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A taste of the Bedouin life Syria - Bedouin

Syria Bedouin

Before we left Damascus, Haider and Taha treated me to a brief tour around 18th century Suq Al Hamediyeh and Omayyad Mosque. The suq is a shoppers’ paradise, especially for women. It has boutique after boutique selling bags, shoes, clothes, jewellery and perfume. What makes this suq different from others is its ancient heritage and dynamic atmosphere. It’s full of hustle and bustle, with men dotted about pouring grape juice into glasses for tens of thirsty customers. Nearby you will see people of all ages walking around holding biscuit cones full of Arabic ice cream – we of course had to try some – the taste is amazing because it is so fresh. If you catch the ice cream makers at the right time you can even see it being fashioned and pressed by hand – it’s fascinating! At the end of the suq lies a mosque which was built on the order of Waleed Abdul Malik in 705AD. Before then it was a church. The site is regularly visited by both Muslims and Christians who come to Syria for religious tours of the area. After bidding Damascus farewell we headed for the mountains and towards our next destination - Palmyra. On our way up we stopped at Couvent Saints Serge et Bacchus, which is named after two soldiers who were killed in 297 for converting to Christianity. The Greek Orthodox church, which is about 1,400 metres above sea level, was built between 300AD and 325AD. Inside you can see paintings of biblical scenes dating back 200 years. The place still operates as a church and holds mass daily. I got quite choked up during the tour when our guide Georgetta recited the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. It reminded me of the passage where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. After the church we headed for lunch in a quaint cafe, called Tallet Al Wadi (View of the Valley), which overlooks a village cut into the mountains. Later on in our trip we made a stop at Bagdad Cafe 66 in Khnaefis, where we got dressed in Bedouin outfits and acted out our fantasy lives as desert dwellers. We sat around in our new costumes drinking chai (black tea) as a real Bedouin played the Oud for us. Our last stop of the day was to see some Roman ruins in Palmyra. It was a romantic sight as the sun began to set on the magnificent lime columns. There we met a camel herder, called Maha Abdul Latif, who we asked to shake hands with as a sign of our friendship. As the night drew in we checked into our hotel and finished a beautiful day with dinner and a story from our guide Amjad, who told us about Queen Zenobia, who once ruled the area. This famous queen we were to learn more about on Tuesday.

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