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01: UK-Scandinavia
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05: Morocco: Fes/Marrakech
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Special Features:
Kirsten writes about exploring the Middle East

Kirsten's dispatch about her Indian adventure

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Current Status:
Back home in Seattle as of 1 August 2001

London Bombay Cebu

Exploring the Middle East!
by Kirsten Laurel

Kirsten's Journal #1: Turkey & Syria
15 February 2001
Damascus, Syria
A few weeks ago, we crossed the border from Italy. The customs were no problem. We didn’t do anything in Greece. We just drove through it. Maybe next year we’ll take a boat around the Greek Islands. When we got to Turkish customs, it was very disorganized.

In Turkey, we went to Cappadocia and saw the fairy chimneys where people used to live. We also went to an underground city. It was dug out from the hardened ash. You could even see little marks from where they dug it out thousands of years ago. You can also see smoke from the fires and soot from the oil lamps. They didn’t need chimneys because the volcanic ash absorbed the smoke. They had everything they needed, even stables to put the animals in. Christians used the underground city when the Muslims were attacking them. Sometimes the Christians would stay there for 3 months at a time. Also, in Istanbul, we got into some mosques.

The Muslims don’t eat pork because they think it is filthy. They can’t kill spiders because they saved Mohammed’s life. So, they hung ostrich eggs in the mosque to keep the spiders away. So there were eggs in there hundreds of years old. The Muslims also love cats because Mohammed said this is the one animal we will treat kindly. One day, we were exploring the ruins and we decided to visit Soganli, where the famous Soganli dolls come from. Out of nowhere, these ladies came running down from their houses with armfuls of dolls. We bought one from the person who got there first, then she invited us to have tea with her family. There were four generations of family there!

I’m finally in the Middle East and crossed the border to Syria. In Aleppo, we saw the souq and the citadel. On the way to Palmyra, we saw the Krak des Chevaliers. It’s the best preserved Crusader castle in the world. And I’m not lying!

Palmyra is amazing. Pottery pieces are just lying around everywhere. You can see statues of people that were wealthy. Palmyra wanted to show how rich they were, so the rich people put statues of themselves in front of their houses and on pillars along the entrance to the city. I saw the tombs where they buried the dead. I also went into an underground tomb where there were sculptures of the people that died. If you look at the same guy now, he looked a lot different then. The skulls we saw are creepy!!! One person was buried with his oil lamps. When we were seeing the tombs, we saw our friends from New Zealand. And later, we met a man from Saudi Arabia, even though we could barely communicate with him.

Join me as we explore a newly discovered underground tomb in Palmyra! This one is not yet open to visitors, so we were lucky to get permission to go inside. It is perfectly preserved, with some of the original inhabitants still in place! Click on the picture to the left to see a Quicktime video clip.

The next day, we spent driving to Damascus, the biggest city in Syria. On our way there, we got caught in a sandstorm. Today, we went into another mosque and walked around a souk. Later, we had some Syrian ice cream, made from wheat flour and rose water.

Check out this cool bubble picture of us in the Damascus Souk! Click on the picture to the right to check it out. Remember, you will need the IPIX Plug-in to see the picture.

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