Antakya today. The road from Gaziantep is pleasant, high hills rising on all sides, the highway sneaking alongside, snaking between when it has to.
I rode with a businessman from Hama who told me he and his wife used to visit Antakya on weekends, “for one or two nights, cheap.” I think he meant affordable, for him at least. It was driving distance for a weekend trip.
He mentioned the hotel being “seven stars” — earning a smile from his son — “It is a five star hotel.” But the point remains. High, middle, or lower class, impoverished or wealthy, Syrians have almost all — except maybe a few smugglers — lost much in terms of means.
It often isn’t how far they have fallen or where they landed that dictates their current temperament. Some formerly working poor, now penurious, don’t complain and get on with their impoverished toil. Some formerly upper class, now working class, complain ceaselessly, looking at their friends who didn’t fall quite as far. Most fall somewhere between.
During the summer we saw working women along a stretch of the highway that had been carved into the hillside. Keeps the wind off. Anyways, I was trying to think a country where the prostitutes were more conspicuous on the side of the open highway. Most driving are trucking goods and supplies from one place to another.
Yesterday it was a mite cold to be pulling knickers down. I saw three people on the side of the road around the same area, one was a kid. I think he was probably in charge of the tea.
The river is the Orontes. It flows through Hama and Antakya both before diving into the Mediterranean. I have yet to hear a Turk or a Syrian refer to it as anything but an ugly river — it is silty, muddy, sludgy. “Full of shit” I think was the comment made last night by another friend as we walked across it.
Shortly afterwards we were stopped by a police officer for an ID check. He took photos of my passport before letting us on our way. Suspicion rising here.