Syria: Palmyra & Dier Ez-Zur

After being in Damascus for almost 2 weeks I was glad to jump a bus and carve through the desert to Palmyra – the ancient Assyrian/Greek/Roman city 200kms from Damascus. We arrived late in the afternoon to Palmyra but found a place to sleep at the Sun Hotel. Palmyra, at least the area where all the foreigners hang out, doesn’t have a whole lot to do except a restaurant or 2 and a shitty internet cafe (3 peecees at dialup speed). So what to do that night? Go to the local Syrian barber on the corner and get a trim, what else?


Palmyra (Arabic: Tadmor) was in ancient times an important city of central Syria, located in an oasis 215 km northeast of Damascus[1] and 120 km southwest of the Euphrates. It has long been a vital caravan city for travellers crossing the Syrian desert and was known as the Bride of the Desert. The earliest documented reference to the city by its Semitic name Tadmor, Tadmur or Tudmur (which means “the town that repels” in Amorite and “the indomitable town” in Aramaic.[2]) is recorded in Babylonian tablets found in Mari.[3]

Though the ancient site fell into disuse after the 16th century, it is still known as Tadmor in Arabic, and there is a newer town next to the ruins of the same name. The Palmyrenes constructed a series of large-scale monuments containing funerary art such as limestone slabs with human busts representing the deceased.</a>

The next day, with my new highspeed haircut, I was ready to hit Palmyra. First off we somehow managed to get into and around the site, twice, without paying, so perhaps it is free? Once in we were straight down to the Grand Colannade, then across the valley of the tombs to sit on top of a hill and see the giant view before us.

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It is massive. Besides Angkor Wat and Pompei I don’t think I have been to such a large site. I think we walked about 6kms (according to my iPhone) around the site and I am pretty sure we didn’t cover it all.

The walk down the main street (Decumanus) out to the valley of tombs is breathtaking (probably because i was excited and decided to run around and climb on top of the ruins).

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We left Palmyra for Dier Ez-Zur, a city that finds itself on the Euphrates river. Not a whole to see as far as I know, but worth the quick dip in the Euphrates river and a day puffing on nargela!

Anobel has some supremo photos on his blog and he tells the story 10 times better!

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Syria: Al Hasakah – Assyrian New Year & Machine Gun Man

After Dier Ez-Zur Anobel and I caught a bus to Hasakah, a town in north eastern Syria 50kms or so from the Iraq border.

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Why? To spend a few days exploring the Assyrian villages around Hasaka and experience all that is the Assyrian new year.

As our minibus got closer to Hasaka we were stopped a few times for ID/Passport checks. I hadn’t had a mid journey ID check in Syria so I guess it ust have had something to do with being close to Iraq.

This time we stopped at a checkpoint and our passports were given to a beedy-eyed fellow with a mounted machine gun in the back of his ute.
We got our passports back and the bus continued on its way only this time were were being followed, by the Machine Gun Man!

We arrived in Hasaka a little while later and were picked up by George, an assyrian mate of Anobel’s. A minute after getting into George’s car we were stopped by Machine Gun Man and poor George copped an interrogation. Why were these foreigners here, what were they doing, how do you know them, where are they from??? etc….

Anyway, for the rest of our time in Hasaka Mr MGM followed us around like a bad smell.


Anobel has a funny write up of our experience with MGM.

The trips out to the villages were interesting and the people were super friendly. Everyone had an interesting story of how they came to be there, many came after the massacre of Simele and farmed land outside Hasaka.

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The Assyrian new year was a great day spent out in the hills bout 25km from Hasaka. A bit of drinking (Arak), lots of food and the longest chain of people holding hands and dancing 🙂
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Syria: Damascus


I finally pulled my camera out to get some snaps in Damascus.

There is so much going on in this city – you could spend weeks just in the old city i think.

I’ve been pretty busy working with Anobel going around shooting interviews and cutting the clips as we go. So there is my excuse for not having a great deals of photos.
The stories we hear from the Iraqi refugees each day are heavy to say the least. I won’t go into any details just yet, but everyday I go back to my hostel in awe of the atrocities that these people went through and I think I have a new found respect for the society I grew up in.

Today I was walking through the old city on the way to Bab Touma to get a van to Jaramana when I walked past a camel meat shop – run by some young guys – from the photos on the wall that it is a business that’s been in the family for quite some time!
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The healthy chef & team running the restaurant near Anobel’s place in Jaramana:



Syria: Damascus – a visit to the Iraqi refugee camp “Jaramana”

Due to an extreme case of self-diagnosed slackness I haven’t been hitting the streets taking too many pictures of what Damascus could possibly be like. Oh yes I’ve been in Damascus, the capital of Syria, for the past few days 🙂

(photo courtesy of

The other reason I blame my lack in getting some post/photos up is that I have a bit of a project going with my mate Anobel. No it’s not a helmut that looks like an afro, but a project Anobel is doing as part of his research project for his minor in Medical Humanities back in San Fran.

I arrived in Damascus and got in touch with Anobel and he seemed keen to get the ball rolling on some ideas we’d discussed back in Aleppo. The next day, thanks to GPS on my iPhone (Giant Party System – not the Global Position System that is illegal in Syria of course), I found myself in Jaramanah – a camp for Assyrian & Iraqi refugees. It has been a very eye opening experience so far and I feel extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with Anobel on his project.

We shot a few interviews in a local clinic and people’s tiny flats as best we could with Anobel’s Canon 5d mk2 my my little Panasonic Lumix LX3. The mixture of formats, frame rates and available hardware has led me to converting all the video to Apple ProRes @ 720p30 – I figured he might eventually need to present his stuff on some sort of ntsc flavoured gear – and also the 30p stuff didn’t look so great converted down to 24p.

So here we are, in a little cafe in the Old City, smoking sheisha/hooka/hubblebubble etc.. and reviewing today’s clips.

Make sure to check out Anobel’s great blog & photography –

Stay tuned…

Syria: Aleppo

Are you Syria?

Umm… Aleppo is awesome.


After Iran I spent a few days in Turkey in the cities of Van & Gaziantep – both great cities and a must see if you head to Turkey. But, Aleppo is awesome.

Yesterday I left Gaziantep and crossed into Syria near a town called Kilis. Was reasonably easy and only took a few hours. From the centre of Gaziantep I took a dolmus to the otogar, then another dolmus to Kilis and then a taxi from Kilis to cross the border. Exiting Turkey took a few minutes.

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To get into Syria I paid $30 (paid in euro & lira) to get a 15 day single entry visa for Syria – the immigration people were friendly but not friendly enough to give me the double entry 1 month visa I was after (plan is to go to Jordan then cross back into Syria and then to Lebanon).








My taxi mate dropped me at the nearest town and put me into a van to get to Aleppo. Less than an hour later I was at the bus station on the outskirts of this wicked city. £60SYP (about €1) and 10 minutes later I was in downtown Aleppo!

What a beautiful city!

I couldn’t get into the highly recommended Tourst Hotel but directly opposite I found a cool placed called the Spring Flower Hostel – got my own tiny room with a shower & toilet for £450SYP (€8) Syrian.

I think I could walk around this city forever.

Today I woke up around 8am and went for a walk around the old city & the souqs, tried to get into the citadel (not open on Tuesdays), and then saw a gigantic mosque in the distance so decided to go check it out.

The mosque ended up being a good score because I was quickly befriended by Milar who’s Dad and colleagues were working on the construction of this Mosque – due to finish within a year. The guys on the construction site were great and let me walk all over it and get some photos of them.

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