I spent two days earlier this week in the monastery at Marmusa. It’s an incredible place, definitely one of the “highlights” of Syria. I took a local bus to the town of Nebek, and then I got a taxi into the desert.
The taxi dropped me at the front entrance of the monastery, at the bottom of the mountain, and drove off. I couldn’t see any movement up there, and it occurred to me that if there was no one home, I would be in a lot of trouble. I had half a bottle of water, an extra day of light clothes and no mobile phone reception. It was about six pm, the shadows were already long, and there was nothing for miles except dust and rocks. A voice whispered that Syria was a serious place, perhaps one too serious for me. I began to climb the long winding stairs up the mountain, quickly wheezing.
Halfway up, I saw someone looking down at me from the ramparts, and I relaxed. I stayed relaxed for the two days I was there: three meals a day, my own room to sleep in, a huge library and a cool reading room. Incredible quiet times in the evenings: wind murmuring, distant planes echoing, dogs on the other side of the mountain barking, then pure silence. An 11th century church full of faded murals where the monks and nuns prayed and meditated every evening.
I plan to go back in a day or two, once I have (hopefully) sorted out a room to rent in August. With luck I will stay for a week, and work my way through their collection of books. After being here a month, I’m starting to feel content here in Syria, but I can only say this: moving countries is really hard. Hopefully I can put a deposit down on the room I’ve seen and escape Damascus until the current tenant moves out. Then, come back, stock the fridge with watermelons, chilled water, yoghurt, houmous, aubergines, tomatoes and spices, and begin my post-arrival life in Damascus.
Vamos a ver.