A planned quick stop for 2 days turned into an 8 day stop for me. The Iranian embassy told me to come back in 3 days, as they had not yet received word from Tehran as to the status of my application. Three things can happen on the 16th (they are closed Saturday). Either I get the visa and travel on to Lebanon, I am refused and travel to Lebanon and work on alternate plans for getting the bike past Iran, or I need to reapply. In that case, I'll go to Lebanon and come back in a few weeks. The Damascus page is updated with more pictures etc.
Jan left for Lebanon this morning, understandably not wanting to wait for my visa application to be approved. (Jan left Beirut 4 days after the war started)
Damascus, Syria, 16 July, 2006
I just got word my Iranian visa was approved after a wonderful intervention by the Belgian embassies in Damascus and Tehran. I'll pick it up tomorrow and then head north, maybe in time to meet Jan in Capadocia.
Damascus, Syria, 17 July, 2006
"Hizbollah, Hizbollah!!" My cab driver insists I pronounce it correctly as we push our way through thousands of people, flags slipping over the hood of the cab and people squirming past vehicles that are not quite standing still. Al-Mazzeh, the road back from the Iranian embassy is awash with Syrian flags and portraits of Bashar Assad, with Hizbollah flags represented in equal measure. I get lectured on the right color combination (green on yellow) of the flag. Kids sell stick-on Hizbollah flags and some cars have 20 or more stuck all over them. I briefly contemplate buying one but then figure my Pakistani visa in my passport was enough to agitate American customs so I probably don't need any more teasers. The hotel where I am staying, Al Rabie, has been full for the last week and people are sleeping in the courtyard. Backpacks lumber into the lobby, only to disappear shortly afterwards. Hama and Homs, two cities close to Damascus, are both solidly booked, with tour operators bringing people back in the evening as there is no lodging available. When I head north tomorrow, I'll have to cross straight into Turkey. I was happy to see this morning that my unknown guardian angel in Tehran was able to produce a knowing smile on the generally unhelpful Iranian behind the counter as he whisked me from the crowd to process my visa post-haste. Vive la Belgique, I guess. At 5:30 in the evening, after 5 trips to the Iranian embassy in Damascus in the last few weeks, the battle was over.