Travels With Nate #13: Damascus to Hama

Damascus to Hama

October 31st

Guess what? Nate and I are in Hama, Syria! What? You have no idea where Hama is? Well get out your cool map of Syria (it’s behind that Steven King novel you still haven’t read) and head due north from Damascus. That’s where we are!

“How did we get here?” you ask. Well glad you brought it up, cuz Nate and I were going to tell you anyways! (Nate thinks I have totally lost the plot!)

This morning the four of us (Lyndon, Chris, Fee, and I – Nate has no say so about navigational matters) decided to make a move and head to Hama. Our guide book said it was a good base in which to see Karak des Chevaliers and then to Palmyria. It also said that probably the best hostel in Syria was there – no small claim.

We all had some errands to do in the morning, and we were going to meet back up at about 1p.m. I decided that Nate and I needed to go back to the Old City and Explore the Umayyad Mosque. Like always things didn’t really work out as planned! Nate and I began to hobble to the Old City. Things were really looking up, and the mosque was in sight (no more than 300 feet) when all of a sudden bunches of policemen showed up!

Well, what is going on? I wondered. Apparently Tony Blair decided that the mosque I was going to visit would be a great place to chat with the old Syrian President!

Oh well. I took a couple of pics of the motorcade and joined in with the cheering and welcoming of the two important people. (Well Nate and I decided that they had to be important, since they were hindering our sightseeing). Little did we know, but the crowd Nate and I hooked up with weren’t actually cheering, but more like leering. So here we are with all these people around me, shouting at the passing motorcade. So what did I do? I took pics of course!

Unfortunately things started to get a bit strange. The police decided that the best way to disperse all of these unruly people was to drive their motorbikes and cars into the crowd. I guess it started to work, since people began leaving very quickly. But for me and my poor foot I was unable to be as nimble as the general populous. I had to resort to using my cane as a weapon and giving anyone who was coming too close a quick sharp jab with it – I really felt like an old man. I love my cane…

I was plucked from the crowd by I nice police-type man, and he put me into a very flash motor car, and soon I was driven away into safety. Unfortunately this new safe place was nowhere near my hotel and in a place I didn’t know. Good thing I was able to flash a little card to my hotel, and some very friendly locals showed me the way.

Nate and I relayed the story to the rest of the group when we all met up at about 2p.m. (We are getting very used to Middle Eastern Time!) I was informed the others actually got to eat Tony’s leftover lunch! Cool! Well, we got the bus to Hama (lots of people crammed on a little bus complete with some guy with burlap bags full of birds) and not soon enough we all arrived safely.

The rest of the evening was spent with Chris in the vain attempt to get drunk. Hama looks like a pretty cool town, but getting beer seems to be something of a difficulty. We walked around for hours before finally finding a person that was going to take us to the “Engineers Club” (a place that is supposed to have beer). Unfortunately he took us to a very nice department store called the Jeans Club and looked very pleased that he took the whites to a place they haven’t been.. It was gut-wrenchingly funny and terribly painful, all at the same time.

We walked a while longer and finally found a restaurant that could sell us a beer. The only stipulation was the beer was “no coal”. “Whatever,” we proclaimed. We all smiled and were admitted inside. Well, “no coal” actually means “NO ALCOHOL!” so what we had, was not beer!

I still had a good time, kicking it with Chris, but finally we admitted defeat and headed back to the hotel to sleep. We didn’t have to worry about talking with Lyndon and Fee though, as they decided to get their own room for the night (ohhh-ohhhh, romance is in the air!).

Tomorrow we are all going to Karak des Chevaliers, the place where the Crusaders were finally driven out of Syria. Should be cool!

PS: If you have any questions about places I’ve been or am going feel free to e-mail me at