Skiing and souks
We're in Aleppo in the far north of Syria, which vies for the title of being the oldest town on earth, but more about that in a minute.
Since Byblos, we've travelled into the Mount Lebanon Range and through some of the most incredible cliff top towns to the Cedars with the hope of skiing. The travel gods blessed us with 2 meters of fresh snow much earlier than usual. We had an afternoon on the lower slopes (as it was too dangerous for the lifts) which allowed me to get my snow legs and Lee learned to ski after living on a snowboard. The next day, the lifts were open and we spent the whole day carving up fresh powder until our legs gave way. Great day, stunning scenery and a memorable experience.
From the Cedars, we crossed over into Hezbollah territory and to their headquarters at Baalbek to roam some very well preserved roman temples. It has to be said at this point that we are the only western tourists in the entire middle east, or so it seems. In every town it's just us and the locals, every set of ruins we roam on our own as if it's been reserved just for us. We get the best hotel room at the best rate and all the service. We're loving spending more time with locals rather than battling the crowds.
Yesterday, we came out of the mountains and after half a dozen military road blocks, we crossed into Syria and on up to Aleppo. The main reason for coming this far was to roam the medieval souk which runs over 1.5 km within the old city walls. We found a great place to stay right in the middle of the souk (one of only 2) with tapestries covering Byzantine era walls and a friendly manager to show us the town.
Today was shopping day souk style. Everything was on show in a feast for the senses. Spices, herbs, fresh camel, nuts galore, dripping sweets, hot bread and of course, homous and BBQ. That's just the food, not to mention the silver smiths, cobblers, soap makers, fragrance dealers, and merchants for every type of clothing and material imaginable. Our show bag includes locals soaps, camel hair pashminas, a silver ring and retro cassio watch for me and an ornate Arabic tile with "in the name on Allah" inscribed. Heavy bartering was the sport of the day and great fun. I think both parties walked away thinking they got a great deal!
Tomorrow we head south the Palmyra, Damascus and beyond. Thanks for keeping in touch and for all of your messages. Hope all is well.
CP & Lee
PS - we're unable to load photos from where we are so snow and souk photos to come on the next entry.