May 2008 - Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Syria


Syria | Latakkia Harbor| EMYR Rally Boats

May 30, 2008

Hi All Wednesday May 27 We left Latakkia Harbor, Syria for our two day bus tour to Palmyra and Damascus, Syria. We had a fantastic tour/bus guide. He was a wealth of information and shared with us continuously as we traveled. Syria has a lush green coastline, fertile valleys, snow capped mountains and vast, vast deserts. It's about 185,000 sq km and has 18 million people.

Syria | Krak des Chevaliers

Syria | Krak des Chevaliers

Syria | Krak des Chevaliers

Syria | Palmyra oasis| Beduin Tent | lunch stop

Syria | Palmyra Oasis | Temple of Bel | Arch Triumphe

Syria | Palmayra Oasis

Syria | Palmyra Oasis | Temple of Bell | ancinet theater

We visited Krak des Chevaliers one of the oldest castles in the world. It dates back to 9 BC. It commands the strategic valley between Homs and Tripoli. Next we traveled into the middle of the Syrian desert to Palmyra an ancient oasis city. The ruins date over 2000 years constructed by Arab Queen Zenobia. We ate lunch in a Bedouin tent and vistaed the Temple of Bel, colonnades etc.

We had a tea break at the Baghdad Cafe on our way to Damascus. Everyone took pictures of the road sign turning left to Iraq. We made a right and continued to our hotel in Damascus. Ebla Cham Palace five star hotel. We had a gala dinner at Aladdin's Restaurant. It was quite an elaborate place Las Vegas style with a stage show of a medley of Arab folk tales. The dancing was very modernistic and the dancers energy and costumes fantastic. A fly carpet arrived on stage over our heads. Music was too loud so that detracted from our enjoyment. What a long day we drove over 350 km the first day.

Syria | Damascus | The Souq Sarolyah -shopping area

Thursday May 28 Day 2

Yesterday we went to the old walled city of Damascus to site see. Our bus dropped us at the gate and we walked through Souq Saroiyah to the National Museum. The Souq (shopping area) was colorful and fun to see. Unlike the Turks we were not confronted ever two steps by shop keepers trying to sell their wares. This is a local shopping area not a tourist event. The shops were filled with fancy dresses and lingerie that the Syrian women wear at home or under their burkas.

Syria | Damascus | Syrian National Museum | Synagogue unusual Old Testament frescos

Syria | Damascus | Syrian National Musem | Hypogeum of Yarhai from Valley of Tombs Palmyra

Syria | Damascus | Syrian National Museum

The museum could have been overwhelming but our guide took us to the highlights. We visited Hypogeum of Yarhai (under ground tomb) moved to the museum from Valley of Tombs in Palmyra. Next came a unique synagogue from 2nd century AD. It was unusually because of the floor to ceiling fresco's depicting scenes from the Old Testament events from crowning of King Solomon through the reign of David and the story of Moses and the flight from Egypt. Depictions of human form go against Talmudic traditions but the Jewish community were trouble by the number of Jews converting to Christianity and felt they needed to decorate like the Christians. This synagogue was unearthed from sand in Dourna Europos in 1930 and was moved to the museum to preserve the frescos. The Palmyra, Urgarit, and Mari artifacts rooms were next. Most interesting to me as a teacher was the Canaanite (Phoenician)Alphabet of Urgarit. It's the oldest alphabet in the world.(1400 BC) It was a small clay tablet with 30 cuneiform signs or letters going left to right used to teach the alphabet. All western alphabets as well as Arabic have origins in this alphabet.

Syria | Damascus | Umayyad Mosque |

Syria | Damascus | Umayyad Mosque |

Syria | Damascus | Umayyad Mosque |

Syria | Damascus | Umayyad Mosque | Tomb Holding John the Baptist's head

Next we visited the Umayyad Mosque the most famous Islamic mosque. It was first a Temple to Hadad (associated with God of Jupiter), then Byzantine Church of St. John the Baptist, Then the Muslims took the east side for a mosque while the Christians continued to use the west side. Today it is a mosque only with a tomb holding John the Baptist's head. The women in our group had to wear brown monk type robes to visit.

Syria | Damascus | Chapel of Ananias

Next we visited the Chapel of Ananias dating to 1st AD. Saul of Tarus was riding to Damascus to harass Christians. En route he was blinded by vision of God. He was led to Straight Street in Damascus Where Ananias who had also received a vision baptized Saul who became Paul the Apostle. We walked down Straight Street to visit the shops then made the long 4 hour ride back to Lattakia.

Friday May 29 We were tired out and chose not to make the 9 hour bus ride to and from Aleppo today. Sorry to miss it but the souq's are closed on Friday and there is little time left after the bus ride to do much sightseeing. So today we did laundry (big job)and relaxed. Tomorrow we head for Jounieh, Lebanon (105 nm).

Love Sally and Al

May 26, 2008

Hi All Well we ended up returning to Iskenderun Harbour Sunday night. The wind was gusting 30+ knots and seas reaching 2 meters. It was right on the nose so we were making less than 3 knots. The Turkish coast guard and EMYR leaders requested the fleet to return to Iskenderun Harbor. We had only traveled 7 nm so we flew back with a reefed jib. Most of the fleet was moored before dark. It's a rather tricky task as the first boats drop a bow anchor and back in stern to the quay. Then the outer tier drops a stern anchor and bows into the boats already moored. We had an electrical storm during the night and the wind blew hard most of Monday.

We left again for Syria last night around 10:00 PM and hope to arrive by 3:00 this afternoon. Our schedule will shift slightly. We will have our overnight land trip to the ancient cities of Damascus and Palmayra tomorrow. Damascus is located between the mountains and the Syrian Desert and is suppose to be the oldest continually inhabited city, over 4000 years old. Then we travel 150 km NE of Damascus to the "Queen of the Desert" Palmyra, an ancient trade route city. We'll travel through the city of Homs and visit Krak des Chevaliers, a magnificent castle that started as a Crusader fortress in 1170 AD. Friday we will visit Aleppo which is also over 4000 years old. We will depart on Saturday for Lebanon instead of Friday giving us one less day in Lebanon. Drop us a note we love hearing what is happening at home. Remember to delete my message before you start typing if you're hitting reply.

Love Sally and Al

Turkey | Antakya - ancient Antioch

Turkey | Antakya - Antioch | Rock Tombs

Turkey |Samandag| Titus tunnel

May 25, 2008

Hi All We leave Turkey today. We will miss this beautiful country and the wonderful people. Everyone has treated us so well. Don't forget if you're trying to figure out where we are to Google EMYR. The website has a map, itinerary, pictures and planned tours. Iskenderun Shipping hosted a lovely dinner on Friday night. Great food, dancing and Folk Dance entertainment.

Yesterday we had a full day tour to Antakya (ancient Antioch), Titus Tunnel, Rock Tombs, and St. Peter's Church. The bus ride through the mountains was spectacular. The plateau is very fertile growing wheat, corn, cotton, olives and citrus. Our bus guide was fantastic. She gave us wonderful information the entire two hour ride to Samandag. Titus Tunnel was built during Roman times to divert rain water from flooding the harbor. The Rock Tombs were the best seen so far. The most attractive one is called Besikli Magara (cave with crib)It is a large cave with columns. We had a nice lunch overlooking beautiful waterfalls from Asi River (Orontes).

The highlight of the day was the Antakya Archeological Museum. It houses a fantastic Roman mosaics collection, coins, and some statues. We stopped by the Grotto of St. Peter. It's the cave church from which the apostle preached for the first time and where he established the Christian community. In 1983 the church was declared a holy site by the Vatican. Pope Benedict declared 2008 the year of St. Paul. Our travels the last few weeks has taken us along the four journey's of St. Paul Acts of Apostles Chapters 13-21.

Turkey | Iskenderun | Cocktail Party on quay | Sally and Iskenderun Teachers

Turkey | Iskenderun | Cocktail party | Al and "Czech Brother " Miro s/y Snow White

Last night our Tour Guide from the day discovered we had nothing planned for the evening and she called her Dad to DJ and organized with The Iskenderun Shipping host a cocktail party and dancing again. The hospitality and friendliness of the Turkish people continues to amaze us. Several Iskenderun teachers friends of our Tour Guide came to visit with the cruisers. Tonight we sail to Syria and we arrive around 10:00 tomorrow morning. Sounds like we may have some tacking to do as the wind wants to come from where we are headed. Happy Memorial Day. Love and God Bless.

Love Sally and Al

Turkey | Mersin | Mersin Fishing Harbor | s/y Movimiento Astrid and Ivo

May 23, 2008

Hi All We had a great moonlit passage to Mersin arriving around noon. We had about 4 hours of good sailing and then we had to motor. The group leaders changed our arrival times so we ended up slowing down to a crawl. Mersin harbor is the fishing harbor centrally located. So it was very convenient for shopping. Mersin Chamber of Fishing hosted a cocktail party for us the first night. Again we were treated like royalty. The party was on the beach front and we had live Turkish music and folk dancers. It was a late night as we wandered onto friends boat and continued the talk.

Turkey | Turkish lunch stop on way to Narlikuyu

Turkey | Tarsus | St. Paul's Well

Wednesday we had a full day of touring. We visited Tarsus where St. Paul was born. (St. Paul's Church, St. Paul's Well, Cleopatra's Gate). Next we drove an hour and a half to Narlikuyu and had a nice fish lunch. We visited a tiny museum which is actually a 4th century Roman Bath with a wonderful mosaic of the goddesses of fertility also known as the Three Graces, Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne.

Turkey |Kazkalesi | ancient ruins of Kazkalesi

Next we visited Caves of Heaven and Hell. Not much of a stop as we spent too much time at lunch and their wasn't enough time to climb down to the Chasm of Heaven which has a Byzantine Chapel of Virgin Mary. Next stop was a short visit to ancient ruins of Kazkalesi and a photo stop of Fortress Kanlidivane. (island just off the shore)

Turkey | Mersin | Rally dinner

Turkey | Mersin| Mersin Armada Center | Rally dinner and folk dancers

Turkey | Mersin | Mersin Armada Center | Miro s/y Snow White, Al , Gerry and Ton s/y Argo

We had an hour to clean up and walk to the Awards Ceremony and Rally Dinner held at the Mersin Armada Center. Each boat was given a special Mersin tote bag and box of Turkish delight. Once again we had way too much to eat and wonderful dance music. It must never rain this time of year in Turkey as every Rally Dinner and Cocktail party has been outside with elaborately decorated tables.

Yesterday we took a shuttle bus to a large Carrefour grocery store to stock up for the next ten days. I found a place for a haircut and we just relaxed until our 5 PM departure for Iskenderun, Turkey. We had a fantastic night of sailing. The engines were off for 11 hours! Early this morning we motored the rest of the way to Iskenderun and moored early for a change by 9:30. This is our last port in Turkey. We have a Rally Cocktail Party tonight and tours and Group parties tomorrow. We head for Syria on Sunday late afternoon.

Love Sally and Al

Northern Cyprus | Girne | Kyrenia Old Harbor

Northern Cyprus | Girne | Delta Marina |Artemis moored

Northern Cyprus | Girne | View from Bellapais Abbey

May 19, 2008

Hi All We had a quiet moonlit crossing to Girne (Kyrenia), Northern Cyprus last Friday arriving at Delta Marina Saturday morning. Some of the other boats are moored in Kyrenia Old Harbor. We visited the Kyrenia Castle and Shipwreck Museum with friends. The castle is above the Old Harbor where two groups of the rally are moored about a mile from Delta Marina. It was built in the 7th century to protect against raiding Arabs and was later taken from the Byzantine's by Richard the Lionheart of England. The Shipwreck museum display is from an ancient wreak dating to time the Mediterranean was ruled by Alexander the Great

Northern Cyprus | Bellapais Abbey |

Northern Cyprus | Bellapais Abbey |

Northern Cyprus | Bellapais Abbey | Pulpit Sally sang Amazing Grace.

.Kyrenia had a cocktail party for us at the castle Saturday evening. Yesterday we went on an all day tour visiting the Bellapais Abbey first. The abbey is Gothic architecture. I was asked to climb up to the pulpit and sing Amazing Grace to demonstrate the excellent acoustics. It was quite a moving experience for me as well as for those listening (so I'm told).

Northern Cyprus | St. Hilarion Castle | view from the castle

Northern Cyprus| Nicosia | Whirling Dervish Museum

Next we visited St. Hilarion Castle built as part of a defensive chain of castles against the raiding Arabs in the tenth centuries. We drove to the capital city of Nicosia. Nicosia is divided in half by a wall and a gate which opens into Southern Cyprus (Greece). We visited the Whirling Dervish Museum, St. Sophia Cathedral (now Selimye Mosque, and had a lovely lamb/chicken kebob lunch.

Northern Cyprus | Girne | Pirate Party | Sally

Northern Cyprus | Girne | Pirate Party|Pirates Mike S and Al

Northern Cyprus | Girne | Pirate Party| Don't mess with Jon

Northern Cyprus | Girne | Pirate Party| Belly Dancer Entertainment

The market was closed so we returned to Girne early to prepare for our Pirate Party. We created quite a stir through town as we paraded in our Pirate attire from the Kyrenia castle to the restaurant where the dinner was. People lined the streets as 250 creatively attired pirates marched by waving flags of our countries and of course pirate flags. Once again we were served and excellent (unbelievable) buffet, live dance music and belly dancer for entertainment.

Today we are on our own. We plan to walk to the old harbor. We'll depart late afternoon to head for Mersin, Turkey about 108 nm away. It sounds like another moonlit, light wind passage.

Love Sally and Al