After a couple of nights in Hama we were half-way through our Syrian adventure. We had decided to take another train part of the way for the hell of it – for less than an hour between Hama & Homs.
We stopped briefly in Homs, first negotiating a taxi for the ride south, a price that included our driver storing our rucksacks in his boot whilst we explored Homs for a couple of hours.
I have no idea why we chose to do that as I remember absolutely nothing of the city and believe we cut short our stay to head off early. Our stop off lasted an hour or so, before we were on our way to our next big destination – Palmyra with its famous desert city built by the Romans.
We arrived at dusk and checked into the modern Hotel Palmyra. We had to forcibly restrain ourselves from going to the Roman site for a peak, determining to visit for both sunrise and sunset next day.
Despite a relatively early night, I awoke at the allotted hour of five next morning feeling not too well and told Hamish that I would not make it. He therefore left alone.
Thirty minutes later I was getting dressed. I still felt below par, but thoughts of Hamish coming back to tell me how beautiful sunrise had been spurred me into action.
I made it just in time, positioning myself with an excellent view of the Temple of Bel in the foreground and the colonnades with the iconic triumphal arch in the distance as the sun rose from behind the temple.
The only noise was the odd rumble of my stomach as the site was deserted. I spotted a Hamish a few hundred metres away. We were both in our element of course.
After dozens of pictures, a tour around the huge temple and a walk along the colonnade, we decided it was time for breakfast. Happily my appetite was returning sufficiently to enjoy some bread and tomatoes with tea back at the hotel.
After an hour’s break it was off again. First stop the museum. As usual the exhibits were viewed with whistlestop speed, but included in the price of the ticket was entry to some funerary towers a few kilometres into the desert.
We were told to stand outside and await transport to the buildings that were used to house the stone coffins of the great and the good of Palmyra society.
The coffins were hoisted up to different levels and slid into place. The more esteemed you were deemed to be, the higher and closer to God you were placed. We even had a museum guide to tell us the history of the towers.
After an hour or so we asked our driver if he would take us back. We bade him farewell after our return, only for him to demand money. Something had either been lost in translation (we had assumed that the transport was included in the museum entry price) or this was a scam.
As he was getting more than a little aggressive we paid up – not worth worrying about in the scheme of things.
After a chilled out afternoon we returned to the site for sunset. What a superb setting the ruins made as we snapped away as the sun sunk slowly below the horizon.
The colonnades made perfect screens for us to photograph the descending sun between. Slowly and surely the sky changed colour, the light created bouncing off the marble structures to pleasing effect.
We lingered for quite some time. There was hardly anybody around and the silence was indeed golden. As we sat, darkness enveloped us and glowing stars started to show their splendour. A call to prayer grew in the distance – a memorable few hours banked firmly as a de-stress image whenever required. Click SUNSET for a short video.
Next day we were taking the bus to the capital – we would finally be on the road to Damascus…….