It was uncertain what we would do today. Rudy was up and having breakfast with Richard before he left for work and discussed the possibilities. To be honest once you have seen the old city and souk what else is there to do in this big town. After Jamaliah woke up we agreed to do some more sightseeing outside town and then meet up with Richard in the late afternoon at the Shell club.
We drove out at 10:30 to the monastery at Maalula some 50 km outside of Damascus. This was the first real drive for us through the heart of town. It went without a problem. (Jamaliah is terrified though). Yes, you do line up 5 cars wide at the traffic light to squeeze into a 2-lane road ahead but somehow it all works. Two lane roads automatically become a 3-lane roads and so forth. The road out was well signposted in English lettering and together with Richards description we had no difficulty finding it. The monastery was up in the mountains and looked OK but not really a must. There was a nice walk through a gorge with flowing water to another monastery which was higher up on the mountain. That was nice. Though it was warm but with a strong cool breeze it was a pleasant walk. Along the way we bought some almonds and figs out the car boot of one of the locals. The church on top of the mountain was much more interesting and old. There were friendly people looking after it and they even said “Our Father“ for us in the Armenic language, which is the same language Christ spoke. There seems to be only 3 villages left who speak it. After coming down through the gorge again, we drove out over the mountain/hill ridge to another monastery at Seidnaya. It was also pitched up on a hill but accessible by car. We could not go into the church but did see the shrine in a dark room at the back which was covered in memorabilia for the healing’s which have occurred there. There was also doctor’s confirmation hanging on the wall. The drive back to town was a bit more hectic than the one out in the morning because we came in via smaller roads and directions were not as clear. Still we managed to drive through town and out to the Shell club which lies on the road to Beirut. The club has a large swimming pool and tennis courts with some table tennis and other facilities. We finally got some movement out of the boys without a long lecture from the mom and no long faces. Richard joined us after work and later on Pascal Schoepfer (ex colleague out Oman) and had a nice simple dinner and a few drinks. It was a good end to a nice stay in Damascus!