We've made it!!, September 20, 2008 (Aleppo, Syria)
We've made it!! Colin and I cycled into Aleppo on Friday and are thrilled to finally reach our destination.
It's been 192 days since we left northern Scotland, rowing and cycling over 7,000 km through twelve countries all the way to my father's birth place in Aleppo, Syria. The contrast between Colin's and my ancestral homelands couldn't be more pronounced. In Aleppo's outskirts the earth is dry and cracked with only hardy olive trees offering respite. Beige stone homes blend into similarly coloured surroundings, their design essential for reflecting heat and protecting people from the sun's intensity. The expedition's terminus is a different world to the snow, rain, gales and rolling fields of heather we encountered at the start in Caithness, Scotland where Colin's family is from.
Aleppo is a bustling of 3.7 million. The crowded streets are honking smoky chaos, overwhelming for visitors on bicycles. Invariably, whenever we paused to consult our nearly useless map someone would stop to point us in the right direction - often accompanied with an invitation to join their family for dinner. Although we had to decline these offers, I was pleased to see that the people of my homeland continued the tradition of generosity that we had experienced in neighbouring Turkey. This is the period when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The meal they break their fast with, dinner, is often a special event with dishes such as kebabs, humus, salads and roasted eggplant.
Soon I'll visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins who live in Aleppo, many of whom I haven't seen for more than two decades (or haven't met at all). It's a surreal experience to be here, immersed in a culture that is part of my heritage but so different from my home and upbringing in Canada. And it is just as meaningful to have experienced the ménage of cultures and landscapes that connect and unite two disparate lands, Scotland and Syria; two random places in the world, but for Colin and I these distinct cultures form the foundation of our new family.
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