Crossing into Syria

Hama Travel Blog

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Four Norias (water wheels) in Hama. Kids and adults ride up and jump off the top of the stone wall. Those who chicken out ride down on the wheel too.

Tasty Start

I started the day with breakfast in a hole-in-the-wall cafe ...  Turkish coffee, OJ squeezed in front of you and the most beautiful croissant.  It was warm and not too buttery or flakey, with a cavity inside that had been filled with salted butter that' been melted away.  Being the pig that I am, I had to followup with the chocolate filled version which was equally nice.  We need more Vietnamese and migrants from former French territories in New Zealand to make these goodies more commonly available!

Border Crossing

I walked one minute into the square adjacent to the hotel and was quoted SYP500 (about EUR8) for my crossing into Hama in Syria.

Wedding car.
  It was far more than indicated in the guide so I got a second quote which was even more at SYP600.  Well, times must have changed ...

Compared to old Mercedes Benz previously, we now have a Hyundai Sonata with hardly any dings ... equipped with curtains and the obligatory cushion to convert the front centre armrest into a makeshift seat.

The trip took under 3 hours including some stops:

  1. Firstly on the Lebanon side for my companions to buy some bread ... it's supposed to be better than Syrian bread but I can't tell.
  2. Then for my companions to buy crockery ... they're big on glitzy gilded ones here.  I suppose this would have been an outing for them and they want to come back with something for the family.
  3. Then about 45 minutes at the border checkpoints.  I had to apologise to the rest of the taxi for delaying them.
    Noria in the central park of Hama. Very pleasant at night as families come out to enjoy the breeze.


Virgo Immigration Officer

The Lebanese exit officer was a bit slow (presumably a Virgo ... we're known for being picky ... or possibly new a his job):

  1. He went each field of the card and checked it off against my passport then beautified my handwriting as he saw fit ... adding serifs to my capital "I", extending the stalk of my capital "Y" etc.  Can you believe it?
  2. Then he flicked through and saw the word "Israel" in my passport.  He couldn't read English (they read Arabic and usually French), so didn't understand that it actually said that the passport was not valid for entry into Israel (rather than anything to suggest that I have been).  So he had to get a supervisor to clarify.
  3. I just couldn't believe the fuss for an Exit procedure.  Fortunately the Syrian officers were much more efficient and experienced.


Like a Homecoming

Intercity taxies are no longer permitted to drop off willy-nilly so I had to take another taxi to the Riad Hotel where I had stayed twice before.  It was like coming home!  Abdullah working there truly makes the place ... he is cheerful and obliging, and organises fantastic trips for guests.

Unfortunately prices in Syria seemed to have skyrocketed.  The hotel price is triple the rate indicated in the guidebook and I had to go to another hotel to check on their pricing (later) just to make sure no one was being shifty.  Talking to other travellers, it seems like a sad fact that inflation been high especially in the accommodation sector.

I spent the afternoon and evening chatting to fellow travellers over drinks and meals.

Later at night, I went for a walk in the park with a Syrian guest from the hotel.  I practiced my Arabic with him (he spoke no English).  He picked up strangers' toddlers and kissed them and bought them snacks.  I kept expecting the parents to call the cops!  He said they're like his own kids back in Aleppo

hauteboy says:
Congrats on your feature! I visited Syria just a few months after you and also noticed the prices (for transport at least) were way off from what the guidebooks had quoted, even recent editions.
Posted on: Sep 16, 2014
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Four Norias (water wheels) in Hama…
Four Norias (water wheels) in Ham…
Wedding car.
Wedding car.
Noria in the central park of Hama.…
Noria in the central park of Hama…
photo by: Biedjee