I’ve Never Been To Aleppo

I’ve never been to Aleppo. 

I’ve been to Damascus.

I’ve been to Palmyra.

I’ve been to Homs.

I’ve been to Bosra.

 I’ve never been to Aleppo. 


In 2003, as a fresh faced 20-year-old, I had the opportunity to visit Syria for the first time. With a friend I travelled by taxi from Lebanon, through the mountains that border the two countries, and arrived in Damascus for a one-night stay. It was the sights and smells that did me in.

I was one of very few Westerners. I ate amazing chicken kebabs with garlic mayonnaise and hot chips. I drank beer at a seedy bar that supplied weird nuts on the side. I visited a hammam, a men’s bath and massage centre, and came out the cleanest I’d ever been. I took in the sights of a city that had been around for over 3000 years. I sat in the Umayyad Mosque and attempted to see the “head of John The Baptist”. I stood inside the mausoleum of Saladin. I walked the Al-Hamadiyah Souk, with its storefronts lined with gold and the shopkeepers trying to convince me to buy special silk garments their grandmothers made. I wandered the Old City taking in the history and culture. I paid a visit to the National Museum, full of artefacts from millennia ago. I made my way down the Street called Straight, where Saul turned Paul walked 2000 years ago. I visited Ananias’s House and sat in those two dark rooms thinking about the many followers of the Way who’d been through.

When I visited Damascus I feel in love with the place.

A city that was, and still is, my favourite city in the world.

But I’ve never been to Aleppo. 

In 2006 I took a road trip with another friend of mine. We crossed the border into Syria and after a few days in Damascus we took the local bus to Palmyra, in the middle of the Syrian desert. We explored the ruins and met the bedouin locals.

But I’ve never been to Aleppo. 

On that same trip we visited Homs. We had a brief look around a city that was off the tourist trail. We had our haircuts and made some friends. We took a taxi to a local castle and nearly got beaten up by the driver.

But I’ve never been to Aleppo. 

When my parents came to visit us in Lebanon I took them across the border once again. We took a mini-van to Bosra. The rain came through the rusted out roof, and water was collected in a snap-lock bag. We climbed all over the Roman Amphitheatre and took some funny photos near various Roman ruins.

But I’ve never been to Aleppo. 


How scared we see thee lie,
Above thy ancient, ruined streets
Unholy stars collide.
Yet in some backstreet shelter
A newborn infant cries,
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in Thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And Herod smells the blood
Still Rachel weeps, but angels keep
Their bitter watch of love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth,
Let weeping cease, and foolish peace
Be born again in us.

How silently, how violently
The wondrous gift is slain
A mother cries and though he dies
Her son shall rise again.
Perceive his broken body
Conceive his future form
And as you grieve, yet still believe
The birth of Isa dawns.

Pete Greig

Travelling With An 18 Month Old

Never travel with an 18-month old. If you’re contemplating it, stop contemplating. If you’re thinking about it, stop thinking about it. If you’re considering it, stop considering it.

I shouldn’t be so harsh. Our daughter travelled very well, even though she was completely smashed when we got there.

We recently travelled from Australia to Europe. Door to door the trip took over 30 hours, with brief stopovers in Singapore and Dubai. It’s a killer of a flight when you’re on your own, let alone with an 18-month old.

Now that I’ve recovered from the experience I thought I’d write a few comments about what I’ve learnt.

1. Kids Can Put Up With A Lot
Little Miss didn’t sleep on the first 8 hour leg, but fell asleep in the airport as we waited to board the next section of our journey. The sleep lasted 40 minutes in one of those baby wearing contraptions. On the second flight she managed to fall asleep from around 90 minutes and then she dozed a third time while waiting to board our third flight, after a four hour stopover.
Sleep’s important for any kid, any adult in fact. But seeing Little Miss have to deal with so little sleep for so long made me feel bad for her. I felt bad for putting her though it all. Yet, she survived and made it through and has since got back to her best. While this is simply one aspect of the what she had to put up with during the course of the journey it is the main one. She can certainly put up with a lot.

2. Airline’s Don’t Offer Enough Food For Infants
Because Little Miss is less than two years old she is classed as an infant and doesn’t get her own seat. Anyone who’s had an 18-month old will realise that this is just a silly classification. 18-month olds eat the house down, in a relative way, and Little Miss could down an adult meal if she tried. This being said we were never offered any food for her on the journey, not even an infant meal. I’m not going to name the airline but I think that’s pretty poor form. Poor poor poor. If you’ve decided to the reject the advice in the first paragraph of this post then I suggest you pack your own food, and a lot of it.

3. iPads Are Gold
Load it up with the good stuff – In The Night Garden, Peppa Pig etc – and let it roll. We don’t usually let Little Miss play with them but on this type of journey you have to let some things go. She sat quietly and well for at least 15 minutes because of these things, they’re a lifesaver.

4. Don’t Expect Any Sleep
When she doesn’t sleep we don’t sleep. Enough said.

5. Minimise Your Luggage
When you’ve got no time to yourself then there’s no point in having much carry-on luggage. About 90% of our carry-on was loaded up with toys, amusements and food for Little Miss. The more room for these things will means less for yourself, which you don’t need anyway.

What about you? How have you found travelling with an “infant”?