November 10, 2009 GMT
Aleppo Interlude

We are in Aleppo for a couple of days, mainly to obtain Syrian cash from ATMs (not many outside large cities) but it's also an Islamic city worth seeing.

Firstly, in the area of the city with the cheap hotels, parking is tightly controlled so we have to find paid underground parking for the bikes. That's done now, and ATMs found (only about four, even in a city this size), so we have been sampling the wonderful cafe life and street foods of the city.

And a nice Aleppo interlude crept into our day.

We visited the souks, recommended as being among the least touristic in the Arab world. And so they were. Very pleasant to wander through with all Aleppo life to observe, and no hassle from touts and hustlers in the little alleyways.

Souk scene in Aleppo

In a corner of the textiles area we found stalls selling Chinese laundry bags of all sizes which caught our eye.
It's generally accepted by travelling motorcyclists that a bike covered up while parked overnight out of doors is a lot more secure than one not covered. I have a cover for mine, super lightweight material and packs up really small. I bought it maybe sixteen years ago and it looks like they aren't made anymore. At least, Caroline looked everywhere for one before departing on this trip, and drew a complete blank. Plenty of huge heavyweight ones, but nothing small anymore.

Well, it occurred to me, entering the lands where textile shops are simply everywhere on every street, it must be possible to find cheap suitable lightweight material to cover three bikes.
So we investigated the laundry bags. But even the largest wasn't motorbike-size.
No matter, a few stalls further along was one selling sheets of the material, with a customer inside unfolding some of the sheets to check the size.
They were enormous, so we bought two for less than a pound, that when sewed together would be plenty large enough. And they rolled up pretty small too.
But where to get them sewed? The stall owner couldn't help us there.
We had seen no dressmaking places nor shops for alterations or repairs, only the compact area housing all the sewing machine shops which we walked through on the way to the souk.

Returning the same route we investigated those alleys a little more closely, and at the end of one found what looked like two sewing workshops. But completely empty of staff. So we looked here and there confident that someone would appear, and they did. And after some sign language we could see that this was just a sewing-machine repair workshop.
"Come next door", gestured the owner.
Next door looked more like a sewing workshop, but it wasn't. We still don't know exactly what it was but concluded it must be a place making industrial sewing work-stations out of secondhand machines, tables, attachments and motors etc.
The two lads there immediately understood what we wanted and one of them dug an old hemming machine out of a cardboard box. He made a tiny bit of space on the corner of a table cluttered up completely with sewing machine paraphenalia, and held it in place by hand while his workmate fed in the edges of our two pieces of material. Beau and I manouvred the two large sheets as necessary.
In pretty short order we had a single huge sheet of lightweight bike cover to fit three bikes.

Now the tricky bit of sorting out the price when neither they nor us could speak any common language.
Well, I have to say the price was completely outrageous......
Instead of us paying them anything, they insisted they brew tea for us!
The Middle East - where tea truly lubricates all life!

We plan to move on tomorrow out of the big city to places smaller - don't know where yet, wherever the road goes!

Posted by Ken Thomas at November 10, 2009 08:03 PM GMT

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