The following day, we planned to go somewhat early to the Dibeen Reserve, one of the less-developed of RSCN’s nature sanctuaries, hoping to avoid the fees associated with the parks that have more facilities for visitors. I asked the hotel owner where we could get some foul, a question which prompted him to lead me once again by the arm to the window, whereupon he gesticulated wildly in a manner that almost seemed to be a formal sign language in order to try to communicate to me where it was. A few Arabic words were thrown in for good measure, though they made little sense without a full understanding of the sign language. Nevertheless, I felt like I had a reasonable idea of what he was trying to communicate and we headed off in search of breakfast. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘transportation’
Getting out of Damascus ended up being rather more complicated than we had expected. The staff at our hotel had given us rather specific times—five of them, in fact—at which busses leave from the Sulmariya station on the outskirts of town to Amman. We were aiming to catch the 3pm bus and arrived at the station after having ridden the 12km through Damascus and its suburbs at about 2:15. We were beckoned by one fellow to the window of a particular company to get tickets. I was a bit dubious, being under the impression that there were competing companies with service to Amman, but it turned out that this company actually had no spaces left, it was leaving at 2:30, it was the only bus of the day, and this was the only company offering service to Amman. I called to hotel to verify the information and make sure that there wasn’t something that I was missing. Maybe there were departures from another station, or another company whose window was not yet open. The woman at reception simply insisted that there were five departures per day from the company which had just told me there was only one and seemed unwilling to accept that her information might need to be updated. (more…)
Our day in Damascus was slow, easy and relaxing. We wandered again around the old city, visiting the palace of As`ad Pasha al-Azem, the 18th century governor of Damascus. It was bigger and more elabrate architecturally than its smaller cousin that I wrote about in Hama, but the latter had been more carefully restored and, on a purely aesthetic level, found it more impressive. This Azem Palace in Damascus was more like a museum, with the focus being on the objects filling the rooms, and less on the rooms themselves. The cheezy dioramas were still there, and there were a great many artifacts that had been left in the old house or recovered from elsewhere. There were copious signs detailing the historical context of this period of the Ottoman Empire, although there was only passing mention of the diversion of resources (including the cutting off of Damascus’s public water supply) that was necessary to build this magnificent palace. What mention there was of such matters was left unexamined, while other signs made note of all the luxurious appointments built into the palace, such a retreat and respite being a virtual necessity for a man holding such grave daily responsibility as the Pasha. What a bunch of hogwash.
Perhaps the reader is thinking, “and what about you, o intrepid traveler? What has been so taxing about three weeks of vacation (and two more to go), wandering about the countryside of Syria, treated as a guest of honor wherever you go, that you should be in need of such ‘rest and relaxation’ in Damascus?” Touché, dear reader, touché. And it is not without a twinge of guilt that I announce that I’ll be giving up on the part of this trip that has been genuinely challenging: the cycling. Between my bum knee and Elaina’s “delicate constitution”, as she puts it (with a touch of irony, I presume), cycling through the much less hospitable (in terms of the terrain and the elements) territory of Jordan seems like stubborn folly. Instead, we’ll be doing the unthinkable: renting a car. It’s a little more than we’d like to spend, but will allow us to visit the sort of out-of-the-way places we might have hoped to have seen by bike, and is certainly cheaper than a knee operation.
With that in mind, the only obligation we spent the day attending to was figuring out how to get ourselves to Amman via bus (it was not possible to rent a one-way car to al-Aqaba from Damascus). The rest of the day was spent wandering, resting, relaxing and generally vacationing, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Try not to let your jealousy get to you.
The last several days have involved travel via a number of different modes of transportation. As I noted in my last post, the folks at the Jisr ash-Shughur train station were kind enough to store our bikes for us so that we could ride the train to Damascus to meet up with Adrienne. It was a bit strange to cover the distance we had taken three days to ride (admittedly with some significant scenic detours) in just a few hours. We arrived in Damascus early in the morning the next day, after an uncomfortable night’s sleep on the train. Still, we were in better shape than Adrienne, who had apparently required a little assistance getting to sleep the previous night and was still a bit groggy. Early as it was, we had some difficulty finding some food, so we sat for a bit in a little park, where, just before we got up to leave, the sort of wingnut I’ve rarely encountered outside of Santa Cruz approached us and seemed very much to want to “help” us. He was full of all sorts of praise for the European stock from which he had decided we all came. Despite the fact that some poor Texan was waiting for him, and despite the fact the we clearly weren’t interested in his “help,” he carried on and decided we really needed to know what our names looked like in bad, blocky Arabic and Armenian calligraphy. We eventually extricated ourselves from this self-professed philologist and headed to Mayssun’s house. (more…)
A conventional industry, whether based in manufacturing or agriculture, involves organzing people to produce. Mass production relies upon all the well-known methods of recruiting and disciplining a workforce, organizing their use of time, their movement, and their arrangement in physical space, and developing systems of instruction, supervision, and management. Mass tourism, by contrast, involves organizing people to consume. It relies upon similar methods of managing flows and timetables, arranging physical space, and instructing and supervising, to maximize the process of consumption. (Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts, p.199) (more…)
A couple days ago I had a horrible time getting to school on Qasr Al-Aini St., my usual route to school. The road was completely gridlocked for many blocks, and I had rather a hard time getting through the tightly packed cars. I had originally thought that it had something to do with overall traffic chaos as a result of football fans rushing to buy up tickets to the final match of the African Champions League (taking place today), but I learned later that it was because of the inaugural session of Egypt’s Parliament, located off of Qasr Al-Aini. Al-Masry Al-Youm had an article about the impact of such sessions on the local traffic, traffic which I’ve discussed here extensively. It turns out they halt traffic to allow representatives to cross the street, but for long stretches of time. I don’t generally pay much mind to the traffic cops since, unlike drivers, they have no particular leverage over me, but the article mentions the impact on pedestrians as well. I generally take my cues from other cyclists, most of whom, like pedestrians, will cross roads where there is space to do so, no matter what the traffic police are telling the cars to do. I wonder if perhaps I’m not being a bit too cavalier when it comes to government representatives.
This was a bit of an experiment. I decided to see what would happen if I strapped my little digital camera to the shoulder of my messenger bag. Below is evidence of what happened. The video came out alright, and you can get a sense of what it’s like biking downtown, but it is tilted at a 45º angle to the left. I hope you don’t get a crick in your neck trying to watch this. Luckily, as you will see, it documents only my ride from home (you’ll hear me say good morning to the security guard downstairs) to the AUC campus, which, as it turns out, is only 4 1/2 minutes. Unfortunately, you can also generally only see to my left, which leaves something to be desired. My shirt sleeve also covered up part of the lens in the wind. A much better video is available here. (more…)
Another thing i like about Cairo: the efficient use of motor scooters. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve seen a family of four packed onto a Vespa. Mother and father with kids hanging off in precarious ways, everyone all grins (well, i can only imagine the mother’s grin—she’s wearing the niqab), traveling at speed, robes thwapping in wake, in heavy traffic down the Corniche.
Despite not hanging out much with people, i seem to have made something of a name for myself. And it didn’t even require carrying a doll around. I’m apparently now well-known as the guy who rides his bike to school. (more…)