Sunday, 28 March 2010

22nd February. Houbara!!

We headed out at dawn towards the Kharabaga reserve. Three Pallid Harriers, Long-legged Buzzard and Raven livened up the early stops. After a couple of hours of driving through a vast area of desert we came across a couple of typical one-storey mud and block houses and some animal pens. Chickens wandered around. Little did they know. We were invited in for tea by the Bedouin. A typical Arab room with rugs and cushions on the floor around a wood burning stove. We sat cross-legged around the stove. Even before we could ask about SPs the talk was about Houbaras. Up to 17 seen since November and 3 just 10 days ago! However, we suddenly realised that Houbara was the Arab word for bustard and these were likely to be Great Bustard, but still a rare bird nowadays in Syria. We set off to look for them, with one of the guys on board, and a promise of food on our return. Sadly we found nothing in 2 hours but aim to return.

We returned for lunch, sat down and food was laid out before us. Spring onions, chillies, yogurt with cabbage, bread and a yogurt drink. And then the centrepiece; a large silver platter heaped with freshly cooked (and killed) chicken covering wheat stewed in the chicken broth. The head man pulled meat from the bones with his fingers and placed it in front of me.

The hospitality and kindness of these people continues to amaze me. These people are very poor yet their generosity is huge. A lesson to us all.

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