First impressions from Syria

Middle East 1It is hard to believe that only four days ago our cross-cultural group was still in the United States. We have already experienced so much; it feels like we have been gone a lot longer.

Last Friday our plane took off at 5:45 p.m. and by 3:00 Saturday afternoon we had landed in Jordan and were settled into our hotel. We were in Amman, Jordan for less than 24 hours before hitting the road and heading to Syria. The Jordanian countryside is very beautiful, and the bus ride to the border was enjoyable. Once we reached the border we got through on the Jordan side just fine, it was on the Syrian side when things got tricky. We sat in the bus for almost two hours while waiting for them to inspect our passports and who knows what else they were doing, but eventually we were allowed to enter Syria.

A Syrian tour guide joined us before we left the border and we set off to experience our first taste of Syria. First we went to the town of Bosra, where there are some amazing ancient ruins. We got to see and explore a 2nd century amphitheater that has been really well preserved. Then we got to see other parts of the ancient city, which included a public bath and a mosque that is also really well preserved. Most of the city was built with a dark hard stone called Basalt. These ruins set the bar pretty high for the amazing things that we will see on this trip

EMU students enter the Saint Elias Monastery, where they are staying for their time in Damascus. After Bosra, we were on our way to Damascus, where we will stay for the next four weeks. The monastery where we are staying is about a ten minute walk from the Old City of Damascus. Every morning we will get up and walk to the Old City to catch the bus to our language school. Beginning at 9:15 we have about 3 hours of Arabic class, and then we are pretty much set free to explore the Old City and other parts of Damascus. The Old City is amazing. The buildings, the markets, the food, the people, and more. This city is going to be our home for the next four weeks and we are all excited to become more familiar with it all.

-Allison Bontrager