98km Abu Shamat to Al Busayri

Just slightly overloaded...This day was made for cycling. The sun came over the mountains and lit up the straight roads. From the west, a little tailwind helped us fly along through the flat desert landscape. We were glad to put yesterday’s scare behind us and the whole day we only had good experiences with other truck drivers who honked and waved in encouragement as well as from the police who filled our water bottles and a kind man at a roadside stand who gave us bread for our lunch, refusing any payment. As the afternoon ticked away we started to look for a spot to put our tent but a German motorcylist pointed us instead towards the Baghdad Cafe. Set at the intersection of three roads – one leading to Homs, one to Damascus and the third to Iraq – we met the owner Sultan, who kindly welcomed us into his home for the night. In fact there are three Baghdad Cafes within a few kilometers of each other but Sultan claims his was the first, started 25 years ago. The original or not, it’s certainly one of the more atmospheric with Cliff the camel and a guard goose (better than a dog, says Sultan) outside the front door.

Over tea and then a meal of meat pastries, salad and arak we exchanged the usual questions and then Sultan threw out quite the conversation starter. “You watch channel six?” he asked, repeating his question when we didn’t quite understand. We were stumped about this “channel six” and sometimes accents are hard to decipher so we held up six fingers to double check we’d heard right. “No,” Sultan said, laughing and quickly flipping to the appropriate channel. “Sex,” he said. “You watch channel sex?” Errrrr. Ummmmm. A long silence followed as we glanced quickly at the screen and then uncomfortably away. Well, that made a change from the normal chatter about weather. Sultan proudly showed us the collection of forty or so such channels on his satellite receiver, mostly from eastern Europe, and then asked about how these things worked in Canada. He was shocked to discover that not everyone had so much quite literally eye-opening programming to choose from, certainly not for free, and that it wasn’t something most people watched when friends visited. We can honestly say that both Sultan and we ourselves were genuinely stumped over this cultural gap.

Our little bit of education overwith, we soon crawled into bed and listened to a little rain tapping away on the roof before we drifted off to sleep, resting up for another big day ahead.


  1. andrew
    10th December 2007 at 2:27 pm #

    Road notes: There are no stores on this stretch of road although you can collect water from the police about 40km past Abu Shamat and there are a few small shops at Al Busayri. There are three Baghdad Cafes (flattery is the sincerest form of imitation) but only one at the main intersection of roads leading to Homs, Palmyra and Iraq.

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