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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Day 1: Hama and Latakia
We left at 12:00 p.m. for a three hour drive to the NE of Syria. Our first stop was Hama, a city known for its 2,200 year old water wells. There are about 150 of these huge wells all over the city.
HAMA – interested facts
1. 150/+ water wells that are 2,200 years old
2. No Jews in the whole city and Christians and Muslims get along here better than any other Islamic city. Christian woman even cover their heads out of respect
a. Story: Jews put dead, bloody pig in Mosque trying to start a feud between Christians and Muslims, but Muslims found out and Jews haven’t been welcome since
3. Manufacturing center of greater Sham esp: milk, cheese, beef supplier of Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon
a. We ate at a city center/mall type modern place and they served the sweet famous in the region along with the best ice-cream ever in the world. We were treated to lunch by locals
4. On Locals: they are extremely nice, women are super conservative, but people are very hospitable.
5. The city is known for its river “االعاصي” or “Orantus” meaning rebellious because the river runs from South to North rather than the traditional North to South
6. The city was 80% destroyed by bombs of the Syrian government trying to wipe out the weapons hidden underground by the Muslim Brotherhood
We then continued to the coastal town of Latakia. We left about 5:15 p.m. which was perfect because we got to see the beautiful scenery of the NE on the way. The road was surrounded by mountains, but these mountains were different than those around Damascus because they were green – covered w/trees and plant life. It was absolutely beautiful.
We made it just in time to see sundown on the Mediterranean. The beach here is beautiful – the water is crystal clear and you can see the rocks beneath the water.
We watched a man make za’atar bread (menaaesh) and bread and cheese from scratch!
The people were suuuuper hospitable. For example in the internet café’ helped us a lot

LATAKIA - Interesting facts
1. The city is a tourist city, and the people and downtown are very similar to people in the rest of Syria
2. There are a lot more Christians in this city, I saw a lot of churches
3. Downtown is just like Old Damascus with café’s and shops, etc
4. The bay area is a tourist hub, with beach gifts and standard street-side arabic food
5. Weather is cooler because we are higher up, and the weather year-round is generally mild and nice
6. This place is 100% crowded during the real summer (late American summer)
7. People here work until 2 a.m. and open around 10 a.m.
General things I learned
1. Homs people are made fun of like Aggies
2. In Latakia, there is the largest Easter celebration in Syria
a. All f the Syrians come to Latakia Easter Sunday dressed in new clothes and go out to the streets for music and fun

Day 2 – Latakia, Ugarit, Kasab, Mashqueeta
After a good sleep and tea, we went out traveling. I have a bit of a stomach ache because of all the sandwiches (cheese+muhammara+zaiatar and zaitar) late last night
We first went to Ugarit which is one of the most important sites in the world
Important facts: UGARIT
1. Site of 1st alphabet in the world
2. 90 rooms in the ancient site
3. 1st musical notes
4. almost 4,000 years old
Important facts: MASHQUEETA
1. After the old civilization, we drove to masheqeeta. The one-hour drive was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. The city itself was like a port with seven lakes.
2. We took a 30 min. boat ride down the lakes.
a. We learned that the boating business was hurt because of the recent boating accident in Damascus
3. Lots of olive trees all around
We then drove around stopping for pictures until we got to Kasab
Interesting facts: KASAB
1. city on the TOPPP of the mountain
2. popular tourism spot for the summer
3. sell lots of herbs
4. lots of Armenians
5. lots of Turkish music because we were right by the border, which we did stop by but were not allowed close to or in Turkey proper
We next ate at a restaurant famous for their fries – it took us FOREVER to find it we kept seeing signs thinking we were close then after 30 min we finally made. We also ate a desert that was 100% unnecessary but yummy (Kanafa).
We then went to a beach side town my uncle remembered to be beautiful, but was basically trash. Just comes to show how some people in Syria don’t know how to keep up with their environment.
We then got lost on our way to the next city, but it was a beautiful place to get lost in because we drove to the top of the mountain and saw the beautiful scenery.
We then returned to our chalet where we came to find the electricity gone, typical middle east 
We had someone (a friend of Mhmd… happened to be 3X boxing champ and now a border patrol worker SCARY) take us around and we talked around tea then walked around the city.
In Latakia, we bought some burned salty/sour green humus beans and walked along the bay. We had a sweet that was like a cake with cheese in the middle. We then went back to sleep.

Day 3 – Somra and Aleppo
We woke up early and drove to the MOST BEAUTIFUL SITE IN SYRIA! The city of Somra. The entire ride was nice, and when we got closer we saw two mountains with the sea in between… then when we drove down the road was full of beautiful bushes and flowers.
Interesting facts: SOMRA
1. Lots of Armenians
2. The right mountain, when looking at the sea, is Turkey! That is the border
3. The sea is crystal clear, and there is a family on the bottom making yummy fatiyar
We then drove to Aleppo. I fell asleep along the way. We went straight to our hotel (Dal-lal) in the old city. And we then went to visit our friend Amaal for lunch… followed by getting our hair done… followed by a little shopping by myself in the square where I was hit on by two people, whistled at almost too much, followed by one. Then we went out to dinner at like 11 p.m. at “nady Jalaa-ah”
Interested facts: ALEPPO
1. he city looks a lot like Damascus: the old city has a lot of old houses and alleys and then there is a new downtown area
2. the roads are wider
3. there are just as many taxis and microbuses
4. famous for their food
5. women are not too beautiful there (Latakia was better, Homs is famous for their women)
a. Lots of Armenians!
i. Originally when the Turks were bombing the Armenians, they fled to the closest city (Aleppo) and stayed there!
b. More Christians
c. The Muslim women are more conservative – more covered head-to-toe in black than any other city
d. The people LOVE their classical music
e. Very friendly people
i. One man wouldn’t let us pay for the taxi
ii. One woman wouldn’t let me pay for my magnet
iii. They love showing me their work and welcoming us to the city
iv. Mhmd’s friend came all the way from the other side of the city to drive him down
v. One man had me try on all his necklaces and said ‘his happiness was to please me”
f. CRAZY drivers!

Day 4: Aleppo
1. Aleppo Citadel
a. Largest
b. Oldest
c. Most important
d. we had a tour guide that told us everything about the history
e. built for the Mamluk period, used by the Byzantines
2. Museum
a. Lots of realllly old artifacts
b. Quick tour from tour guide
c. History from early man  Mamluk  byzantine  roman ETC
3. Old city/Market
a. A lot like Damascus
b. Biggest covered market in the world
c. Surprised to see not too much of the famous Aleppo nuts… more in Damascus!
4. Mosque (Omayyad)
a. Nice… not too special in my opinion
b. Zacharay’s tomb
i. Like Jesus’s uncle
Day 5: Bus back to Damascus
1. We took a bus back… the BEST bus ride ever
a. Company was Express/first classes and it lived up to its name!
i. Seats recline
ii. Personal TV (I watched Barrier 13)
iii. Snack, water, coffee, juice, tea
iv. Personal man working there
At Damascus we went out to a nightclub called Chillos that was super fun. We got to sit upstairs and watch everyone dancing!

Day 6: Stayed in Damascus… La Serail at night

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