The first few days in Syria
07.03.2010 - 09.03.2010
The people at the motorbike shop were extremely friendly. They were clearly trying to push us into buying their bikes there and then, explaining that second hand bikes would be difficult to find, and that they have often been illegally imported without papers. We ended up deciding not to shell out so much money for bikes, when they would clearly lose a lot of value. I think that also some of the inner city driving we had seen had put us off the idea of driving motorcycles.
As with many people here, the guys at the motorbike shop seemed to hold a fascination, almost reverence, of the West (which I'm sure is why they were studying English). They invited us to supper later. We accepted and they agreed to call us that evening. However they never did call, so we just got Falafel again and went to sleep.
Next day was one of the least eventful days we had in Aleppo. We got up proper late (like 12:00 late) and vaguely drifted through the streets eating Falafel and enquiring further about second-hand bikes. The district near our hotel seemed to specialize in tyre shops, so we thought that people around here might have some useful information about where we could find bikes. We struggled with the Arab-speaking shop-keepers for a good 10 minutes, all of whom fundamentally misunderstood the nature of our enquiries. They kept asking for us to write down hte tyre dimensions that we wanted, but eventually brought us to an English speaking bloke in a small nondescript shop on the street. We got chatting, and he was a totally wicked bloke. He spoke excellent English, and told us that he had studied in Brighton for a few years. He was clearly another occidentalist, speaking at length about England. We asked him about motorbikes and he said he strongly urged us not to do it, on both safety grounds (he explained that the people here were careless, whereas in England, the driving was "very beautiful"), and once again on legal grounds (he claimed that it is actually illegal for foreigners to drive a motrbike in Syria). After our lengthy chat me and Kit agreed to forget the Biking in Syria and leave it for Jordan, a couple of months down the line.
That night, me and Kit decided to go to a local "Nightclub" we had spied a couple of streets from our hotel. We played some rubbish card drinking game with the Smirnoff I had brought with me to pre-lash, and then swayed out towards the Club.
On the way we jokingly agreed that there was a 50% chance it would be a shit disco, a 45% chance it might actually be alright, and a 5% chance it would end up being a Brothel. We naively sauntered our way in and sat down on a sofa at the back. Every sofa and armchair faced towards the stage, so we (still jokingly) agreed that this might increase the likelihood of it being a brothel. The ratio of females to males present was also suspiciously high for any club (yes, over 1:1!). We were still half-joking about it when a suited guy came over and whispered in Kit's ear "$100, any girl, all night)".
Now faced with the reality of the situation, I responded by drinking as much of the (rough) beer they were serving, in the shortest possible time-frame. "This is pretty weird, but being very drunk will probably make it less so" roughly sums up my thoughts at the time. We chilled and drank for a long time, and talked to a guy at the bar (who still persists in texting us about Brothels in Aleppo to this day). Then eventually the suited guy came back over and offered us any girl for an hour for $35. At this point we were like "what the fuck, why not?" and gave him $60 (we didn't have 70). He went and got two girls to come over and talk to us. This was pretty much the weirdest conversation of my life, interrupted occasionally by me and Kit turning to each other to comment on just how fucking weirdly the night was going so far. It was going so weirdly in fact that I increased my alcohol intake still further in response. I'm not well known for my ability to deal with heavy quantities of alcohol, so I very quickly drunk myself out of the game, and my head onto the arm of the sofa. Kit tells me I fell asleep and stayed that way for a good hour and a half whilst Kit taught his girl the meaning of the word "misogynistic" and danced with her. Mine left after I'd been out for 20 minutes.
Kit stayed there til' the club closed, at which point he woke me up. I remember a couple of flashes of my walk back to the hotel, then nothing apart from a couple of seconds of Kit trying to force me to be sick in the toilet. He tells me that he forced some water down me and then put me to bed.
Next day we woke up even later (around 2 pm). I was pretty groggy from the night before, and still a bit drunk. But, apart from mild nausea for the first few hours of the day, I got away with the excesses of the night before pretty well. This was to be our last day in Aleppo, and we really did nothing other than gor for a long walk around the city. We went to bed nice and early, having agreed to hitch to Ath Thaura the next morning.