East in the desert
South-east of Deir lies Dura Europos, and further along the road, Mari, just near the Iraqi border. A service bus dropped us on the Mari turn-off of the highway, a short walk from the ruins of this ancient Mesopotamian city. The site consists of the dug-out remains of a mud-brick city which dates back around 5000 years.
Dura Europos was not, as the name suggests, a European theme-park, but a huge fortress guarding over the Euphrates, marking the edge of the Alexandrian empire.
We were deposited a kilometre from the castle walls around sunset, with a road stretching over the quasi-desert. The view of the outer walls was astounding - the width of the site is huge. I cannot imagine how many people it must have taken to defend it.
As we arrived at the great door, the caretaker was just closing-up for the night, but David managed to convince him to let us in. We would just have to climb the fence to get out again.
Inside, the area enclosed by the walls is immense, bounded to the west by the walls, and to the east, the cliffs that drop down into the Euphrates. In the distance we could see the flames rising from the oil-extracting derricks, and somewhere on the horizon was Iraq.
It was night by the time we made it back to the highway, miles from anywhere, watching approaching headlights hoping it would be a service bus to take us back to Deir.