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فيلم توضيحي عن رالي اكتشف سورية 2007 مع اريبا

18 دقيقة
6 دقائق


صحيفة التايمز تكتب عن رالي اكتشف سورية

 

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Speeding through Syria
Taking the fast track to Aleppo in rally car was the ride of a lifetime
 

It sounded like a cross between wacky races and the Cannonball Run. In a supposed Axis of Evil country. With sand. When I told my friends I was going on the 1,300km (800 mile) Discover Syria Car Rally, they expected me back in two days with tales of kidnap and extreme heat. Now they all want to go to Syria, too.

OK. First the confession. My driving extends to trips to the supermarket. It took me three tries and ten years to get my driving licence. I have never driven a left-hand-drive vehicle or been rallying. So when, through a friend, I was invited to go rallying in Syria, of course I said “yes” instantly. Alarmingly, she took a para-medic as her co-driver. Mine was Mr Numbers, an insanely good map reader, who is more at home driving his piano.

The Discover Syria rally is the brainchild of the Syrian Automobile Club and, of all people, David Steel, who was so taken with Syria that he suggested to the club that more people should share their secret. So the Discover Syria Rally was born. Now in its fifth year, it has sponsorship from the mobile phone company Areeba and attracts huge media attention throughout the Middle East.

The idea is this: over three days you drive from Damascus, through Hama to Aleppo and then to Lattakia on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. You stay at five-star hotels. You drive through sensationally beautiful countryside. And you get a chance to stop at some of the country’s dazzling historic monuments and to delve in the souks of Aleppo and Damascus. What’s not to like?
About 50 teams take part, some invited, but most paying 25,000 Syrian pounds (£250). This covers entrance for two people, accommodation, meals (Syrian food is delicious) and your rally kit.

The event turned out to be a blissfully bonkers amalgam of Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian boy racers; the lad who had just won the Syrian version of Pop Idol; an Egyptian actor who everyone wanted to be photographed with; four Syrians on huge Harley-Davidson bikes forever preening in their wing mirrors; some fab Finns; a delicious Nigerian twosome in hats and robes; and some South Africans. This is no Gumball rally – several Syrians seemed to have brought their families, from baby to granny.

The event is immaculately organised. Each participant received a gilet with their name on it, right down to the babies. But there's no map. Just this road book that gives you distances between one spot and another and instructions. Like “136.8km turn right”. It’s all timed and you have to arrive on the dot of your appointed time at the checkpoints. And spot landmarks. And answer questions, such as: what’s the strongest muscle in the body? Er, the jaw (in case you take part next year).

The cars ranged from SUVs to a Hummer. A hire car had been arranged for us. What sort? Oh, a black one. A Hyundai something. The first thing I had to do was drive it through Damascus. You don’t need a driving licence to do this, you need five years’ experience on a PlayStation.

The rally started at the Barada sporting club. I was agitated about having no map. The Syrians said, “You can’t get lost in Syria.” But the “136.8km and turn right” thing defeated us and we were soon spectacularly lost.

Syria’s people are the most generous, charming and hospitable folk. English is widely spoken and there were offers of tea and directions. In the end, a three-car convoy led us to the right road.

Mr Numbers had arrived at four in the morning and we had both missed the briefing. Neither of us had the first clue what was going on. At the end of the first day we had amassed a phenomenal 300 penalty points and were second last. But we were having such a fine time. The route had taken us through emerald-green hills covered in flowers to Krak des Chevaliers. Lawrence of Arabia called it “the finest castle in the world”, and so it is. Built 800 years ago to control the Homs gap, it could house 5,000 knights and their followers and withstand a five-year siege. You walk in through a tunnel that allowed the Crusaders to ride in two by two. I expected Charlton Heston and the cast of El Cid to pop up any minute.

We stayed overnight in Mashta Elhelou, a resort in the hills, famous for its cool greeness in the summer. On the second day I got into trouble with Mr Numbers, whose competitive dander was now up, for stopping to take photos of wild flowers (20 penalty points).

That day’s route took us first to Apamea. In Roman times this was the Vegas of the Eastern Empire with a population of 500,000. The town’s main street stretched dead straight for 2km, flanked by sumptuous 10m-high columns. Ephesus, eat your heart out.

The day finished in Aleppo, with its astonishing Citadel. The souk is unchanged. Piles of nuts and candied fruit, heaps of spices and some unbelievable ladies underwear. Fluff, net, glitter. Aleppo’s blingerie has to be seen to be believed.

The most competitive of the Europeans were the Flying Finns, who clearly have rallying in their blood. Mr Numbers took over the driving on the third day and discovered he was born to rally. There was no stopping him. We finished 15th.

The final day was gorgeous. First, eating flatbread and scrambled egg at the vantage point of Jiran al-Amar, looking across miles of fertile plains and then motoring up to Saladin’s magnificent castle before driving down to the coast, the air heavy with the scent of orange blossom.

Whatever you think you know about Syria, abandon it and go. The people are life-enhancing and the country beautiful. And there can be no better way to discover Syria than with the Discover Syria Rally.

Need to know

Vivienne Parry travelled to Syria with the help of the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, Areeba, and the Syrian Automobile Club.

Any group of two people or more with a valid driving licence is eligible to participate in the Discover Syria Rally. No special driving skills are required. The race is a fun event, which observes safety rules and normal speed limits. It is not a high-speed driving event. For information on next spring’s Discover Syria Car Rally, check the website of the Syrian Automobile Club for updates (
www.syrianautomobileclub.com/discover/eng/pages/about-rally.htm)
or e-mail
info@syrianautomobileclub.com .
 

8/9/2007

To get the original reportage click here 

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