Today I spent most of the time exploring the desert sights around Palmyra. Specifically the Valley of the Tombs, where the rich and royal were buried, and the Qala'at ibn Maan (an Arab built castle), a more recent addition to the area.
I woke up very early and tried to get to the ruins before the sunrise, but was a little late. It seems the sun rises much earlier here than it does in Turkey. I still managed to get good light and some good photos.
The main ruins are very close to the town site, at most a five minute walk. The rest are a little further but still walkable. I spent a good portion of the day walking and got some pretty good exercise. The first on my list was exploring the Valley of the Tombs. Most of the tombs are in pretty poor condition and the decoration and loot has been either sold or put in museums. The tombs are generally free standing towers with multiple levels, but there were also some cave like tombs. The best tomb contained amazing frescoes including one portraying a scene with Achilles and Ulysses. Unfortunately photography was not allowed.
Overlooking the Valley of the Tombs and the main ruins is the Qala'at ibn Maan. The hike to it was steep and I was really starting to feel the desert sun. I decided to keffiyeh from the many Bedouin selling wares near the ruins. It really helped and it made me look more Arabic which made for less hassle during my exploration. The castle was nice, but it paled in comparison to the castles I've seen up to this point. The best thing about it was the view of the surrounding area.
When I returned to the town, I sat down in the hotel lobby to look through photos, when a man who was driving a couple from France around Syria asked me if I'm going to Damascus. I told him I was and he told me I could join them for free if I packed now. I quickly packed my stuff and jumped in the car. To my surprise he recruited another person and there were five of us in the vehicle. Another surprise was that the French couple were looking to split the cost of the trip. It was more money than I was planning to spend, but they could have asked for more too. The couple was extremely nice and it was a pleasant way of getting to Damascus. Tomorrow I'll explore the capital of Syria.