Monday, 1 September 2008

Pilgrimage from Damascus (Philistine Camp) to Darayya 23/08/08

Having another good sleep-in I wake feeling very lazy. This morning was meant to be for walking but there's no way in the world that's going to happen :)

Rami wakes, heads downstairs to locate some nourishment and returns bearing fool, a Syrian bean dish perfect for breakfast. Champion! Making the decision to start walking around 5pm with the hope of avoiding the heat, what else to do other than lie around, watch the games and smoking nagile :)

Rami and Alaa are thinking of walking with me for a small section but as the time draws nearer they both feel less and less motivated. Five rolls around and any slight interest that might remain is quickly vanquished by the rolling thunder greeting us at the doorway...

Is it really going to rain???

Making our way down to Rami's shop the occasional big drop crashes around our feet, but rain or no rain I'm going to get moving. Enjoying one last cup of tea the rain starts to fall in ernest, but luckily for me by the time I'm finished it's all moved on...

With the sky clear Rami decides he can spare thirty minutes and sets of with me. Passing from Philistine camp into Yarmouk it isn't long before the apartment buildings fade away into desert and the road is almost empty.

Wishing me well Rami turns back and with the thought "it's only 200kms to Amman!" fixed in my mind I head south. My road suddenly veers to the west which suits me fine. West is where the highway lies and as long as I'm heading south, west or somewhere in between I'm happy.

"Hello, hello, welcome"

A woman comes racing out of her house, arms waving and intent on getting me to join them for coffee. I'm going to be walking half the night anyway so why not :) Sabaha and Abdula are awesome, sitting in their loungeroom they couldn't be more welcoming and soon enough invite me to stay the night...

"Sorry, I've only just started walking. In the day time it's too hot but at night the temperature is perfect"

Abdula is having a very hard time comprehending why I'm about to walk off into night and sleep in a tent when there is a perfectly comfortable bed waiting for me here. Luckily Sabaha gets what I'm doing and manages to convince him I will be okay... :)

"Okay, but let me drive you to the highway. From here to the highway is not a place you want to be walking after dark"

"I'll be fine, thanks anyway"

I can see the concern on both of their faces and even though I have never felt unsafe walking around Syria at night, there are some areas of every country that are best avoided after dark. Walking out the door I start to realize I might be in one of them...

I know the highway is only a few of kilometers away so I'm not too concerned. It is a bit disturbing though that every person I ask for directions freaks out and starts making motions like I'm going to get my throat slit.

Two young guys hear me asking about the highway and volunteer to be my guide...

"Ben, this way"

"But the highway is that way"

"No, no...definitely this way!"

I'm sure the highway isn't in the direction they want to take me but with only empty fields in the right direction I will stick to civilization as long as I can...especially with these two tagging along ;) The stupid questions start straight away...

"Have you got any money?

"Just a little"

"Dollars or Syrian pounds?"

"Syrian pounds"

"Do you know karate?"

Sighing " karate"

"Have you got a gun?"

"No, no gun"

"It's not safe out here, you should have a gun. Do you have a mobile phone? Let me see your mobile phone"

We are all alone and I decided I've had enough of this conversation, if they want to converse further they will have to learn some English... ;)

"Sorry, I don't understand"

"Mobile phone! Do you have a phone? What is your number?"

Shrugging "Sorry, don't know"

A small crowd comes in to view and I breath a sigh of relief...

"No Ben, down this way"

They point to a small alley but there's no way I'm leaving the bigger road...

"No, I'm going this way"

"But the highway is down here. This way, this way"

Reaching the group I once again ask for directions and sure enough the highway is in the opposite direction to where these two want to take me. The direction giver has a comforting smile and offers to walk me to the turnoff, I take a liking to the him straight away. Thankfully the two young guys loose interest before my new guide departs and I continue on alone.

Finally reaching the highway I get a quick rest with some truck drivers for fruit and tea before again turning south. Walking into the night I don't make it far before a old man in full Islamic dress, robes, beard, little hat and all, comes running up and stops me for a chat...

"Come, sit with me for tea"


He smiles warmly as we walk back to his tent...

"I have many children, do you have any money for me?"

Laughing "Sorry, I'm happy to come and talk but I won't give you any money"

"Yes, no problem no problem"

Receiving curious looks from the kids we sit on a carpet out the front of his tent drinking Pespsi...

"You like?"

"Yes, it's nice. Thank you"

"Now how much money will you give me?"

"Nothing, sorry"

Firm hands grasp the side of my head and suddenly my face is only inches away from my hosts. Cold dark eyes are staring into mine, he makes a quick throat slitting motion then alternates between chanting and blowing in my head...

"Okay, now you can go"

I'm not entirely sure if I've just been blessed or cursed but going sounds like a great option to me :) The family finds it all very amusing and saying my thanks I hastily depart.

I manage some good kilometers before finding a nice little spot off the highway to call it a night...

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