After staying two nights in Palmyra and taking full day to visit the site, we leave in the morning to drive to Aleppo. Since we’ll be driving down the coast on the way back to Damascus later, we take the eastern road, bringing us close to the Iraqi border. We stop first at a desert palace built in the 7th century BC. It is an unguarded site, not easy to find. The strange thing about it is that you can recognize that some of the columns came from Palmyra. Several columns stand out because of their colour and structure: they are made from Aswan granite and nobody knows how they got here.
We drive on through the desert. There is only one decent road, so it’s almost impossible to get lost. Rien has a GPS, it doesn’t show our location on the map (no maps available for Syria), but we can at least see our GPS location.
Mostly, Arne is driving, while I’m the co-pilot with the map and control over the music. Rien and Jan are installed in the back with one of the suitcases between them, because it didn’t fit in the trunk. The next stopping point is Resafah, a walled Byzantine city in the middle of nowhere. Its wall is still standing and some the inside structures are recognizable, like two churches and three huge cisterns. All of it is built from some kind of glittery stone, which makes it look like marble.
Again, there are no marked paths and there is no information available for tourists, so we use the guide books to guide ourselves through the ruins. Most of the remains are buried under the desert sand, only some are excavated.
We make use of the very basic facilities at the restaurant next to the site and continue on to Aleppo. On the way, we stop to admire the Tabqah dam and lake Assad. We find our way to the waterside by simply driving north through the neighbourhoods until we see the water. After driving through the dessert it is a surprise to see so much of it and it’s easy to believe this dam has had a huge impact and both actual and diplomatic wars have been and are still being fought over the water levels of the Euphrates river.
There is a small park next to the water with some benches, but the walkways and railings are in bad repair, the grass dry and patchy.
In Aleppo we’ve chosen an old but famous hotel, where Agatha Christie had stayed during her travels. We play cards in the evening as usual.