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Ruins near Iraq

View 2010 Colombo, Lebanon, Syria & Aceh on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12790264122180.jpgMari under protective cover.

Today we explored two ruins (Mari and Dura Europos) near the Iraq border. If we were able to cross into Iraq we would probably find plenty more ruins ... more contemporary ones caused by man-made situations. Sad but true.

It was another 7am start to avoid the heat of the day. Our driver Nader drove us down over an hour to the ruins of Mari about 20km away from the Iraqi border, near the town of Abu Kamal.

Even though we tried, we didn’t get around to having a photo taken with an “Iraq” road sign at the outskirts of town. It was too difficult at times with baggage and the heat.

Ruins #1 - Mari

While Mari is not visually stunning (eg. tall, elaborate etc), it is utterly amazing to see and be amongst ruins from old Mesopotamia from 5000 years ago.large_5550_12790264122961.jpgWhile not visually stunning, Mari is amazing ... it is 5000 years old.The Royal Palace belonging to the Syrian eader, Zimri-Lim (must be related to my mother’s side of the family) was enormous measuring 200m by 120m and had over 300 rooms. Unfortunately most of it has weathered away and a plastic roof is there to reduce further deterioration.

Ruins #2 - Dura Europos

Backtracking a little, we then went to the ruins of Dura Europos, which is a walled city high on one bank of the Euphrates. This, in contrast to Mari, is much newer at about 2000 years old and also Roman instead of Syrian.

The border

Our hotelier explained that the border at Abu Kamal is only open to Iraqis. Syrians need special permission. Other nationalities can’t get through. There doesn’t seem to be any presence of refugees.large_5550_12790264123618.jpgWhile not visually stunning, Mari is amazing ... it is 5000 years old.He tells me the main crossing into Iraq is in the north-east of Syria.

Note: While I knew there weren't any specific travel warnings (by the New Zealand government) for this area, I didn't realise till days later that the US helicopters had encroached into this area about two years ago and made some bombings which killed 8 people (per Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Abu_Kamal_raid])

The desert heat

Upon arriving at Deir Al-Zur, it felt like an oven ... I could feel the hot desert air even though it was evening. The air temperature on Salomi’s watch indicated that the air temperature was around 30 degC during our stay but the readout at the town square went up to 42 degC ... that’s probably the direct temperature in the sun.large_5550_12790264129486.jpgMari not under cover.

Then came the night ... you know, it’s not always cold in the desert at night. It wasn’t cold outside.

In the hotel it was worse. The concrete, mattress and wooden bed head (and everything else) had absorbed heat during the day and warmed up. I could feel them smile as they unloaded and radiated their heat to me as I lay in bed sweating. My pillow was wet from the sweat running down my neck.

To make it worse ... the hotel had given me a synthetic sheet and pillow case.

If there is one consolation, one doesn't have to keep running to the loo despite drinking lots of water. Hehehe ... no need to jump out of bed early in the morning bursting to go, or be apprehensive about using unfamiliar loos while out on the road.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Syria

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