Aleppo from citadel

In November 1993 Andy and I travelled to Syria with a tour organised by Voyages Jules Verne. There were no direct flights to Syria so we flew into and out of Amman, Jordan. Although the tour was only a week long we covered a lot of ground. Our tour guide was a civil engineer and archeologist. He was friendly, enthusiastic and informative, but we did often have to cope with the cold when visiting  sites where some of the earliest writing had been found or where crusades had been fought.

We visited many of the places which have now, sadly become familiar through the daily news reports of destruction, devastation and suffering: Aleppo, Homs, Palmyra and, one of the early casualties, Maalula, where the early Christian monastery was seriously damaged in 2014.

view over Amman from Roman theartre

28th November 1993

Amman, capital of Jordan. Up and down the hills between the luxurious villas. Everyone of them different! Everyone of them enormous. The people who live here must be very wealthy, it is obviously the place to be for aspiring architects. But where do the poor people live? Are there any? The guide says "yes" but we don't see anything that could be described as poverty.

Street inside walls of Bosra

Monday 29th November 1993 6:00 to 8:30am

It was worth getting up early. The 2nd century Roman theatre, converted around 6th century to a citadel by construction of fortifications and later buried under sand was excavated and renovated in mid 20th century. It is an enormous and, maybe because it was buried in sand, well preserved theatre. The guide is very enthusiastic, giving dimensions and pointing out the various columns and arches. It is certainly a splendid theatre with its tiered seating and it colonnaded stage.

Man in Arab head dress crossing courtyard

Monday 29th November 1993, 8:30am to 11:00am

Just after 8:30am and we are on the coach heading from Bosra towards Damascus. The road is passing through mainly agricultural land, signs of farming are everywhere which I find surprising given the small amount of rain that falls in this part of the country. In the fields we see plenty of agricultural equipment but few people, maybe because it is still early or maybe because the work in these fields is largely complete for the season. We pass many olive groves, some recently planted, others mature.

Street in Damascus

Monday 29th November 1993, 11:00am to 1:00pm

We pile off the bus in Damascus and follow the guide. There is little time for dawdling. There is a lot to do and little time. We find ourselves standing looking at the mausoleum of Saladin. Saladin we are told was his title, not his name, which was Joseph son of Job. I don't go in, maybe some of our tour group spend longer at the tomb but I hurry on into the main court yard of the Umayyad Mosque. The Great Mosque.