Syrian Tank

We left Antakya, in Turkey, at 7:00 AM and drove through the forty miles to the Syrian border under a clear sky but with a chill in the air. This is typical of early mornings in most Arab countries.

Being processed by the Turkish authorities to exit the country took almost an hour.

I approached the Syrian border with some trepidation because they could rescind our visas which would be catastrophic. I had considered alternatives even at this late stage and had decided if we were turned back I would get a shipping agent and explore the possibility of shipping the cars from Turkey to Alexandria in Egypt. This should have been possible and not taken too long, but the cost would have been fairly high. There were no car ferries from Europe to North Africa that we could use.

I need not have worried we were allowed entry and the processing took another hour. During the processing we were engaged by a man from the Tourism Ministry asking where we were going and what we hoped to see. He then, very quietly, suggested that we would be well advised to transit straight through Syria into Jordan without stopping anywhere as times were a little difficult.

Given the source of the advice, we decided to heed it and made our way onto the motorway network which would take us straight through to Jordan. The roads were generally smooth without too many potholes.

We were just south of the city Homs when I realised that the traffic had all but disappeared. Then a policeman stepped into the middle of the road and waved us down. As we stopped soldiers appeared from buildings on both sides of the road and approached the cars. Some appeared friendly but others were distinctly hostile. One in particular said you can’t drive down here, go back to Hama or Aleppo. I calmly explained that we were going to Damascus and then onto Jordan. He started to wave his arms about and become excited when a senior officer that Chris had spoken to, explaining where we were going, barked an order. The hostile man backed off while the officer made several radio calls.

He approached us again and said, “Sorry you cannot drive down here as we have a problem with some terrorists and it is dangerous” Whatever you do Roy, I thought, no funnies please.

He suggested we return on the route we had arrived on and then take a diversion which he pointed out on the map. This would circumvent the problem area and deliver us back on the motorway at the city of Homs. This we did and experienced no further trouble, but we had lost another 45 minutes. We did see several tanks at various points and numerous armed groups, mostly uniformed soldiers.

The cars behaved admirably again, with Dorothy hiccupping just once. We used our jerry cans for the first time in anger. These we had filled before leaving Anatakya in case there was a fuel shortage and was I glad we did. Although there clearly was fuel available the queues were quite long in most locations.

We arrived at the Syrian/Jordanian border at around 6:00 PM and by the time we had been through the exit process it was almost 7:00 PM. There was a hotel within the border area and rather than take another hour to go through the border routine to enter Jordan I suggested to Chris that we should call it a day. We had been going for twelve hours and covered 350 miles. That was enough.

I am afraid there are only four, fairly poor photos that I took in Syria. We were advised not to take any photographs in the country at all and to hide our mobile phones. However I couldn’t resist the challenge of taking four from the car as we sped along.

The next morning, Monday, we entered Jordan and what a different experience it was with the officials at their border. They couldn’t have been more helpful and pleasant, and no ‘backsheesh’.

Amman were only 50 miles south of the border and we soon found a pleasant hotel, having first rejected the Hyatt as far too expensive. Fuel was now only 70p a litre.

During the afternoon we visited the Amman Citadel, built by the Romans in the 8th century. As is often the case the site had been used by earlier communities dating back before the Iron Age. Even older than Chris!

We spent the morning of our rest day checking over the cars. Bridget needed a little oil, her exhaust nuts tightened again, and the tick over increased slightly as she had started stalling in traffic. Dorothy needed general fluid levels topped up.

We idled away the afternoon at the Roman amphitheatre. It is in amazingly good repair and seated 6,000 in its heyday.

The drive to Petra was a pleasure. The roads were generally wide and smooth, and our cars were purring. Only a distance of some 160 miles and no sign of the previous engine problem from Dorothy although she did flood when first started up. I think Bridget is in need of some balancing on her carburettors as she is running-on when I switch off the ignition, but suffering low revs when idling. I will leave it until we do the next service somewhere in Egypt.

We found and checked into a reasonable hotel on the outskirts of Wadi Musa close to Petra and the next day walked to the Petra complex. It was a long, hot, dusty, but totally fantastic day. It really is awe inspiring and well worth the visiting if you ever get the chance. We walked around the site for over 6 hours in temperatures of around 35°C and some of the climbs are fairly severe, but it was an amazing experience.

Benji, of course, wanted to play Indiana Jones when he heard that some of one of the series was filmed there. I have to say he has been acting very strangely recently, I will have to keep my eye on him.

Our final day in Jordan was to be filled with a short drive to Aquaba followed by a three hour ferry trip to Nuweiba and checking in to a hotel for the night. So much for that plan; on arriving in Aquaba it took two hours of searching, with the help of a friendly local, to find somewhere we could buy the ferry tickets. On arriving, at 12:15 for the 13:00 ferry we were refused access as they had ‘finished boarding’, and the ship left at 12:25! The next ferry was between 00:01 and 01:00, so we ended up travelling overnight without sleep arriving in port just after 04:00 and were kept on the boat until 05:00. In fact it was approximately 09:30 by the time we cleared customs to search for a hotel.

The first two were full when we met a very helpful tour guide, Liz, who recommended a small, family owned hotel called Swisscare. If you ever visit this part of the world, and I would advocate that you should, you will not find a better hotel in the area.

We have arrived in Egypt, our seventh country on this trip, and the cars now have Egyptian registration plates!

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