refusing visas to people who apply in a country other than their own.
  • Dollars are widely accepted. Change little money.
  • Syria is so cheap that guides are affordable even for low-budget tourists. Getting a guide in places like Palmyra is a good idea. You can bargain both the time and the amount.
  • Beirut is being rebuilt. There is a whole new town that is full of life.
  • In Damascus check hotels around Al Mejreh square (halfway between the museum, the bus station and the old town, many restaurants and internet).
  • Photography is definitely not allowed in the Beirut museum and mostly not allowed in the Damascus museum. Basically, they removed artifacts from their original location (Mari, Ebla, Byblos, etc) and moved them to a building in which you cannot photograph them. This is the concept of the museum as a prison. Neither museum had a book with the photographs of the main objects (Beirut's catalog misses three of the main ones). De facto, they have decided that the picture of some of the most important artifacts in human history cannot be viewed by the world.
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  • TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.