The taxi from Amman to Damascus

Coming from Australia, people always joke about catching a taxi from Melbourne to Sydney (some 900 kilometres) let alone to another country. Well in Jordan and Syria, things are different. They will take you anywhere. One night we’re driving around in a yellow taxi when we mention we’re heading to Damascus the next day. Necessity is the mother of all enterprise in the Middle East. People are genuinely friendly, but they need to earn the extra Dinar any way they can. No sooner than we had mentioned it and our taxi driver is hooking us up with a ride to Damascus. No dirty Greyhound busses or backpacker coaches. No sir! How about a nice clean Camry, or an E Class Mercedes to schlep across the border in style?! Why not we thought. So he drives us to his depot, which actually wasn’t bad for a taxi place anywhere. Mind you there were military cargo nets, the obligatory hookah pipe and cigarette smoke. Plus the full-wall sized print of the King of Jordan in full Khakis, beret, Ray Bans posing with his assault rifle. You know as our negro friends would say ‘gettin’ his military on’. Strangely though it wasn’t out of place. I swear there’s someone from the government comes around and checks you have posters of the relevant dictators in full view, on pane of death. Because they’re everywhere. But thankfully we were here to do business and not wax lyrical about the king. Yes the yellow taxis do the normal grind, the white ones will take you to Israel (with the right documents of course), Damascus, Beirut,...

Top Gear Middle East locations

The Top Gear Christmas special was an absolute boon for me. A quick look at Final Gear and the boys were off on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. We’d already booked tickets for Jordan and Syria a few months earlier and it made the trip all the more awesome! This post will give you a bit of insight into some of the attractions in Syria and Jordan that make a truly memorable holiday. Palmyra When they’re coming out of the desert, the Roman ruins you see are in the city of Palmyra. It is clearly amazing, but what is really good about Palmyra is you buy one ticket for basically all the attractions in the city are included. The ticket lasts 2 or 3 days and costs about 500 Syrian pounds (10-12 US dollars) each. Palmyra is about 300 kilometres away from the Syrian capital of Damascus. It’s quite a long drive down undulating desert roads. It will cost you about $90-120 US dollars a day for a taxi driver that speaks a bit of English (off season – and the same in Euros in peak season). We took a taxi from Aleppo to Palmyra and it was a long day of driving through the desert, nicely punctuated by a visit to stellar attractions like Qala’at Samaan and the Dead Cities.  The next day the driver took us from Palmyra to Damascus with time to stop at the pork serving Christian village of Maalula and a weird hippy, non demoninational Christian convent (it’s the only time I saw pork anywhere in the whole 3 weeks I was in the Middle...