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In the footsteps of Lawrence of ArabiaMIDDLE EAST


In the footsteps
of Lawrence of Arabia

Article published in Superwheels magazine in 2000.

Journey to Israel, through Syria and Jordan: history, culture and some shadows to discover peoples full of traditions ..... and contradictions.

Read the story published in the magazine.

The journey to Aleppo is covered in a very strange fog at these latitudes. Damn, it's sand, blown by the desert wind and this will be a constant of this initial part of the route to the border with Iraq and even to Palmyra, further south.

Aleppo is a very attractive city, with a beautiful fortified citadel, an interesting archaeological museum, a mosque and a souk, defined by the guides as the most beautiful in Syria, and one of the best in the Middle East.

But it is along the Euphrates River that we begin to experience the true atmosphere of the Arab world, so authentic that we will struggle, and not a little, to find it during the journey. To remember this name: Dayr az Zawr.

If we liked the Aleppo souk, this is thrilling us! It has a unique authenticity. The long series of visits to castles and archaeological sites begins.

Human settlements from the third millennium BC have been found here.

In Palmyra, things are starting to change, both as regards the influx of tourists and the state of conservation of the site. The only drawback, the usual sand suspended in the air. The journey continues towards Crack dei Cavalieri, Damascus, but it is in Bosra that we touch another epic moment of our journey. The strong point of this town is the fortress that incorporates the Roman theater, practically intact.

Even in Jordan we allow ourselves to visit archaeological sites and castles, to get to Az Zarqa, in the heart of the desert on the border with Saudi Arabia, where we spend a nice evening with a group of Saudis and Iraqi exiles, in one of those restaurants. who are on the street and slaughtering sheep, or rams at the moment. But if in Syria we had begun to notice that tourism is starting to play a decisive role in the economy and people's behavior, in Jordan we are literally crushed by this reality. Petra is now a monster that engulfs 4000 tourists a day in high season !!! Lawrence is probably lost in the midst of this horde of grasshoppers. To Burckhardt, an archaeologist of Swiss origins, probably when he rediscovered it, in the first half of the 19th century, he will have made a different impression. If you want to visit it, do it early in the morning.

In Wadi Rum the feeling is confirmed: paying to enter the country, paying to go to sleep in the desert. Here, however, there is an alternative: about 10 km. before the village you come to a crossroads; well ignore the signs and the roadblock and take the road on the left which is completely free. You will travel for about sixty kilometers, practically all paved, in a valley similar to the other but without any control and where you can also camp if you want. In this desert, the most spectacular sequences of the film Lawrence of Arabia were shot.

The journey comes to an end; entry into Israel is characterized by extensive checks on baggage, vehicles and people, plus an interrogation of almost half an hour.

For reasons of time we are forced to cross it from south to north, limiting visits to Jerusalem and Akko. It is probably the most interesting nation, especially for the striking contrasts between the different cultures and religions and certainly deserves a closer look.

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