the first time I saw snow (on the way to Cappadocia)

Location: Cappadocia, Turkey
Year: 2009

I’m pretty sure I will forever be remembered as the annoying Australian who wouldn’t shut up about seeing snow on the bus ride from Antakya to Cappadocia. To be fair, it snowed once in my hometown (July, 1996 ) in the Adelaide Hills, but it was pretty much glorified frost that lasted a few more hours than usual. It wasn’t cold enough to snow when I made it to Goreme, a small town in Cappadocia, Turkey, but one day I went out to the Ilhara Valley, and that’s when I got to take my first step on snow.

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the time we made tell Dan jokes at Tel Dan

Location: Tel Dan
Year: 2012
If you ever cross from Jordan into the Holy Lands (aka Palestine or Israel — but not wanting to offend either side I’m just going to stick with Holy Lands because that’s one thing we can all agree on), the sparse, barren desert-like landscape might have you wondering ‘Can this really be the Promised Land?’ But then you head north for a couple of hours, past the Galilee, and into territory that will earn you text messages from the local telco(s) saying ‘Welcome to Lebanon,’ and ‘Have a great stay in Syria!’ and after freaking out that you’re in the Golan Heights, you realise why this place is called the Promised Land.

We travelled here last summer (northern hemisphere summer, that is) with our good friends Dan and Danielle. Needless to say, when we found the national park, Tel Dan, the puns available to us were endless.

tel dan-tiff

the time I wandered through Salt

Year: 2013
Location: Salt, Jordan

Although we’ve lived in Jordan for 2.5 years now, we have never quite managed to get out to this little town (I blame our awful split weekends where we have to go to school on Saturdays!) Salt is an hour bus trip out of Amman, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Salt was actually the capital of Jordan when the Ottomans had run of the mill back in the day, hence the pretty Ottoman architecture. Despite the heat, we had a great day wandering the streets and climbing the hills.

the time I walked down Straight Street

Location: Straight Street, Damascus
Year: 2011

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying — Acts 9:11

This be that street! Found in the Christian Quarter of Old Damascus, it’s a street lined with stores selling anything from pyramid-shaped spices to bulging buckets of Vaseline. When I was there, there were also many restaurants and bars. It’s devastating to know that violence has reached Old Damascus. It will be interesting to see what remains at the end of it all… if there will be an end, which sadly I can’t imagine happening any time soon.

the time I went to Garbage City

 

Location: Garbage City, Cairo, Egypt
Year: 2012

Garbage City was probably one of my (unexpected) favourite places in Cairo. It’s an area inhabited by the Coptic Egyptians on the outskirts of Cairo. It’s essentially a ginormous recycling centre, except people live amongst it, and sorting out Cairo’s waste is a means of survival for them. We also got to visit some Coptic churches while we were there, and met some beautiful people with amazing stories.

the (first) time I visited the Ummayed Mosque

Location: Damascus, Syria
Year: 2008

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Syria three times (four if you count travelling back through to get from Lebanon to Jordan). This mosque is one of my favourites; I’m not sure why, because there are prettier ones out there, but there’s something special about this one. It’s set in the heart of the old city; found at the end of ancient cobble-stoned alleyways lined with crawling vines, dainty Damascene handicraft stores, croissant-sellers and tea houses. The mosque is still used as a place of prayer, but Syrians are very welcoming to foreigners checking it out, just as long as you’re wearing your special clothes.

the time I caught a taxi across the Syrian/Turkish border

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Date: Jan 2009

This was the incredible taxi driver who managed to weave in and out of the 2km (no joke) queue  of trucks at the Syrian/Turkish border crossing, in the tinniest car in the world (think SmartCar tiny). As you can see, road rules in this part of the world are what we call flexible or ‘more like guidelines’. Anyway, this driver was a lovely guy who bought my friends and me bananas at a road stop and most importantly, got us through safely to the other side.

the time I convinced my husband to leave Australia and move to Syria

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Besides talking about writing and my books and whatnot, I thought I would include my very own Travel Tales about some of the places I’ve been lucky enough to see.

This picture was taken two years ago today, when my husband and I arrived in Damascus, Syria. We were exploring the rooftop of an old Damascene house in which we stayed the first night we arrived. I was panicking slightly because although I’d visited Syria two years prior to this, it was my husband’s first experience of the Middle East and this place wasn’t the most comfortable or rain proof of houses and I was worried he’d say, ‘Right, I can’t do this, I’m going back to Australia!’

And as we’re still in the Middle East two years later, my fears never came to pass.