Roads and Maps

Days and days of endless straight roadsSyrian roads are broadly in excellent shape. Potholes, cracks and other poor surfaces are rare; a welcome surprise for cyclists coming from Turkey and its plethora of chip-sealed pavement! Shoulders are common on most larger roads and exceptionally wide on the motorway. Driving standards are not high but traffic tends to give cyclists a wide berth. Motorcycles can be an annoyance as their often young drivers like to putter alongside bicycles while trying to engage the cyclist in conversation. You may also suffer hearing loss from trucks, which love to honk loudly and repeatedly to say hello as they pass. In the cities you should pay attention for hazards like mad taxi drivers and car doors opening in your path.

Maps, unfortunately, don’t match the quality of the well-surfaced roads. Seek out at least two different maps so you can compare town names, which may have several spellings, and routes. Main roads tend to be well marked but smaller routes are more of a challenge. Locals are almost always inept at map reading but if you know the name of a town they’ll be able to point the way and they are eager to help so many will offer the tired cyclist a lift. The mantra of cycling the backroads of Syria is ask, ask, ask for directions.

A compass to help determine your general direction is a nice tool when faced with an unmarked road.

German publishers seem to produce the best maps to Syria and the tourist offices in Aleppo, Hama and Damascus also give out free maps for regions and the country overall.

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