Requiem for a Castle

Way-back-when, in October, 2010, I went to Syria.  I’d just started my journey (September, 2010), having visited only Bulgaria and Turkey. I very much wanted to see for myself what this prominent member of the Axis of Evil had to offer.

Syria was my favorite country – maybe because it was the biggest surprise:  beautiful, with hospitable and kind people, easy to get around.  Since it was still early in my journey, maybe the biggest surprise of all was that life there paralleled life here:  people lived in apartments or houses, they went to work, and came home to their families at the end of the day.  Many drove cars. The children went to school.  People went  shopping – and making it exotic, they also shopped at the Souq.

This is the Souq  in Damascus, closed because it’s Saturday:

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The next 3 photos were taken in  the Souq in Aleppo, which is (was) ancient.  On October 1, 2012 it became a location  of destruction in their civil war, and it burned  grotesquely.  My research cannot determine if any of it is left.  

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These two women were pointed out to me by the shopkeeper as being very unpleasant.

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This cheerful young merchant openly shared with me that he was gay. I was alarmed for his candor, because that was illegal, but he seemed unconcerned.

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This shop specialized in glitzy fabrics

Everyone I met  wanted their children to do better than they did.  Also, they LOVED having an American visit.  “Go home and tell your friends we are not all terrorists” was the frequent request.

This morning, on the radio, I heard that a castle I had visited, a very special castle way high up on a mountain overlooking forever, had been bombed by airplanes.  There were people called rebels inside the castle.  Now the rebels and the castle are gone.

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“Author Paul Theroux described Crac des Chevaliers as the epitome of the dream castle of childhood fantasies. TE Lawrence simply called it ‘the finest castle in the world’. Impervious to the onslaught of time.”*

I’d stayed in the town beside  Craq de Chevaliers for 3 nights because it was so beautiful there.  I did yoga on my little balcony that overlooked both the castle and the forever valley below.

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Me  on my balcony holding my yoga strap.

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One View of Forever

I was stunned when I found out that the receptionist, who slept there on a couch near the lobby, NEVER got a day off – at least not in six months.  Of course I wondered why he didn’t get another job or start a union, so I asked.    There were no other jobs and there certainly were no unions.  This very polite man who spoke excellent English was also, he told me, a University graduate and an Accountant.  There were no other jobs.

I wandered around the ‘hood and met some locals.  These men drove me all the way down the 2,130’ “hill” to the Lebanon border and found me my next taxi.  I think they threatened the Lebanese cab driver to make sure he’d treat me well (he did).

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Two of the many travel “angels” who made sure my border crossings met no glitches – especially since I spoke no Arabic.

I’d spent a lot of time at the castle, pondering its location, naively believing it would always be impervious to invaders.

There is so much I do not know and do not understand.

*from Lonely Planet, on line:  http://www.lonelyplanet.com/syria/crac-des-chevaliers#ixzz2Z3p21f6Z

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5 thoughts on “Requiem for a Castle

  1. Your telling of your visit, along with the knowledge of the current state of Syria, brought sadness and humility. Sadness for the war torn strife in Syria and a sense of helplessness as a witness to such destruction both in lives and community.

    • Beautiful, Meri. Thanks for sharing the photos and your good & memorable experiences. Very sad what has happened since you were there. love

  2. Very poignant, Meri. It is good to hear about the humanity that we all share regardless of where we live. If only that is what was covered in the 24 hour news cycle, we might have less destruction. Thank you for sharing your insights. Susan

  3. It’s amazing how visiting a place can make one realize our common humanity and the shared desire to live a peaceable life. I feel that way now about Turkey. So very sad that a wonderful historic building has been reduced to rubble. Thanks for sharing.

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