Palmyra, Syria: Fabulous Roman Ruins 36


Currently of course, Syria is a travel no-go, but when things clear up (hopefully with a new democratically elected ruler), I can’t recommend a place any higher. One of the many things to see there are the Roman ruins of Palmyra, which are completely different than those at Baalbek and Jerash.

Palmyra is of a scope that is much more vast than the other two locations. It stretches out over hundreds of acres and will impress you most on that basis — its vastness. While Baalbek and Jerash gave me a better sense of what it was like to live in those places at that time, Palmyra just gives off the impression of…. “wow, tens of thousands of people really did live here a couple thousand years ago.”

Palmyra entrance gates in B&W

Step through the gates and back in time....

Just a quick reflection on the current events in Syria.

Syria is a country currently going through horrible turmoil in an effort by its people to overthrow decades of totalitarian government. It is an effort that is long overdue and I wish that the West, including my country, would get more forcibly behind the hundreds of thousands of brave Syrians that are clamoring for democracy in a completely and totally peaceful way.

I am in awe of the restraint and courage the protesters are showing.

My trip through Syria was a few weeks before everything really started blowing up. It was my second time in this wonderful country and all I can say is that the Syrian people’s hospitality, friendship and general kindness rivals any other country on the planet, including New Zealand.

I was humbled in my two trips through Syria, first in 2009 on my RTW trip and then again this spring, with the unadulterated kindness of its people. Just one story to help highlight how welcoming they are.

As I left Palmyra in the late afternoon, I met a Syrian guy that appeared to be in his early 30s. He spoke excellent English and started up a conversation with me as we waited for the little mini-bus that was going to take us half-way across the country, to Homs. After a little while, in typical Syrian fashion, he offered to open his home to me, allow me to have dinner with his family, and spend the night there. I had to decline because I only had one day left in Syria and wanted to see the Noriahs of Hama again (and also take the Syrian train down to Damascus the next day, since I am a sucker for trains).

When we got dropped off at the bus station in Homs, it turned out that it wasn’t the same bus station I needed to be at to get the next short bus to Hama. No problem, my new friend hailed me a cab and jumped in, in order to make sure I made it to the right location. When we got there, he not only refused to let me pay for the whole cab fare, he also refused to let me pay my share, saying “you are in my country now, of course you must let me pay.” Then he wandered around the bus station with me for a while, making sure that I got on the right bus in the end.

And didn’t want anything for his troubles at all. Just being an ambassador for his country. Which made me think:

Would I do the same for a complete stranger visiting my country?

I know the answer would have been “no” a few years ago, but I certainly hope I’d be a better ambassador for my country now that I have been exposed to incredible kindness of strangers from around the world.

Now back to photos of Palmyra.

Palmyra main street Syria Roman ruins

main street in Palmyra

Palmyra Temple of Bel

Temple of Bel -- the largest building on site

Palmyra Monumental Arch and Entrance from Temple of Bel viewpoint

Palmyra Monumental Arch and Entrance from Temple of Bel viewpoint

Palmrya theatre ruins

Palmrya theatre.... all the world's a stage

Palmyra Crusader Castle and Camel

you know I had to try ONE photo tweeked out, so tried color on the camels' blanket and B&W on the rest

Palmyra carvings close up shot

the intricate stonework amazes me at these various sites

Palmyra entrance arch

Palmyra Monumental Entrance Arch

Palmyra Entrance Arch with Crusader Castle in background

Palmyra Entrance Arch with Crusader Castle in background

 

 


About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.


36 thoughts on “Palmyra, Syria: Fabulous Roman Ruins

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      You don’t need a special visa, but if you are from the States, you need to get your Syrian visa from the Syrian Embassy in the States, before you leave. You can’t get it at the border anymore.

  • Jeremy Branham

    What a great story about the kindness of a stranger in Syria! Like you, I am not sure I would do the same but I think we don’t value people and relationships as much here. I’ve met people from Syria here in the US and I really hope for all of them that peace comes soon.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Yea, it is such an interesting and great country. Given the “Arab Spring” that might be taking over the region, I’ve got some hope, but only if the governments of the world start paying attention and putting real pressure on Assad.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Yep, they are amazingly strict on that requirement. The most complete exam I have ever seen of my passport was my two visits there.

  • Erik

    Agree on the point about the West getting behind change in Syria. No one leaves Syria with reports of anything but kindness.

    Great photos, too.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      thanks for the complement, Erik. Loved shooting photos in that place. Should have stayed a few more days and hit different kinds of light, really.

  • Holgs

    “you are in my country now, of course you must let me pay.”… reminds me when I went to Bosra and tried to buy a chocolate bar in a local shop – I got the chocolate, but the guy refused to take my money because I was a guest in his country!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      That is an even more amazing story. That a shop keeper would refuse money. So cool.

  • Sunee

    I’m a sucker for old ruins (think I’ve mentioned that before) and I love reading your posts on places I will probably never get to see for myself.

    Your anecdote also really makes one think. I probably also won’t go out of my way to help a stranger, not to that extent at least, but perhaps we should? There definitely seems to be a different mindset between the people of these middle eastern countries and western countries with regards to helpfulness and hospitality. And I can argue about safety as much as I like, but I’m sure it’s just as dangerous to help a random stranger over there as it is here in SA.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Personally, I have experienced some amazing kindness from strangers all over the world, and I am sure that I would experience some of that in the States if I was a stranger, but…. I’m not entirely sure of that. Something about being in the First World, I think, since I have personally experienced more kindness in the Third World.

  • Emily in Chile

    Wow. These photos are incredible. I’ve wanted to visit Syria and Lebanon since taking a couple classes on Middle Eastern politics as an international relations major, but this post got the classical civilization minor part of me wanting to go too.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      You would really love it, if you studied that in college. It is a truly amazing part of the world. Can’t wait to read about you going there!

  • Debbie Beardsley

    What a great way to honor Syria! Your pictures are amazing as is your story about the kindness of a misunderstood people. I too hope all the countries can work out their differences very soon.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Really have enjoyed both of my times there and can’t wait to go back in the future. Thanks for the complement on the photos!

  • Hogga

    I always say it’s the people that make or break a place for me. Maybe I’m a social butterfly… maybe I’m just needy. Glad to hear you might possibly be nicer back in the US now haha.

    PS Nice pictures

    Ruins are big and stuff.

  • dtravelsround

    I like your “tricked out” pic! And, I really like the hospitality you were shown. I find it so endearing to a country when people who live there are so amazing and kind. I noticed it a lot in Turkey and Morocco.

  • Erica

    I really hope that I would do the same when it came to being in my home as well. Your post makes me want to visit to badly (besides the fact it has been haunting my dreams lately).

  • Jenna

    Wow, these ruins are incredible. And a great story of culture and hospitality. I haven’t been to the Middle East, but I have many students from there and can imagine that Syrians would be helpful and warm as they were with you.

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam

    I was there a few years back and loved it! As you mentioned, the people are among the friendlest on the planet. I got invited in for tea several times, and even had cars stop in more remote places just to ask me if I needed a ride. Imagine how friendly they would be when they get their independence?

  • Merav | AllWays Christchurch Rental Cars

    I think this kind of kindness can be found anywhere, even in first world countries. It’s a matter of luck (or lack of it) who you meet on your way.
    If we could let these people to make the decisions instead of the so called world leaders, I’m sure we will be surprised to find out how very similar we are in what we want from life.

  • Don Faust

    Sounds like a great place to visit. It looks like the Palmyra Monumental Entrance Arch is about ready to collapse – I hope they maintain it soon.

  • Theodora

    Let’s hope for democracy, rather than theocracy, in any case. Syria’s a fascinating place and I’m really keen to visit once they’ve done their thing…

  • Phoebe Wheeler

    That a shop keeper would refuse money. Glad to hear you might possibly be nicer back in the US now haha. The most complete exam I have ever seen of my passport was my two visits there.

Comments are closed.