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May 14, 2002

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Throw away your pre-conceived notions about rigid Islam in Syria making travel difficult. It's easy to travel independently here; people help out foreigners, someone always on hand with at least rudimentary English, many signs show English translations, and mini-buses frequently go in every direction for pennies - hitching also works in a pinch. On our last day in Aleppo, we run around the Christian quarter maze, attracting attention from hospitable Syrians that offer tea and directions. We see Lawrence of Arabia's barbill in the Baron hotel. Then we take a bus southwards to Hama to complete our loop of Syrian sites in the east. Despite bordering an eastern desert, Syria's middle region contains green farmland and olive groves.
Patients go in but they never come out.
Kids always eager to follow foreigners around.
Aleppo's asylum for weary tourists.
Hama makes a great base for central Syrian exploration. It's a more attractive town than Homs, a better known town further south. Hama is famous for it's mournful norias - ancient wooden water wheels that once provided an effective mechanism for water redistribution. They still turn and groan in the city center (friction caused by the wheel on its wooden mountings creates a loud groaning sigh).