FROM BUSY TOURIST TOWN TO GHOST TOWN S06 EP.39 | Pakistani in Syria | MIDDLE EAST MOTORCYCLE
Is everything OK? The situation of this town is sending chills down my spine. At least I can share GoPro shots of my ride with you. Check out this view..! Safeer Hotel... it was located right next to the church. Assalam Alekum Everyone and Welcome Back to the Channel Hopefully all of you will be fine.
I'm in Maaloula right now. We just got here today. I hope all of you must have enjoyed my previous vlog from Damascus to here.
We are now going to see a very prominent Crusader's castle - Krak des Chevaliers. It was conquered by a Mamluk Sultan. More about that later when we get here. And we'll stay at Homs tonight. It may take us a couple of hours to get to the castle.
And another 1.5 hours to get to Homs from there. That's where we are gonna spend our night. Time to leave now. I'm standing outside the same church that I showed you in the last vlog. Lets cross Maaloula and go on with our ride. *Prayer for the journey* I pray to Allah for a safe and memorable day ahead.
And I wish the same for all my viewers. I'm very excited to see this castle. I've seen a lot of pictures and videos by other people.
It was a very significant castle historically. I mean building such a castle back in those days... And then its conquest by Mamluks... This is Maaloula for you... Slowly being rebuilt by the people. Everything you see around you is covered with bullet marks. The locals have been through a lot.
May Allah ease their sufferings. Some houses have been rebuilt already while others are still in the process. Many people have already left this region. Migrated to Europe, UK, USA and Canada. Those who could not go abroad, settled in some of the bigger cities in Syria.
That's a mosque over there and even it was looted by the people. That's a Muslim cemetery. This suggests that the town must have some Muslim population as well. There it is.
Its minaret is quite damaged. Must have been the result of some bomb blast nearby. You can see that neither mosques nor churches were spared. Everything that could be looted was looted.
And we are finally out of Maaloula. That's the city gate. That's the public transport. Similar buses used to run by our village. They may still be in use even today. I could see a number of similarities between Syria and Pakistan.
Especially the rural life, away from the cities, is not much different. And if I'm being honest, many villages here are more developed as compared to the ones in Pakistan. Syria used to be a powerful country till 2010 ... even 2012. Their currency has faced a major devaluation. And then the energy crisis added insult to the injury. It resulted in closing of many factories and loss of jobs for countless people.
I was told by the guide that the average salary used to be 500 dollars. That's a good salary. If two family members were working, they could afford a house of their own.
They could even afford a car. They had a comfortable life. There was no concept of shortage of electricity or fuel. They must have never imagined to be in such a situation. We are almost 30-35 km away from Homs now.
We must have covered 60-80 km by now. Most of it was on the highway. It's such a great highway... with almost little to no traffic. There wasn't any check post so far. So, we have covered a good deal of the distance well in time. It's a little windy though.
Check Post incoming... Hopefully they won't bother us too much. Because we have limited time on us.
To visit the castle, that is. I just used this 1 liter that I got from Jordan. This can make 25 ... Ohhh ... Will it be enough for 25 km? To help you with your next 25 km? Yes. Hopefully.
When we arrive at a certain intersection to change the road... There will be a guy who will give us 20 liters. OK. And when we come back we will get another 20 liters. Earlier, we were looking for petrol... And now... by the road side... about 10 km from Homs...
People are here with petrol... I think they smuggle this petrol from Lebanon whose border is not too far from here. And they sell it here by the road side.
I could have taken it from any one of them but my guide has already made arrangements. So, let's keep going. I don't know about the quality of this fuel though. Here, people are also smuggling gas cylinders.
Also from Lebanon I think. The petrol guy must be somewhere here. Because the guide has slowed down. Looks like a petrol station there. You can see how much effort they have to put in. Each can is about 20 liters.
I asked him why didn't we get petrol from any of the people by the road side. He told me that we can't just trust anyone.. They may have mixed something with the fuel. It won't be good for the motorcycle. Is this 10 liters? This is 20 liters. 20 liters... OK.
No. No. Not yet... That's not even 18 liters. This is definitely not 18 liters. How many liters did you already have? It's 11 liters at max.
Busted... That's 100 thousand Syrian Pounds? 200 thousand. 100 thousand for each gallon. He told me that he has negotiated with them and they have agreed on a lower price. Because they are not telling the truth about the amount of petrol as they claim.
I think it's 15 liters and they are saying that it's 18 liters. We have just crossed Homs. We haven't entered the city. We just took the highway by the city and are now going towards the coast.
That's our route and Lebanon border is not too far from here. The castle is about 35 km from here. That's our destination for now. The castle is about 35 km from here.
Could take from half an hour to 45 minutes. The map showed that the Lebanon border was quite close. We are almost there.
Just another 5-7 km from here. It's a small mountainous region. That's the first town that I've seen in the way.
Now, I'm not sure if it has been abandoned... It could have been under attack by the Syrian Free Army or ISIS. However, I've seen many of the places that I passed by earlier today were in good condition. Apparently nobody lives here. A child was sitting there alone.
Somebody must be living here for sure. Is everything okay? I couldn't understand what he said. Don't know what's wrong with the car... I hope it's nothing. I don't think the car is making the right sound. Ooops Something must have gone wrong with the poor chap's car.
That is not a good sign. I better park the motorcycle aside. And it has happened at an abandoned looking place like this.
I mean just take a look around. Bullet marks everywhere... Look at that house by the road side, for instance. Take this road and go to the castle.
Take this road and go straight. You'll find a local guide there. Please go there. I've told him and he's waiting for you. There was a kid sitting there... Where did he go?? I didn't see him going.
Other than that kid, there's not a single soul here to be seen. The situation of this town is enough to send a chill down my spine. That's what I've been feeling. This is a first time experience for me.
That is... after I left the city and started traveling to remote areas. That's the castle up there. The castle is at some height. We must have gained 200-300 meters in just getting up here from the road back there. We've to see where we need to go.
At least I can take a round on the motorcycle outside the castle. The entrance must be around here somewhere. There is no parking on this side. People are watching me curiously. I think I'll have to come back from ahead.
It's quite possible that the entrance must be this way. My guide has already talked to them on the phone. That we may get a little late. The guide has also joined us. He is in the red car in front of us.
I think the local guide from here has picked him up. He must have told them about his car. We are going to the other side of the castle with a great view at this time of the day.
This is definitely among the most beautiful castles that I've seen so far in the Middle East. The first ruler to come here was the Egyptian pharaoh, Thutmose the third. He built a castle here. Moving forward in time, there used to be a Muslim castle here in the 10th century.
Later on, as the Crusaders came here, they laid the foundations of this castle. As you can see... there are 2 castles here... One inner section and one outer section.
The outer section was constructed to defend the castle against the power of Muslim armies. Saladin also came here to conquer this castle. However, after looking at the castle and its location, he decided to go back without fighting. Because it was almost impossible to get into this castle.
Later on, when the place was under the Mamluk rule, in 1271, Sultan Zahir came here and put this castle under siege for 1.5 months. I'm gonna show you his point of attack. Its location shows us that it is naturally protected from 3 sides. The chances of any invading armies from these 3 sides are almost zero. Only the front side of the castle is its weak point. Any army can attack the castle from the front.
And that is where the Mamluk Sultan attacked. After a siege of 1.5 months, they started ambush by canons.... That made the Crusaders inside the castle realize that they can't stop the attack. So they accepted their defeat and signed an agreement. And according to the agreement, they handed over the castle to the Muslims.
I'm just wondering how amazing the drone shots of this castle could have been... Could have been super awesome shots. Just look at the natural light falling over the castle...
Wow... At least I can share GoPro shots of my ride with you. It's still in a very good condition.
Doesn't look like a thousand year old castle. Definitely a 1000 years old castle. I hope I'm on the right track.
I think I'm on the right track. We are going to the entrance of the castle.... And I think we are there.
As I said before... the castle has two sections. There's a passage in the outer wall that we can use to go to the inner section of the castle. Right now I'm standing at the point between the outer and the inner sections.
And this is the weak point of this castle. That was the favorite spot of any invading army. If they can manage to cross the outer wall, they'll be facing the main castle. And the main castle has a huge wall. 2-3 watch towers were built to keep an eye on the wall. The base of the castle is surrounded by a ditch carrying water.
This makes it really difficult for any army to cross over and get into the castle. Lets get in and see the castle from inside. On the right side, is the walk way inside the outer wall. The pathway on the left, however, goes all the way back to the inner section. Notice that the two pathways are not in line. You have to stop here and make a U-turn.
And you can't see that there's an army waiting inside. So, this was a really important strategic point. Gives you a chance to hide yourself against the invading army. After you enter the castle, you see this open yard in the middle. On the right side, you can see the main hall.
There were dining rooms and kitchens. The rooms in the front belonged to the soldiers. You can spot Gothic style arches at some places. Looks really beautiful.
I just came to know that the castle was attacked by Al-Nusrah and was in their control. That explains the damage to the place. That was caused during the battle that took place here.
I've walked all the way up to the upper section. Let's see what in this section. When you get to the roof top, everything becomes more clear.
Gives you a clear idea about the importance of its location. On one side, you can see the plains of Hama and Homs.... On the other side, you can see the mountains in Lebanon. And on the back side is the coastal area.
You can keep an eye in every direction. You'll be able to see everything from here. You can watch any invading army or any person, for that matter. This is such an impressive place... It's in a very good condition despite getting built a 1000 years back. You can also clearly see the inner and outer walls of the castle and water in between.
You can see it from the top that how good the defense of this castle was. As soon as they realized that the Muslim armies could attack them, they strengthened the defenses. I tried my best to give you the best tour of this castle.
Time to go down... The sun has already set. And the guide is waiting for us. We are off to Homs now... Our abode for the night. Might have to take a look at the car of the guide. He told me that it was an oil related problem.
Apparently, the gear oil has gotten really hot. His car mechanic has told him to keep the engine off for some time. Let's see if we will be able to start his car. Off to Homs now.
Might have to look at the guide's care on the way. Hopefully... won't be a major issue. I may be able to help him if some repair is needed.
What's that you can see that the town is gradually recovering from war. More than half of this town is empty. Nobody lives there. This is where he parked his car. There he is...
The engine is back to life. Doesn't sound right... Nope... Something is seriously wrong. So, our taxi has arrived. There's some problem with the gear box of the car so we have to leave it here.
A taxi has been called so that the guide can move with his luggage. I did consider taking him with me on the motorcycle but it's already loaded with my stuff. I'm carrying at least 20 liters of petrol that we just can't leave here. We are gonna need it.
Some mechanic will come and have a look at the car tomorrow. We've to ride for another hour. It's almost 9 pm. So, we hope to get to our hotel around 10. I've offered him to help him with the repair work. But since it's an old car, you discover more problems when you start fixing one. We might discover that the car is irreparable.
Such things are a part of life but I'm gonna help him as much as I can. Just a short patch in this hilly area and soon we'll be on the highway. Anyways.... the headlights of my motorcycle are awesome. Because of them, I'm no more scared of traveling at night. I can see everything clearly now. The old headlights were barely enough.
We are in Homs now. It's pitch dark in this city. Can't see a thing. And that's due to the power shortage. This is the check post area. I'm gonna have to turn the camera off. Don't want any trouble.
There is no electricity in this whole city. Except for some random street lights here and there. These could be solar powered. Other than that... everything is dark... the roads... apartments... buildings... All dark.
This must be the city center. Some shops are still open. Can't really share my first impressions of the city as I can't see anything. But we can do that tomorrow.
I think that's our hotel. What's the name...? New Basman Hotel And they do have electricity... And quite much for that matter. They have their own power generators.
This is my room in Homs for the night. A small but tidy room. The best thing is that they are generating their own electricity through a generator. They have turned this fan on for me so that I can sleep peacefully. I don't know about the rent of this room as it was a part of the package. Let's go out and have dinner.
I'm already starving. Lets hope and pray to find a nice place to eat. That's our shwarma. There are also some fries and a salad.
As for this item, I don't know its name... But they told me that it has meat in it. Our guide is sitting in front of us... eating his dinner.