We spent a couple of days in Aleppo wondering around the souk, seeing some sights and discovering Syrian food. The people are a constant source of surprise. There is obviously a custom of giving gifts to visitors. A typical example is when we ask a passing woman for directions to a hotel, she insists on taking us there personally and then pulls out a chocolate bar for each of us from her hand-bag. Or another time when Nick picked up a toddler who had fallen over his father came chasing after us shouting madly and then dragged Nick to his stall where we were given delicious coconut macaroons. I feel quite guilty about accepting food all the time from obviosly poor people, but it seems rude to say no (and we were hungry!).
The drive from Aleppo to the coast via some amazing Crusader castles was really interesting although we were a bit distractyed by Brenda having acquired a squeak. She squeaks every time we turn right or go over a bump - so probably the suspension. In Tartous we stopped at a Honda dealership to ask whether there is a Toyota garage anywhere in town. We were met by the usual extreme generosity. The Honda dealer served us tea whilst arraging for a taxi driver to take us in convoy to the Toyota garage. The Honda man paid the taxi driver in advance and wouldn't accept a penny from us. Then the guys at the Toyota garage spent a while oiling the suspension and jet-washing her (it took 4 men to get her clean!) and then again refused to accept any payment for the work!
Since we've been in Syria Nick has been doing all the driving as it's quite challenging. There are no markings on the road so the number of lanes is determined by how many cars can fit across it. Motorways in particular are an eye-opener. I'm talking about a proper motorway with cars moving at 70mph + and then you'll come across an entire heard of sheep moving along the slow lane - or a car reversing backwards down the motorway because a carpet had fallen out of his boot! The driving standards improve a fair bit in cities where there are traffic police at every junction wearing white gloves and directing the traffic. There's no obvious need for them as there are functioning traffic lights, but I guess their presence frightens the locals into obeying the rules. We're in a decent hotel tonight with AlJazeera English on TV in our room, so useful for following events after Friday prayers. So far no signs of anything significant happening in Syria, but its quite upsetting to see the situation in Libya.