Places We Go / Syria

The Road To Damascus

The windshield was dirty and cracked, the picture is blurry… I didn’t care because I was so pumped up to actually be entering Syria:

syrian countryside entering syria

I should mention at this point how unexpected taking the above picture was for me. We met a number of people in Lebanon that were refused entry to Syria on suspicion of being journalists – people from neutral countries such as Lithuania and Slovenia… And many of them had already obtained Syrian visas before arriving. So, what chance did we have of getting in without even a visa?

However, I could not in good conscience return home without at least having tried to get into Syria. So, after a couple of days in Baalbek, we drove to the Lebanese border and parked our rental car. Unfortunately, the Syrian border post is several miles beyond the Lebanese border post, so we had to exit Lebanon and then take a taxi to the Syrian side before receiving what, I was certain, would be a swift rejection accompanied by the border guards laughing in our faces. We entered the empty line for foreigners and hesitatingly explained that we wished to enter Syria as tourists. The border guard glanced at us and glanced at our passports and then said, “Okay. You just need to go buy your visas from that man over there.” Huh? Seriously? We confirmed that we were indeed being admitted, but that tomorrow was Friday and the guards on duty next might not be so accommodating. Got it.

So, we had to take a taxi back to the Lebanese border post, go through the process of entering Lebanon, park our car in a more secure location and grab our luggage and then had to go through the entire process of exiting Lebanon again, hiring the taxi to take us to Syria again and entering Syria again. However, it was totally worth it and looking back on it, I still am amazed that we got in. It was a good lesson though on not making assumptions and on embracing ambiguity.

This is the mountain valley where Syria’s border checkpoint is located:

syrian countryside

I believe we were helped in getting into Syria by the fact that the border guards liked Italians and I had an innocent-looking Italian girl with me. Also, I tried to look as dumb as possible which probably didn’t hurt either.

Working our way through the mountains on the road to Damascus:

syrian countryside

syrian countryside

syrian countryside

A road sign for Damascus… I should have gotten a picture of one of the signs for Baghdad:

syrian countryside

Dropping down from the hills into Damascus:

syrian countryside

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