I had been planning to move out of my apartment for a while. Its awkward design and basement location had been overlooked in my initial excitement but started to become less so overtime. The price was also not conducive to the benefits. I had been looking around for a place in the old city, finally giving in to searching the Bab Touma area. It is known for its foreigner scene but I realized that like anywhere, that’s a choice you make, not a location. I found nice little room for very cheap, and sat back and waited for the end of the month.
After a friend came up from Amman we decided to visit Palmyra, a three hour bus ride from Damascus. Palmyra is a really interesting ancient city. Even to me, having been worn out by ruins and archeological cities. The variety of locations is what was most impressive to me. Surrounded by a large oasis of Palm trees (hence the name) it spills its ancient columns and roads into a valley, called (and no not the one you’re thinking of) Valley of the Tombs. Perched high up on a mountain overlooking the city and valley is a large castle. From up there you can see for miles as the terrain turns from dry desert, to oasis, to desert and sand again, highlighting the reason why Palmyra was built where it was.
And while I was thoroughly impressed by the archeological sites, I always seem to be more excited by talking to people. We spent the first evening wandering the tranquil city, sitting to have a drink and some hommus and watch foreigners run round. I also had one of the most delicious chicken Kabobs that I have ever had. Cooking the chicken on a tray of charcoal and spraying a sauce that sane people would have avoided, the chef smoked a cigarette, counted cash, chopped tomatoes and made jokes all at the same time. I devoured two and came back the next day looking for more (to no avail).
Yet as for the apartment. On the bus ride up to Palmyra a friend had given me a call about a room she new about, literally 10 minutes after I decided to rent the small other room (I had to be out of my old place in two days). I thought I should check it out, so when I got back from Palmyra, all sunburned and dust covered, I headed over to see the place. I first met the family whose number I had. They were kind and nice, they then took me to see the place for rent, just around the corner. I told them half an hour later that I wanted the place, he told me to think about it and give him a call tomorrow. I said I would but I’ll have my stuff with me. It was on the second floor, and including the living room, bathroom, and kitchen, which I share with an Austrian who works in the Golan as part of the UN Peacekeeping force, the place is bigger than my old one. And it has a huge balcony! Something that I have wanted since I arrived. There is also a sweet family that lives on the first floor. It is everything I was looking for and is cheaper than I had hoped for. I’m now sitting in my room overlooking the balcony that is covered with sparse grape vines (like my grandma’s porch) and enjoying the sun. Funny enough, this city is so packed I could probably jump from my balcony onto the neighbors across the street (the street being three feet wide). I love the place, the sun, the balcony and I hope to get to know the family more.
Everything else is going well, the leftover Easter parades by the Church boy scouts and the Passion plays are winding down. And at the same time, awkward shaped tourists armed with desert gear and all the high tech camera options you could imagine have begun to flood the streets. Tourist season has hit full speed.