Tuesday, 6 April 2010

24th March. Homeward bound.

After 5 weeks we had reached our final day in Syria. An early start from Aleppo saw us heading south to Damascus for our flight home via the Cities of the Dead. The scrubby hillsides around the ruins of St Simeon held Orphean Warblers and Serins, Rock Sparrows and Yellow-vented Bulbuls. We passed south through Idlip, a town that may never have seen a tourist before. Our lunchtime falafal was piled high with everything on offer and then the shopkeeper offered it to us free of charge with the words "welcome to our country". A final stop at Lake Quattine saw Buzzards, Spoonbils, Egrets and Cranes passing over, various pipits and Bluethroats on the ground alongside the ubiquitous Crested Larks. This was to be our last birding of the trip. In our five weeks we had seen close to 200 species and visited just about every corner of the country. Syria is a fantastic country, with truly friendly and hospitable people, especially away from the tourist areas. It goes straight into the short list of countries that deserve a re-visit.

Our trip would not have been the same without the superb support of the Desert Commission and the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife (SSCW). Particular thanks to Hayan Hmidan and Ghazi Alqaim, and our two drivers Husein Al-Husein and Housam Al-Nazzal. In Al Lajat, where we worked with the Syrian Ministry of Local Administration and Environment, thanks are due to Zober, Maher and Wajih. Along the route we were grateful for the information people provided, notably Ahmed Aidek in Deir Ezzor and Yaseen in Jubbal.

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