Spending a day on sarha - walking around the countryside - provided a nice break from the bustle of the city. Crossing over the grand suspension bridge spanning the Euphrates, this river upon whose banks some of the world’s oldest continually habited civilisations have grown, the bustle of Deir Ez-Zour is left behind. Leaving the road, the buildings give way to farmland where people were in the midst of picking the white buds of cotton from their red leaves.
Heading seemingly into nothing — the fields stretching out to the hills on the horizon — we passed the last house of a village, where a middle-aged man was sat on a plastic chair in his field, surrounded by his four children. Syrian hospitality soon had us sat beside him, his eldest son bringing over syrupy shai whilst we relished the midday sun. Our absence of Arabic somewhat stifled the conversation, but we sat contentedly observing the scene, our host inviting over the occasional passer-by, “we have shai!” he seemed proud to say.
The countryside was occasionally broken by little collections of low houses, where women cooked, children played, and dogs barked, warning us off their territory.
As we entered one village, we were stopped by a group of men who stood before their house whilst the women were preparing bread. The ovens were placed between the house & the road, making this a very social affair as they stretched out the dough & subsequently patting it into the roofs of the wood-fuelled kilns. It was reassuring to see the integration of the women, to see them smiling & participating in this encounter with two strange foreigners, and not excluded behind the rather complex cultural conventions of the country.
Shai was practically forced upon us as we sat with them, and a boy was soon running over with two freshly-baked galettes. Sixty people, spanning three or four generations lived in the house. They all seemed surprised, and rather bemused, by the fact that we were just out walking, and had come from Deir Ez-Zour to find ourselves here. As we left, two more warm discs of bread were thrust into our backpack. Had it not been for a meeting later with David & Mohammed, I would have gladly taken-up their offer to stay the night with them.
We tried to make it back to the city before sunset but passing through this village, every time we encountered someone, there was the ritual of civilities to engage in, & the uncomfortable refusal of constant offers of al-kawa & shai. We passed by the Euphrates at twilight, the green lights illuminating mosques, setting them out against the deep purple sky.
More photos in this flickr set.