Saturday 6th June 2010
Yesterday was a free day, and we took the opportunity to take a taxi into Lattakia and stroll around the town. It is not a prosperous place. Then back to the harbour to discover that some of the Rally participants were currently spending time in jail in Damascus! A group of Aussies and Kiwis had decided that they were less than impressed with the organised coach trips, and had hired a minibus and set off on a trip of their own. It seems, however, that as independent travellers they needed their passports for identification, and so when they attempted to check into a hotel, with only their shore passes as ID, the Police were called and they were taken off to the Police cells. Eventually, after several hours and telephone calls to the Rally organisers and local Immigration officials, they were released and allowed to continue their trip.
This morning we set off on our official, organised 2-day coach trip to Damascus. The coach dropped us off in the Old Town where we set off through the ancient alleyways and arrived at the tiny Chapel of St Ananias in the Christian Quarter. This is where Ananias baptised Saul, later to become Paul the Apostle.
After lunch we walked the ‘Street Called Straight’ and arrived at the Al-Hamidiyah Souk. We spent some time wandering through the narrow corridors of the Souk, where every other stall was selling exactly the same goods, and wondering how they can all possibly make a living!
One of the entrances to the Souk. Inside the Souk.
Damascus Old City scenes.
We went on to visit the Umayyad Mosque, The Great Mosque and here we had to cover up in order to go inside. Steve was wearing shorts, and he had to wear a long skirt to cover his knees, and Chris had to cover up completely.
Steve with knees covered! Inside the Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque Statue by the Citadel.
The coach collected us from the modern town centre and drove us to our hotel, where we had time for a quick shower before being driven back to the Old Town for dinner. The entertainment consisted of a belly dancer and a whirling dervish. The best part of this was when the dervish followed up his traditional dancing with a repeat performance wearing an illuminated skirt!
Belly dancing at the restaurant where we had dinner. Steve & Pete enjoyed the belly dancer.
Traditional whirling dervish twirling. And with a different spin on the tradition!
It was quite late by the time the coach dropped us back at the hotel, and with an early start planned for the next day, we headed straight for bed.