Travel to Syria | Travelling to Syria As A Female Tourist | Overland Trip to Africa!
Welcome to Episode Seven of my 30,000 mile road trip from Paris to Cape Town. And on today's episode, we are hitting the Middle East. Yep, we are going to Syria! So we finally left Turkey after several attempts & 24 days. So we're on six weeks now that we've been traveling. So in today's episode, we're going to be going over Syria and what happened in Damascus, and how we got to Jordan.
So but before we go there, let's go on to my podcast journey with you. So some good news. up to 20 countries, different listeners from 20 countries which is amazeballs! Like said one of my goals is to get listeners from 76 countries, which is the amount of countries that I've been to. So we're well on our way since excluding my trailers, this is only the third week I think that I've done my podcast. So yes, super happy. And then the top five countries remain the same.
So #1 Canada woohoo Canucks! #2 is USA how you doing down there? There are some crazy times going down there with hurricanes and I won't even get into Trump! Country #3 is my second home UK well done Brits! But you are letting the Americans beat you. So come on! At #4 is Ireland top of the morning to ya my fellow Irish lovelies. And coming up #5 is France so merci beaucoup. And the review of the day is my first review actually it's short but sweet. It says: 5 stars & great stuff really looking forward to the series to start. So thank you, Nina. You're awesome. And if you'd like to have a shout out then ya please just leave me a review on Apple podcasts or like iTunes or go to my website for instructions how to do it.
And you can also do it on Stitcher for Android. Everything's on the website, ManyRoadsTravelled.com . Okay, oh, one more piece of news. I gave my very first interview on another podcast, which is really exciting. And that will be coming
out end of September/early October. So I will let you know when that is out. That was really fun. I was quite nervous, because it was my first interview. But it went really, really well, and it's called the Accented World. And Lena is the hostess and she's lovely. So I will keep you posted on when that's out earlier, the you know, closer to the time. Alrighty, so let's get going. Okay, so we finally left Turkey after 24 days. We planned on being there, maybe 10. And we came through the Turkish Syrian border near Antakya
Turkey. And after six passport checks, one baggage check. We've finally crossed the border into Syria and we got the bus down to Damascus & we passed nearby Aleppo. On the bus we met this really nice Jordanian guy who was living in Damascus. So Casey talked to him quite a lot. Casey was my friend who I left with on this trip with, we traveled together for a few months.
And so once we got to Damascus, he helped us find a hotel, which was very nice of him. Like I said Middle East where, and I've been back to Middle Eastern countries several times since this trip and the nicest people like super generous, very hospitable, just lovely, lovely people. They really take you under their wing and treat you as like a guest your royalty basically. But I remember coming across the border into Syria because it was about I think we left Turkey around 11 in the morning, we didn't get to Damascus till 6pm. The landscape just completely changes soon as you come into Syria and it was much more like low mountain ranges, quite sandy and rocky with just like pockets of fertile soil. But the sunset
was beautiful, the hue it just turned fiery orange. It was really beautiful and I quite like I thought the landscape was very rugged but you know it's beautiful in its own way. So we finally get to Damascus and get our hotel we just had enough energy to just grab something really quick to eat because I hadn't slept for three days right because before we did this, so that was seven hour trip we just come off a 12 hour bus journey from Ankara to get our Syrian visa. So I was exhausted and we just crashed, although it was a rock hard bed. But I slept for 10 hours, I was out cold and then got up in the morning. So this is I think day 43 and finally had a long hot shower, which was my first in seven days. So that was lovely. Then I was waiting for Casey to have a shower so I thought I'll just pop
out & walk around the corner. You know, just take a little look see, because you know by time we got to Damascus it was almost dark. Well, I got lost for half an hour. See nowadays much easier, you're put on Google Maps & your fine! Back in 1993. I mean, the internet wasn't even around, let alone cell phones or Google Maps. But yeah, lost for half an hour or so, but I quite like getting lost, I still do to this day. I don't know. For some reason. It's more fun. I mean, I will always
find I always find my way home. I do have an internal tracking system, I think. Anyways, finally Casey was ready. And we headed over to the Jordanian embassy to get our visa. Get there and we realized we had both forgot our passports. That was super handy. And the embassy was closed, closed at 11am. So like, Okay, that was just stupid. Then we went to, so we just decided to walk around Damascus. And Damascus is I think it is, the oldest part, the old town
of Damascus that was like formed in like 3000 BC or something like that. And it's apparently one of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. And it was also known as the Pearl of Asia, because it's beautiful, and it's lushness. I really, really liked Syria, Damascus, like,
it was totally different vibe to the other big cities we've been to so far, but I liked it just as much as I liked Paris, or Rome to be honest, and much better than I liked any of the other big cities we went to in Turkey. Not that we'd got to too many big cities, but yeah, I really liked it. It had a great vibe and it was the first time I'd seen women in burkas, or you know, covered with headscarves and the men all wore jackets and head scarves as well. It was just full of color and smells, there's lots of honking and stuff like that, but that's, you know, big cities anywhere really. But yeah, I really really liked the vibe of Damascus. People are super nice, always smiling and you know, we hardly seen any other Westerners there. But mind you, we hadn't really seen any other travelers since Marmaris Turkey so it had been a couple weeks just me and Casey's, but we're still get along really well considering spending 24 seven together with someone. It's hard. But yeah, Casey and I got along,
we're still get like really, really well. So we went to this market, which is called the El Hamidiyah souk, which is a huge marketplace. And it was really cool like talk about attacking your senses. You know, like all your senses are full because you're just smelling things, you're seeing things. There's lots of colors, there are lots of bartering and I really liked it. Really cool. So we walked around there for awhile and then we kind of stumbled along the meat market.
Not quite as nice like definitely the smells are not as good or the sights, because you see sheeps heads and cows heads and intestines and hearts and I don't even eat red meat. I'd stopped eating red meat when I was 19 so it was not my cup of tea that's for sure. And then which is weird, we went to grab some lunch I don't know all that meat and and we had Oh, yeah, delicious. Like I again like back then and in 1993 I've never had Middle Eastern food really. I mean, I don't even think hummus was around back then in Canada. I got this like, beauty, I do eat white meat like I do eat fish I call it my fins and feathers diet. So I do eat chicken and fish. You know, anything with fins and anything with feathers or out of the sea I love. So yeah, we had these chicken donors and salads
and Oh, so delicious. Then we found these awesome Syrian sweets. So it's kinda like honey straw like looks like honey straws on the outside. inside and then so they're kind of crunchy and then inside is like oh delicious custard with pistachios. Bella! It's
so good. And the best bet was like 30 cents for a whole box of them. And I think our, our chicken donors or kebabs whatever we're like $1 so it was like, okay, we're liking this is nice and cheap. We're still a bit tired, so we went back, had a nap, and then hit the town again. And of course, we found one of the very few bars! We did have a Syrian beer, which was really good, it reminded me of Becks and of course, I was the only woman in there, but not a problem. Yeah, that we just kind of we had such a such
a great day. I really, really, really liked Damascus, and we just crashed that night. And then so day 44 we headed out to the Jordanian embassy again with passports this time. Very helpful and before 11am, and we got there and they were like, Okay, well, it's $38 for a Jordanian visa. And we're like, wow, that's quite expensive. And we didn't have enough money
of course. We knew we're only going to be in Syria for a day or two. So we didn't want to change so much money into Syrian pounds. So yes, we didn't have enough money to cover it. So we asked "Well, can we get the visa at the border?" Although we're very, very nervous about this, because we've been here before with getting trying to get our Syria visa. And they're like, Oh, yeah, yeah, yep.I quote. "Yes, you'll definitely be able to get it at the border and it'll probably be
cheaper." So we're like, Okay, cool. We will chance it. So we went back & picked up our bags, grabbed a couple more chicken doners. I love them for the road and headed to the bus station only to find out that the bus wasn't leaving till 4am & it was noon now. Luckily, a guy kind of overheard us and he said "Well, there's service taxis. So get one of those. So you just
you wait till the cars full and then you'll head out kind of thing." Okay, cool, we'll do that. So we found one and there's five of us in this taxi. But the other three people had so much stuff. So there's all their baggage like on the roof of the taxi as well as the boot and we just had our backpack each. It was only 10 bucks and we could go to Amman Jordan that day, so cool. Unfortunately, I got the worst seat, so I'm in the front middle, it was not great! And so we get to the border. And it took me & Casey just half an hour to get through. Oh yeah, and also for the visa it was $42 - highway robbery! It was $4 more than what we would have paid at the embassy which I know sounds like nothing but you know when you're budgeting & on a very long road trip, every dollar counts anyways, but we got our visa that was the main thing - we got the visa! But the other three people, they had so much stuff were three hours at customs.
So by the time we finally got back on the road, it was dark. And the driver who was this fat sleazy, gross, dude, one of the few people I had met that I didn't like, and throughout the whole trip, he just kept trying to rub himself against my leg and my like, his arms on my lap, and it was just needless to say, very gross, very weary day. But the good news is we got to Jordan, and we decided to splash out got like a $15 night hotel.And, yeah, we're in Jordan. Happy Days!
However, you will have to wait till the next episode to hear about Jordan! I would just like to talk a little bit more about Syria and how heartbreaking it is what's been happening there for the last nine years. The war and everything like that, that started in 2011 started kind of, because a couple of teenagers had spray painted something about pro democracy, and Assad, the president's security people, arrested them and tortured them, and it kind of kicked off from there. So it was, it's called the Arab Spring, it was one of the Arab Spring kind of revolutions. And in 2012, just mass protesting and Assad the president who is not not a very good person at all, or another dictator, he brought in, you know, the big thing in 2013 was sirin gassing when he gassed his own people like, poisoned them, even though he denied he did.
And it just, snowballed. I mean by I think 2016 something like four and a half million Syrians have been displaced, sorry not displaced that was more but had left Syria, basically. So, you hear about Syrian refugees, I mean, they have just gone through hell and back, and, you know, and Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, I mean, they, just so many refugees, they couldn't handle it. So there's, refugees, Syrian refugees go to Europe and some came across to Canada & the States. But hard times and I'm not sure how many Syrians have been killed but by 2015 250,000 Syrians have been killed by their own government like brutal! They've tried to get peace a few times, it;s just not working. So it's still there's, you know, parts of Syria it's still really you can't go to it's very unsafe. However,
I Just had a look yesterday about the situation now and Damascus and Aleppo are open and you can visit them. A few things you need to know. And now apparently also Damascus has & Aleppo they have streets that are bars and restaurants and they say it's like any other European cities which is cool. Like I said I loved Damascus. I wish I would have seen more of Syria, especially, I can't remember the name now but that there's an old city, it starts with a P, can't remember right now. But ISIS destroyed it and it's a really old ancient city. So I wish we would have gone to see it when we had a chance. But yeah, so if you do want to go to Syria now, you need to go by on a tour of since 2018. You have to book a tour. And you also have to through a travel agency, you have to kind of get
what's called a security permission and then that you can go into the Syrian immigration database because you don't get your visa until you arrive. But so if you did want to go, like I loved it. Obviously things have changed. But yes, you just go to a travel agency and it depends like to get this security permission. It's something like so for Europeans, it's $300, for UK, it's $500 and for Americans, it's $550. And then visas are between $20 and $150 US dollars, depending on where you're from. For Canadians it's $90. So I got mine free.
So yeah, you have to book a tour. So you're met at the airport, or there are three land borders that are open now. I mean, again, with COVID, I'm not exactly sure so just double check. And obviously all your governments travel advisory, you know, government pages of website pages all probably do not recommend going to Syria. But I have looked online and there's people that have gone, you know, 2019 2020 so it's definitely possible. Yeah, so you have to be with your tour at all times. And like said I would literally just go to Damascus, maybe Aleppo. That'd be it really because there are still kidnappings and stuff like that. And you also cannot
have an Israeli stamp in your passport. It was the same back that when I was there, that's one of the reasons that we didn't going to Israel because we were going to Sudan and we knew that we can't have that in our passport. Also, no ATMs take foreign cards. That's because of all the restrictions by American governments and British, you know, Western governments basically. So you have to bring hard cash, cold hard cash. And the Syrian
pound has completely dropped from April, again because of embargoes on them. So now it is a good time for us not great for Syrians at all but the Syrian pound is like 2400 to one US dollars when I was there is 42 so yeah crazy! So I think that's about it for Syria right now. It's really heartbreaking I feel for those people and there are many now probably close it 8 million at least Syrians have been displaced and it's just brutal! And all for what? And of course now you have American government, you know, and other government is trying to steal their oil which you know, whatever, but it's stealing their oil basically. Yeah, not great. Not a great situation. So if you could go & if you do want to go then go! Because the economy would, any bit of money that they can get from tourism would be great for the country. So I leave it at your own discretion. And now it's time for Tams Top Tips for Syria. So
I would say tip #1 besides all of the information I just gave you, Damascus possibly Aleppo to go to and I guess it's Damascus hasn't been hit too hard like bombed too much so it's still like I said I loved it. It was really vibrant and friendly and colorful. But it's changed now. So there are more there's one street called Al Hamara Street and that is literally a road of bars and restaurants and cafes and things like that and shops. So that would be I guess, tip #1. Tip #2 in Damascus I would go to Omayad mosque, which is a really Ancient Mosque and burial site. Tip #3 would be go to that marketplace. It's called Al Hamidyah souk. It's amazing. It's huge. It's was, like I said, my first big,
especially Middle Eastern marketplaces, so really fun, lots of great things to buy and try and eat and drink and all sorts. And then the tip for my solo female travelers, dress appropriately, definitely I would say wear a headscarf and cover your arms and legs. And you should be fine. You know, you're going to be on a tour, but still be vigilant and just respect their culture. And you should be fine. Like I said, I had a great time. And I know things have changed, but some things don't ever change. And that's people's hospitality and generosity, and except for places that has been bombed obviously, but what's to see there that I saw is still there. So, like I said, I would leave it at your own discretion. And once things calm down, especially with COVID then yeah, put it on
your list... for sure to go. Okay, so I think that is a wrap and we are really really getting closer to Africa. So next week's episode is gonna be about Jordan and then it's Africa! Okay, I would love it if you could subscribe, and leave a review or ratingthat would be awesome. Okay, so until next Thursday... Safe travels one road at a time.