I came back to Syria in record time – 22 hours from Istanbul. On the flight from London, I spoke to the Turkish woman next to me about buses leaving the airport, and she offered me a lift, through her friend’s car, to the nearest bus station. Arriving at the station, a bus was just leaving for the border, “Quick, run!” A night and morning of way stations, snowy black hills and a next-seat neighbour with big knees. At one meal stop, the bus rocked back and forth from the winter’s gale.
At the mountains of Antakia, a bus was just about to leave for Syria: “Quick, run!” Through the border, helping three Korean backpackers understand the Turkish officials’ Arabic. By 5pm I was back in Damascus. I dozed in a hotel room until a Syrian friend came round to say hi, and we chatted in the leafy, frozen courtyard.
At nine pm, I went to the airport to collect my friend Gari. Both of us wanted to leave Damascus, so we’ve come north to Lattakia. The city is by the sea, and close to the mountains and surrounded by the green fields and hills of northwestern Syria. It is cold. It is cold enough for two jumpers to mean little. It is also cheap to live here: 25p gets you a big glass of carrot and banana juice – 15p a felafel sandwich. I would like to be writing more but have spent the last two mornings suffering from migraines – today, I’m glad to be on my feet but still fragile. I seem to get migraines every September and January.
My friend Tim is arriving next week, and a local friend of a friend is helping the three of us find a flat to rent.