Until today, our Second Tour of Peace had not been exposed to any semblance of military combat. We hadn’t heard a single rifle shot or the thud of any bombs or artillery shells. We hadn’t seen any armoured vehicles or warplanes in action in any of the liberated areas we travelled in Syria.
In fact, in the government-held areas, you really wouldn’t notice there was a war going on (except for the endless checkpoints). The security situation in Syria, according to our hosts, had improved immensely since the agreement for a partial cessation of hostilities was signed in Geneva about five weeks ago.
Today would be a little different. Today, we were going to be the first group of tourists actually to tour the ancient site of Palmyra.
Like Damascus, Palmyra was a settlement built around an oasis in the desert. Both Damascus and Palmyra were important stops for caravans along the Syrian Silk Road. Palmyra was turned into a flourishing city, complete with two temples, an ampitheatre, and an arch of triumph by the Romans.