Road to Damascus in a $500 Ford Escort

Simon Raven (L) and Chris Raven (R) on the Road to Damascus

In the summer of 2007, my brother and I drove from the UK to Damascus. Four years after our road trip, Syria was plunged into Civil War. Our hearts go out to all the men, women and children who have lost their lives and affected by this armed conflict, and to the beautiful people we met along the way.

Written by Chris Raven

I wake at sunrise outside of the gates to the Göreme Museum in Cappadocia. In the distance a hot air balloon slowly drifts above the strange volcanic mushroom-shaped rock formations named fairy chimneys. There is a roaring sound and then a bright glow of a flame, followed by another burst of hot air as it disappears over the horizon. Slipping on my sunglasses, I admire the holes dotted across the rocks where ancient civilizations have carved windows and doorways into these natural dwellings and Byzantines have made chapels with paintings during the spread of Early Christianity.

Si drives south to the town of Nevşehir in the heart of Cappadocia, and we follow fields of yellow sunflowers all the way to the agricultural city of Nigde. The windows are down and there is an open road in front of us as we cruise the High Taurus; a mountain range brimming with important chromium deposits and other minerals such as silver, copper, iron, lignite and zinc. We climb the breathtaking Kolsuz Pass in the Niğde Province at an altitude of 1,490 metres (4,890 ft), and slowly make our way down towards Adana that produces grapes, cotton, wheat and barley. From the Levant region up into Turkey, the farming revolution began here 8,000 years ago creating a hub where farmers are first thought to have spread into Europe. We arrive on the Mediterranean coast at the port town of İskenderun. There is not much to see so we park up overlooking the port. Si rummages through the trunk and fishes out a saucepan and the gas stove. We cook a tin of meatballs with spaghetti, and I take the opportunity to have a shave using the hot spaghetti water.