A time for resolution
Around a dinner table on the 30th of December, some French friends and I were trying (with little success) to decide what to do for the New Year. They left at 1am, and ten minutes later I received a call saying “shall we go to Maalula?” - I immediately replied in the affirmative. Rendez-vous at 9:30am.
Having rented an apartment from a friend of David’s, a party was had to see in the New Year. Some Syrian friends came up from Damascus for the night, bringing arak, a narghile and with fireworks being produced at midnight. Childhood memories of televised Bonfire Night safety campaigns came to mind as rockets were fired from hands and we threw small petards at each other on the balcony.
New Year’s Day was spent hiking in the wonderful hills surrounding Maalula towards the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Our walk saw us scrambling up little cliff-faces, crossing arid plains, and descending into lush, valleyed oases. It took the moonlight to see us back into Maalula, having underestimated the 30km (or so) loop we ended up taking, the illuminated crosses on the cliff-face guiding us home. What was initially to be New Year’s Eve in Maalula turned into a three day break, hiking and climbing with some great people.
Getting out of the city was refreshing, and during the time in the hills I spent a lot of time mulling things over. The trip really gave me back the taste of traveling, and put in question my Damascene intermission. We’ll see what these next few weeks bring as 2010 begins in the heart of the Middle East.