Day 3: Trip to Souj, Qasr Ibn Wardan, Rasafah and Qala'at Ja'abar (2)

Souj Travel Blog

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Bedouin houses at Souj, near Hama

Our first stop was the little town of Souj, which is known for the many ‘beehive houses’. These houses are built in a style typical for Bedouines who, at one point in history, gave up their nomadic way of life and settled in Oases like this one. The houses are simple, cone-shaped houses built from mud. There are no windows, just a round door, and some holes for light and air.

These houses are scattered all throughout the landscape. These days people no longer live in them, but they are mainly used for stables or storage. Or, like the one we visited, for entertainment of tourists.

We stopped at a local family that owns a small lot of these houses. After a short tour around the place we were invited into one of them for some Chai, Arabian tea.

traditional Bedouin houses
As we would soon find out, drinking tea is not only customary in this country, it is mandatory!
In no time we weren’t just sipping tea any more, but we also found a complete breakfast laid out in front of us.

Even though we’d had breakfast at the hotel an hour earlier, we couldn’t refuse this, not only is it impolite to do so, the stuff also looked way to good to say no. Bread, scrambled egg, olives and “Bayt injen makdoos”, which is fried eggplant stuffed with pine nuts and garlic and drenched in olive oil. The taste of the latter is indescribeble; it has a very strong, slightly spicey, stingy taste. Very strange, but utterly delicious!

We gorged on the stuff, We had to, because refusing food is a grave insult for the host.

inside the Bedouin home
And so we ate as true Arabs, using pieces of the flat bread to scoop the food from the dish.

And all of that with the right hand of course. Like in many cultures the left hand is considered impure, so food is only to be touched with the right hand. Lefties will have a really hard time in this country. But so did I. I am ambidextrous, I write with my right hand, but do pretty much everything else, including eating, with my left hand. So I had a really hard time to constantly remember swapping the food to my right hand before bringing it to my mouth.

These people were so friendly and hospitable. Really, unlike anything I have ever experienced before. And it was not as if they were simply serving some patrons some food, no, we were invited to have food *with* them.

The family posing with the book that has their daughter on the cover
Our host and his wife, as well as Omar, joined us to have breakfast with them. Even though our host didn’t speak a word of English, there was a mutual understanding between us.

When we were about to leave we saw that half the family (I guess the couple has about 8 children) were peering through the windows of our car. They’d seen something interesting on the rear seat. The thing was that the travel guide Derk had brought with him shows a little girl on the cover, and it turned out that was one of their daughters!

The little girl that had brought us the tea and food, had been photographed by a journalist about two years ago and was now on the cover of the Brandt Guide to Syria! The whole family was ecstatic that their daughter was on the cover of an international book, and obviously we had to take a photo of the whole family with the book (but without said daughter)

Near Souj we visited the ruin of Castle Ibn Wardan, which stems from the Byzantine era (about 6th century).

Qasr Ibn Wardan
The ruin had been partially restored and didn’t really look as old as claimed, nor did it really look like a castle.
The truth is that it was never a castle, but rather a mansion and a chapel, and it had been altered and rebuilt several times in the next centuries.

We wandered around the mansion for about 15 minutes and took it for what it basically was: a taster of what was to come tomorrow, when we'd be visiting a lot more, and better preserved ruins!

Since we were about the only visitors today the caretaker was kind enough to open the gate to the chapel for us to wander about, something which is normally off limits for visitors!

_francine_ says:
LOL-ing at the pic of the family with the book but WITHOUT the kid :-D
Posted on: Jan 21, 2009
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Bedouin houses at Souj, near Hama
Bedouin houses at Souj, near Hama
traditional Bedouin houses
traditional Bedouin houses
inside the Bedouin home
inside the Bedouin home
The family posing with the book th…
The family posing with the book t…
Qasr Ibn Wardan
Qasr Ibn Wardan
the caretaker who kindly let us vi…
the caretaker who kindly let us v…
photo by: Biedjee