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May 12, 2002

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With Ivan to share the costs, we hire a driver to take us out to sites in the Aleppo area. Always negotiate when hiring a driver, and remember to question the smallest details, such as 'Does your car have seats?' This question didn't occur to us because our driver said he had a new car. Of course a new car means made after 1960. Old cars are popular in Syria. We commonly see old buicks, pontiacs, the classic 50's look. Incidentally, these old wheels are the only American products found in Syria. Meanwhile, we rode around Syria with our hired driver, in the back of a seventies van with pillows for seats. At least our driver, Talal, spoke decent English. He refused to talk local politics, however, and from his inferences we gathered he feared reprisals from secret police. He believes spys are everywhere.
Arch inspector - Romans built things to last.
Remember hearing about St. Simeon, the guy who sat on a pillar for 40 years. This was his pillar (what's left of it). The Byzantines built this church around it after his death. This means if you're anti-social and willing to sit on a pillar for half your life, weathering storms and peeing in public, you can be a saint too!
Ancient Hittite temple, tough people from Turkey, circa 1600 BC, who invented the chariot and signed the first known peace treaty with the Egyptians (a copy of the peace treaty sits at the U.N.)
Tea and beer with the Kurds. Persecuted by Turks and Iraqis, life is better for them in Syria. They live in their own communities in North Syria, hoping to gain their own homeland.