We emerged from the desert today after a week in its barren yet beautiful landscape. In a way we were sad to leave the scenery behind but after some of our encounters we were equally relieved to be back in more populated parts. Our return to civilisation came courtesy of the city of Deir-ez-Zor. Our first impressions are of a dusty yet friendly place that straddles a frontier, wedged between the desert and the banks of the Euphrates river.
Our hotel balcony overlooks the main street, which is technically a one-way road but bicycles and motorcycles regularly fly down the pavement going the wrong way, creating general chaos most of the time. The stores lining the sidewalk are a mixture of fast food restaurants (roast chicken, falafels, kebabs), fresh fruit sellers, hardware stores and just about anything else you can imagine. This must be a town where people come from long distances to stock up because the supermarkets only seem to sell food in vast quantities. Twenty packages of this, twelve tins of that. Everything is taped and boxed together and piled high in the doorways.
When we first arrived the power was out. The hotel owner, who speaks excellent English, told us it was a planned outage for maintenance. “They told us the lights would be back on at 10am,” he said. “They just didn’t say which day.” The electricity finally came back at 3:30pm and we were able to take a hot shower to clean up after two days of camping. Then it was off to the internet cafe where we typed away for an hour before there was a large flash, followed by darkness. The power had given up for a second time. Apparently the repair work didn’t go as well as it should have.
No matter. This was a good cue for us to go get some supper and we tracked down a deluxe falafel with french fries and aubergine added to the usual toppings. That plus a bottle of Syrian wine made for a good evening.
We’ll spend a second night here to rest up, perhaps taking in the local museum and a stroll along the river. From here it should only take a week to get back to Aleppo and back to the Turkish border. We have plenty of time, since we don’t need to be in Iran until early January, so we’ll just take it easy and enjoy this down-to-earth town.