Saturday, September 15, 2007

Change of Plan - Destination Middle East

A couple of weeks back i recieved an email from a Israeli friend of mine (Dekel) who lives in Jerusalem, inviting me to come and stay with her. I liked the absurdness of this suggestion, so i did some research into flights from Istanbul to Tel Aviv (Israel). Immediately i realised that flying was not an option, because flights were too expensive.

This left a much more exciting option for getting to Israel, that being to travel overland through Syria and Jordan. Maybe that way i would see a scene something like that pictured in this blog entry. As you can see i ended up seeing something precisely like this picture.

So my plan to hit eastern europe was put aside for the moment. Travelling through Syria was apparently easier said than done. The Syrian embassy advised me that i could not travel through Syria without a pre-arranged visa, which i obviously did not have. I didn't believe them, because i had heard elsewhere that visas could be issued on the border. Secondly, Syria will not let you into the country if you have intentions to visit Israel, or if they see evidence that you have visited israel (stamp in passport etc).

I made a risky call to take a long long bus ride to the Syrian border from Cappadocia, on the hope that i would be able to obtain an entry visa. Upon my arrival at the Syrian immagration office on the border (after a long night on the bus), i was whisked away into an office where i met my first syrian.
'Where are you from?', he says.

'I'm from NZ', i reply proudly.

'Oh', he says. worryingly.

'Do you have a visa?'

'No, i was hoping to get one from you actually', i said with a wry smile.

'Im afraid this is not possible', he said sternly. 'You must return to Istanbul'.

My heart sinks, as my thoughts immediately turn to the 20 hour bus ride i am about to endure back to Istanbul. All of a sudden the stern border control official with an AK 47 on his lap bursts out laughing and starts ranting in arabic to his side kicks about how he tricked me. I've got to give it to him, it must have been hilarious watching my face drop. This type of dry humour is fairly typical of turkish and arabic guys, yet i never see it coming.
I picked up a visa for free. I would have paid over US$60 if i had been more organised. Funny how that works sometimes. That is Syria for you.

This is where the next fantastic chapter of my Journey began.


Mum and Dad said...

Hi J
I hope it is as easy to get out of the middle east. I can't understand why you would want to go there in the first place.
Enjoy and be safe
Love Mum

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