Departure was finally at 10:00 hrs. (We never seem to be able to depart any early even if we have plan to do so. I guess travelling with two teenagers is different than travelling with younger kids. Teeners love their lie-in.) Only Bernard and Rudy had breakfast. The others are not such breakfast persons (does it show?). Paying the $160 for the Hotel was a bit of a problem. They only take cash. No credit facility. They walked me to a cash point machine around the corner where I could take the money and pay the bill. The drive out of Aleppo to the north went without problems. Jamaliah is really getting the hang of reading the maps and here lessons in Arabic script are coming back so she manages to read the direction on the signs. Before crossing into Turkey at Kilis we made a detour on advice from some friend to visit one of the oldest Christian basilica at Saint Simion (Qal’at sam’an).
It was a beautiful drive through the rolling hills over small roads and through some little settlements. At the ruined basilica there were however more tourists so it is a popular place with the Christians of Syria/Lebanon. It is a large ruined church and surrounding monastery built on top of a hill (476 – 490) in honor of St. Simion, who sat on top of a pillar most of his life to get away from the people below him. It was worth the detour. Moreover we heard at the church of the ruins of another temple in Ain Dara which was on our route to the border.
Rudy had to also visit that because it was the only pre-Greek/Roman site visited on our tour. It was on top of a tell and there was a beautiful large granite statue of a winged lion as well as the remains of several other statues surrounding the temple/altar to the goddess Ishtar. It was built and used between 1200 and 700 BC. We had seen photographs of it in the museum in Aleppo. Jamaliah, getting sicker (by now having ear pain), and the boy’s, stayed in the car in the shade of the ticketing house at the bottom of the hill.
After this it was a quick drive up to the border and there it took some 2 hrs to cross. First on the Syrian side they had trouble entering the passports in the computer because our passport numbers have letters in them and the computer does not accept these. (New Dutch passports). After some 20 min of discussions etc. amongst themselves they found a way to do it. Fortunately the customs man stamped the Carnet papers without demanding a new payment of diesel tax. (I left on Day 8 instead of 7). At the Turkish border things did not go so smoothly. Since we did not have a visa we first had to buy the visa stamps ($15 each) but the man with the stamps was out. After 20 min he resurfaced and then all went smooth. Buying the car insurance ($30) was also no problem and we changed some money as well. Several other cars had to unpack everything so we were worried that we had to do the same. Jamaliah’s innocent look however got us through. We still could not leave the border station because the entrance gate was closed and several cars were waiting. The computer was down so they could not register us entering (I thought the custom’s man had already done that). After another 15 min they started to record the vehicle details on paper and we could cross the gate and enter Turkey. The roads were a lot better as well as the cars newer. The first town we drove through was clean and modern. We made it to the motorway without problems and set out east to Sanliurfa. It was past 18:00 when we drove into this town searching for the old town center and a hotel. Just when we were about to turn back to a bypassed hotel Rudy saw the city walls on top of a hill. We drove in that direction and ended up in the city center below the walls. We will see what the walls hide tomorrow. We left JJ and Anton in the car while Bernard and Rudy went looking for a hotel. The first one was OK but we just could not communicate with the man at the front desk. While searching for a cash point machine we found another basic hotel where the beds are rented out per person and booked 2 rooms (23 euro each). By this time JJ and Anton were starving because they have not eaten anything decent all day so we quickly went to find a restaurant (of course no beer). After that it back in the room, boiling hot water in our little cooker for JJ’s medicine and off to bed/typing.