MarHaba from Aleppo

MarHaba from Aleppo,

 

Today we ate breakfast early because we will travel about 50 km to the site of I. kirkwoodii subsp. kirkwoodii.  Thomas had not yet visited this site and we anticipated that it could be difficult to find.  Clyde ate his usual 20-30 olives for breakfast so we were prepared for a long day.  We spotted the Iris from the bus near where we expected it and surprised the bus driver by promptly exiting.  He argued without success that there was no reason to leave at this place.  The Iris was on the hillside among large boulders and small (about 6x10 feet) areas that had been cleared of rocks and planted to wheat.  This region is more prosperous with olives, wheat and houses that are substantial and elaborate.

 

We spent several hours at this site then walked about 3 km to nearby ruins.  The ruins were spectacular and obviously rarely visited.  According to Thomas’s book there were three churches at this 6th century Byzantine town.  We spent about an hour exploring the ruins then hitched a ride in the back of a passing truck to the main road to catch the bus back to Aleppo.

 

While washing off the thick coating of dust we had accumulated we heard chanting and singing in the street.  We ordered chai from the front desk and went out where we were surprised to see the street blocked off just beyond the motel and chairs set out along its perimeter.  Whirling dervishes were performing, three young men and one child.  We were invited to sit in an inconspicuous place at the end of the street (no other women were present) and served spiced Turkish coffee and sweet rolls.  Unfortunately we had not brought our camera.  We think it was a celebration of Mohammed’s birthday although it had been two days previous.

 

It has been a fruitful and interesting day.

 

Ma’a salaama!

 

Carol

4/13/06

 

MarHaba from Aleppo,

 

We met Thomas this morning and set out by bus to see Iris kirkwoodii subsp. calcarea.  We hiked about 1.5 km from a small town to reach the site.  Along the road we met a sheepherder and his wife.  The wife walked with us for some distance talking in Arabic while I nodded and smiled.  The Iris was in full flower on a hillside below the ruins of tombs from the 5th or 6th century.

 

From the bus we had spotted a scorpiris Iris (I. aucheri) that was past bloom and decided to stop to look at it on the way back.  The site was near a Bedouin camp and four children came to investigate our arrival.  A young man in charge of the ewes that were lambing invited us into their comfortable and colorfully decorated tent for chai (tea).  We were given tea, fresh sheep yogurt and flat bread prepared by his young wife who did not join us.  We only got a brief glimpse of her but she was quite beautiful with darkly made-up eyes and flowing light orange dress.  Three lambs were born while we ate as verified by the children who ran to the tent opening dangling each lamb by one leg to show our host.   Our host inspected our cameras and compared Clyde’s cell phone to his own.  He exchanged the chips between the phones but they were apparently not compatible.  We bid him goodbye as the remainder of the family was arriving with the sheep herd. 

 

Ma’a salaama!

 

Carol

4/12/06

 

 

MarHaba from Aleppo,

 

The trip across the border was interesting.  We hired a taxi that specializes in transporting people from Gaziantep to Aleppo.  By the time we completed the process we had proceeded through at least eight official checkpoints and had quite a thick stack of paperwork.  The last official returned to us several times with seemingly unimportant questions and took an hour before having his assistant enter our arrival in the computer.  We began the trip today at 2:30 AM in the Antalya airport and ended it at 6:00 PM at hotel Al Faisal in Aleppo.  We are to meet Thomas Fietz tonight who has photographed Iris at several Syrian sites in Aleppo but have not yet made contact.

 

Ma’a salaama!

 

Carol

4/11/06