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  #1  
Old 12 Apr 2011
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Anyone in Syria and can shed some light on the situation

Hi Guys,
I should be travelling from Istanbul to Sharm in just over a week. Does anyone know what the situarion in Syria is like on the ground. This morning the FCO have advised againts all but essential travel. If anyone ones on the road there at the mo, how is everyithing looking? If one avoids the hot spots then is that enough to stay out of trouble?
Thanks

Maz
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  #2  
Old 13 Apr 2011
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I'm not there, but read the text quoted below on lonelyplanet re jordanian border.

I can't imagine problems just driving through via the Aleppo or Damascus ring roads for example, but you can't legislate for potential border closures if it escalates.

Quote:
the situation IS getting more serious. a few people I know were refused entry from jordanian border yesterday, and they weren't the only ones. Jordanian officials telling people not to go to Syria and that they anticipate border closing. heavy military presence (because of kurdish issues I think) at Turkish border. some people getting detained at Lebanese border, more than usual.
Quote:
. For tourists, the short story is that you should not hang around whenever a protest is building up anywhere, and keep out of the main areas of struggle such as Duma, Harasta, Dera3, Baniyas and Ladakkiye. That said, police and military are friendly and helpful and will get out of their way to assist. By the way more than ever before.

Some of the recent developments I observed over the past weeks are that checkpoints have been established in some places outside Damascus. A bit confusing for foreign friends of mine who were travelling after sunset, yet they were treated in a very friendly way
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  #3  
Old 13 Apr 2011
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Why are you afraid of travelling to a place if there are hundreds of local people protesting governments. let them use their democratic rights.
Is it a democratic right when only you do it?

Books, newspapers.., do you believe all written....The worst is done in your
home countries..Why dont you talk about thousands protesting your government, or your police beating, arresting the protestors. Is your home country more safe....

Middle east is more different than Africa..Its not easy to play games here.
People and authorities are always beside you, friendly and honestly if you
are a sincere traveller.

Go, live and taste.
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  #4  
Old 13 Apr 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by istanbul bisiklet motosiklet View Post
Why are you afraid of travelling to a place if there are hundreds of local people protesting governments. let them use their democratic rights.
Is it a democratic right when only you do it?

Go, live and taste.
Tricky subject this, but I support the sentiments expressed by istanbul bisiklet motosiklet.

What I've learned when inadvertently entering a protest area of some sort in Turkey, the Middle East and South America, is to observe the protesters first. If there are families with young children, or more so, babes in arms or on backs, then it's likely to be pretty safe and friendly.
By whatever means possible, dress or behaviour, make it obvious you're a tourist. If any local people feel danger is lurking, you'll be looked after, which might mean strong advice that you leave the area. Best not to ignore that.
If the crowd seems to comprise mainly family groups then again it's probably safe. If there are large organised-looking groups seeming to be 'on a mission', maybe not.

From an experience in Peru, if you get the slightest indication that tear gas may be used, get somewhere safe. It's pretty nasty and drifts with the wind to wherever the wind is going, which may be away from the dodgy area. (In this case, towards the hotel I was staying in!)
I missed the early warning, but will remember in the future. Quite a way away down the street, people were suddenly acting strange - wrapping scarves or handkerchiefs around their faces, crouching low and running. I had not the faintest idea what they were doing, but soon enough found the wind was drifting my way. I learned if I see that again, run at 90 degrees to the direction of any wind, or the same way as everyone else!

Back to the poster above, as a Middle-Eastern example, about 15 years ago I was in Istanbul with my daughter, aged about 17. We wandered into the area close to the book market, which I wanted to visit. She didn't and just wanted to find somewhere she could sit and 'people-watch' while I went off.
Well, there were plenty of people to watch. A pretty big protest about government plans in those days to secularise the country. It was a big student protest, massive banners everywhere but with a very overt party mood. So it seemed safe, we found a large mosque on the edge of the protest area with worshippers coming and going without problem. But from there we could see, parked away from the area, ranks of massive water cannon, armoured vehicles, armed personnel, more than any I'd ever seen in a big city. But they all seemed bored to tears.
My daughter felt confident it was safe for her to sit on the steps of the mosque while I went to the book market, and there were lots of people around who obviously had nothing to do with the protest. And we probably looked like tourists.
So I went off, found I could see the edge of the protest area from the edge of the book market, and spent quite a while there.
I returned after over an hour to find my daughter in deep conversation with two young girls, student protesters, in muslim dress and headcoverings. They had approached my daughter as soon as I left and spent the whole time explaining to her the history of the government's policy, the opinions of the students, what they hoped to achieve and lots of other stuff about Turkey and Islam. They introduced themselves to me and talked some more for a little while.
Since then my daughter has been able to travel and work, alone, in middle-east countries confident that she understands the cultures a little more than many foreigners, and has never felt in danger anywhere.
So it's one of those tricky things, deciding when to get into a bit of 'adventure' for the huge education and experience it can bring you.
And I'd repeat, the biggest thing I've learned in these situations, is always make sure you look like a tourist......

From my own trips through Muslim countries, and my daughter's (she's done more), EVERYTHING you read and see in the UK mainstream media will be 100% misrepresentation. A great pity.

Lastly (I hope) I just remembered, a pretty good book about adventures to be had in North Africa if you're travelling as a sort of family unit, is "Hideous Kinky."
(DVD as well I think - not seen it - book is probably better. But no motorbikes if I remember right).
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  #5  
Old 14 Apr 2011
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One caveat to the above; is don't look like a tourist with a camera in the proximity of unrest.

On March 18th an american student was detained for two weeks.

Quote:
I was in the general area of the Umayyad Mosque—it’s like the Times Square of Damascus. I wasn’t there seeking protest. I had my camera on me as a tourist. I turned on to a street and was 100 yards from the protest. And there were secret police there. They grabbed me from the periphery.
Like sensible people anywhere, whether it be East or West, he is able to distinguish between government agencies and individuals and plans on returning to Syria.
Tik Root back from Syria and home in Vermont – In the Arena - CNN.com Blogs

Last edited by Arow; 14 Apr 2011 at 00:49.
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  #6  
Old 14 Apr 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arow View Post
One caveat to the above; is don't look like a tourist with a camera in the proximity of unrest.
Absolutely right.

Maybe I should have said, looking like a tourist doesn't include carrying a camera anywhere near demonstrations or unrest.

Although it seems a bit odd. I get the impression it's still not wise to carry a camera in these sorts of situations, yet more-or-less, all the demonstrators these days seem to have mobile phones with cameras. Attitudes to cameras may change significantly in the future, but don't know how.
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  #7  
Old 14 Apr 2011
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Thanks, I think we will go and moniter the situation cut our time in syria short if needs be and spend more time in jordan. We're actully backpacking this route from istanbul to sharm and leaveing the car at home on this adventuer. I'm takeing the mrs so thats why the extra coution on my part, but iam sure your right, its not like if their are terrorist out for westerners. I fly to istanbul on tuesday and will try running a life tweet from my travels which i will post here is anyone is intrested once i set it up.

THanks
Maz
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  #8  
Old 15 Apr 2011
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Entering at the kilis (Turkey) border last year they wanted to know where we were going to stay that night, so even if you don't have anything fixed, look up in advance the name of a reasonable tourist hotel in Aleppo for example. Maybe given the current situation swot up a couple ahead along the route.

We said we were going to Jordan for a month, they laughed at anyone wanting to spend that amount of time in Jordan and construed this as us really going to visit friends in Israel and asked us on the spot to write down our Jordan itinerary.

After we did that they let us through o'k.

I don't know how long you plan on staying in Jordan but you now have to take an hiv test whilst there to remain over 30 days.
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  #9  
Old 27 Apr 2011
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The Uk has prepared contingency plans to airlift passport holders from Syria

Thousands of soldiers backed by tanks were yesterday reported to have poured into the city of Daraa, where the uprising against President Assad began, before dawn.
They opened fire indiscriminately on civilians, and tanks later moved in as electricity, water and mobile phone services were cut.
There were reports of bodies lying on the streets.
Knife-wielding security agents made house-to-house sweeps in what activists called a campaign to intimidate protesters.
Residents said an army brigade led by President Assad’s younger brother Maher had cut off roads, were shelling homes, storming houses and rounding people up.
Other crackdowns and arrest sweeps were reported on the outskirts of Damascus and the coastal town of Jableh.
One resident in Daraa, Abu Khaldoun, said: ‘In the street I am in, there are around ten tanks. Their aim is just to destroy and destroy ... They are shelling homes and demolishing them.’
His cousin, Abu Tamer, said: ‘Maher al-Assad’s forces have spread everywhere and with their roadblocks Daraa has become a big prison.
‘You cannot go out without endangering your life. They are rounding up dozens of people and arresting them.’
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  #10  
Old 2 May 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maz 82 View Post
Hi Guys,
I should be travelling from Istanbul to Sharm in just over a week. Does anyone know what the situarion in Syria is like on the ground. This morning the FCO have advised againts all but essential travel. If anyone ones on the road there at the mo, how is everyithing looking? If one avoids the hot spots then is that enough to stay out of trouble?
Thanks

Maz

Hi.

I’ve just returned from a five days solo bike trip in Syria: entry from Akçakale, follow the Euphrates till Mary (almost in Iraq border) and then back to visit Palmyra, Damascus and finally exit to Yailadagi.





What I can say:

- Akçakale border crossing was very easy; Syrian officials were extremely helpful and pleasant; maybe because they like motorbikes, maybe because they all are Real Madrid or Barcelona football teams supporters and I carried Spanish passport, maybe because they know abroad Syrian image isn’t good at the moment and tried to recover, or simply because they all are pleasant with the visitors by nature.

- I had no problem in Syria and see nothing that could induce something was wrong there.

- Just three police control during the whole trip, and extremely friendly too, with ‘welcome to Syria’, hand shaking, and smiles.

- I’ve hardly spoken with civil people about political issues so I can’t give a representative opinion about what they think.

- Nice people and nice country.

Bye.
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  #11  
Old 3 May 2011
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ondoibili

Hi ondoibili

Im really interested in your last post! Im planning on riding to syria (leaving england late June) and hopefully arriving some time around august.

I was wondering when exactly you were in Syria? when did you enter and when did you leave?
Were there any problems in Damascus? im guessing you must have seen or passed some demonstrations as the country has been littered with them for weeks now...

really interested in any extra information you could share!

Thanks in advance,

Andy
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  #12  
Old 4 May 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarzan View Post
Hi ondoibili

Im really interested in your last post! Im planning on riding to syria (leaving england late June) and hopefully arriving some time around august.

I was wondering when exactly you were in Syria? when did you enter and when did you leave?
Were there any problems in Damascus? im guessing you must have seen or passed some demonstrations as the country has been littered with them for weeks now...

really interested in any extra information you could share!

Thanks in advance,

Andy
Hello Tarzan.

I was in Sanliurfa, in the south of Turkey, after some days riding from Spain, and I had to decide whether or not to enter Syria. I got into a bike garage and asked, they told me there was nothing to fear and I entered Syria on April 26 and left April 30.

At the border the gps must be hidden. CDP is not essencial. Carry dollars or euros for the insurance (Turkish liras are not accepted). Of course, no Israeli stamp and no leaf torn in the passport.

30º C in Palmyra in April. I guess you’ll have much more in August.

Below you can see a four leaf clover.
[IMG]file:///C:/DOCUME%7E1/AngelZ/CONFIG%7E1/Temp/moz-screenshot.png[/IMG]


Unleaded petrol. You’ll find very few.

As I posted above I didn´t see anything that would suggest there were problems there. In Damascus I spent a whole day and all completely normal but I guess that with fewer tourists than usual.


Regards.
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  #13  
Old 5 May 2011
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I think it all depends where you are and when - Dera'a has obviously been bad - fridays & saturdays in particular are the days to watch out for. Also your travel insurance might not be valid it depends on whether you are going against your own Government's Travel Advisory.

From lonelyplanet april 29th

Quote:
I arrived in Lattakia around 1 today and I heard gunfire after walking for about ten minutes from the bus station. I was thinking it would be laidback a bit not like this. Not many people out at all and I feel I have the city to myself sometimes, with only a few shops opened. I ended up walking straight into the thick of it somehow 30 minutes after arriving and was surrounded by maybe a few dozen gunmen and head a few guns pointed at me. All the gunfire was coming from behind me and I was the only one on the street walking towards them so that's reasonable. They took me through a line of men holding batons and I was searched and asked questions, etc. Remember to keep two memory cards or delete any incriminating pictures. And always smile and be polite. With locals and military, there were maybe 100 and they were really there to protect the al-Assad statue. They were kind and kept joking with me saying "welcome to Syria" or laughing at me because I looked at the roofs when the shots kept firing. That was today and it's Friday so that's important. I would say come because the deaths that happened today were away from the city center. The beaches are barren and the people are great as always. They need the business as well. Just my 2 cents, but as the original poster said, "even if you are feeling safe, you might actually not be aware of the risks you are taking."
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  #14  
Old 18 May 2011
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Going to Syria

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarzan View Post
Hi ondoibili

Im really interested in your last post! Im planning on riding to syria (leaving england late June) and hopefully arriving some time around august.

I was wondering when exactly you were in Syria? when did you enter and when did you leave?
Were there any problems in Damascus? im guessing you must have seen or passed some demonstrations as the country has been littered with them for weeks now...

really interested in any extra information you could share!

Thanks in advance,

Andy
Hey Tarzan,

You write that you want to enter Syria around August. I'll be there around the same time and maybe we can hook up for a while. I'm coming down from the Northcape trough Russia and Georgia and vissit some friends in Turkey.

Hope to hear of you.

Cheers Richard
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  #15  
Old 19 May 2011
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Hi Richard!

Hey Richard,

Yeah that would be great to meet up! Where will you be entering Syria from? and where about's are you planning on riding to in Syria?

Thanks

Andy
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