Day 7 - Mon 4 Dec 06
Alarm went off at 07:30 but snoozed on for a bit, a nice hot shower and got all my stuff ready for a day out on the road. Got next door by 08:30, and shock, my driver is waiting for me. As a joke I told my man that I was going on the Cairo Hotel tour instead, but he was having none of it - too well informed he knew that no one (apart from me) was staying at the Cairo!
My car is, as promised, a 1952 Pontiac, but I soon find out that the running gear is all Nissan. It's got Air Con, alarmed, remote control central locking, and even a DVD player!
The first stop is the Mosaic Museum at Ma'arat An-Nu'aman. Some great mosaics, but I'm watched like a hawk but the security guy, so I can't get any photo's. There's one of Romulus and Remus, and a few more of lions killing antelope. I'm unsure if I'd 'hang' them on my walls, but there's no doubt they are great works of patience and art.
The it was onward to Serjilla, one of the dead cities - a weird place, in the middle of nowhere there's this town with intact ancient buildings, just as if the people have just stepped out for a bit. There is no noise, and I was there on my own, kinda creepy really - I took my photos and got away! Then it was just around the corner to see some tombs. The first had a complete pyramid on top. This was Al-Bara, and there's a well preserved monastery as well that I had a good poke around.
Back into the Pontiac and off to the highlight of the trip Apamea, a sort of mini Palmyra. I was dropped off at one end of the intact roman colonnade, and was instructed to walk down to be collected at the other end (about 2Km). There were a couple of touts selling postcards and roman coins, but other than them I had the place to myself. It's amazing how much of this Roman stuff is still here and in one piece.
Towards the end of the walk I did spot a couple of other tourists, a South African Guy, and a couple from Belgium. My driver was playing Backgammon with his pal in the Restaurant, and I watched while they finished the game. My driver won. We took a quick detour to the top of a nearby citadel on a small hill top. You can drive up to a small courtyard, but after that it's small alleys, so we drove back down.
The final stop of the day was Qala'at Sheisar, a complete castle on a hill which towers above the town below. Once I'd climbed up I realised that the castle is huge and overlooks a bend in the canyon cut deep by the river. I guess the castle was here to guard the kink in the river. I spent an hour wandering around and trying not to fall off - then it was a drive back to Hama.
The Riad Hotel isn't running any tours to the Krak tomorrow, but I met up with an Irish guy (Ed), and a Brit (Chris), and we headed out to find something to eat. We found a restaurant we no other customers and proceeded to order stuff at random from the Arabic menu - More by good luck than judgement/language skills, we ended up with some good tucker.
The Cairo will run me a private taxi to the Krak tomorrow for 1200SYP, about ten times what it would cost on the bus, but Krak isn't the easiest place to get to on public transport, so I agree. I don't think I can face Homs again, this way I'm guaranteed somewhere to sleep even if I have to come back to Hama.
I'm not feeling that great, as I appear to have picked up a cough. I spotted a pharmacy while I was out, and mimed my cough and sore throat to the bloke behind the counter, and managed to purchase some lozenges which seem to be helping me get to sleep at least.