SYRIA :
THIRTY SIX YEARS ON A PILLAR
<Click the underlined titles to go to each chapter>

PRELIMINARIES

Oblivious of the long queue forming in front of him, the immigration officer is taking his own time in flipping through the pages of my passport. No doubt, the immigration officer is diligently performing his duties in weeding out unwelcomed and dangerous guests to the Syrian Arab Republic...

DAMASCUS : paradise that the Prophet hesitates to enter

"The Turkes say, that their Prophet Mahomet was once at Damascus, and that when he saw the pleasant situation of it... ; refused to enter into the Citie, lest the pleasantnesse ... move him there to settle an Easthly Paradise, and hinder his desire of the heavenly Paradise."
 
KRAK DES CHEVALIERS  : Crusader Memories
 
the Assassins.  Headed by the legendary Rashid as-Din, more popularly known to the West as Old Man of the Mountain,  he had the ability to command absolute loyalty from his followers through drugs (or as some said, black magic as well).  He used to impress visitors to his mountain strongholds by asking his followers to jump to certain death off the mountain cliff...

DAMASCUS  : Damascus of Islam and the Unknown Damascus of Christianity

"The street called straight is straighter than the corkscrew, but not as straight as a rainbow.  St Luke is careful not to commit himself; he does not say it is the street which is straight, but `the street which is called straight.  It is the only facetious remark in the Bible, I believe.
         Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869

PALMYRA - City of Palms

Hassan, the Bedouin swindler, now turned into Hassan, the swearer.  He screamed at me in Arabic, which I could not understand - probably the Arab version of that four letter word...I walked as quickly as I could along the Colonnade, towards the Theatre.

ALEPPO  - Fair City of the North
 
Under these roofs, one finds shops selling anything under the sun, cries and shouts of hawkers and labourers pushing carts, goods-delivery vans squeezing through the narrow pathways delivering , etc.  The whole atmosphere was exotic, although we had to contend with the dirty and semi-muddy ground, smell of slaughtered creatures for sale, the reckless van-drivers and the lack of ventilation in the souqs.

DEAD CITIES OF NORTHERN SYRIA - Thirty six years on a pillar

Food is delivered up to these holy men by monks and  devotees.   (I wonder how they get about their daily digestive business and the products !  The books I  read never seem to mention this.)

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Copyright@ Tan Wee Cheng, Singapore July 1997