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Friday, August 10, 2007

The Man Who Fell On Mersin

I’ve been away. I haven’t deserted my blog for such length ever since its conception. As a matter of fact I haven’t been away from a PC for over a week since 1993. I have a good alibi though, I was on vacation.

For the first time in over three years, Om Fares, the kids and I all went on vacation together. We left Tartous on the morning of Thursday the 2nd and headed to the port of Lattakia. There, we boarded a ferry boat and sailed away to Mersin, Turkey. It took the 270-passenger catamaran a little bit under four hours to cross the 95 nautical miles. Come early evening, we were riding in Ugur’s taxi to the Hilton in the quiet Mediterranean city (Ugur is the Cabby’s name, and since I like to put a name on a face, "what is your name?" was my first question on my first time visit to Turkey).


While waiting in the modest passenger terminal at the port of Lattakia I was taking in phone calls from the office. There was one more important email I needed to reply to. Much to the chagrin of Om Fares and the kids, I took my laptop out and started typing away. Like all addicts of modern technology, I derive so much satisfaction from the fact that my ultraportable Vaio has a built in GSM receiver, WILAN, WWAN and the bullshit list goes on and on… However, when I saw the look on their faces and guessed at their whispers, I pushed the Send button and uttered my promise. As long as we are on vacation I would not touch the damn thing, read my email or even post on my blog. “Promise?”, Fares asked. “Promise”, I replied.


Mersin proved to be a perfect choice. Temperatures were soaring all over. The family mutually agreed on not wanting to go around places but to rather stay in one city. As far as I was concerned, all I dreamed of was to sit in the shade by a body of water (a stunning swimming pool), read a good book (The Man Who Fell to Earth) and sip my misty drink (Vodka with anything). The little ones were just ecstatic to spend so much time in my company and to swim all day. Om Fares and Diana couldn’t ask for more than to be able to get away from the three of us and maraud the shops and markets of Mersin. An excellent status quo was reached during the daylight hours and later on in the evening when we would all regroup, we would experience the little joys of a family vacation.


That’s my first visit to Turkey and I need to give credit where it’s due. Mersin is such a nice place and only a stone throw away from Tartous. Knowing this city intimately, as I’ve done over the last few days, is akin to having an affair with your beautiful neighbor. The city is extremely clean and peaceful for its size. People are very polite and courteous although a very few speak Arabic. To my surprise, almost no one outside the bounds of the hotel speak any English. This might sound strange until you realize that Mersin is not a tourist destination in the first place. Many excursions out of Syria in particular pass through Mersin for an overnight stay at the most. This simply means that Mersin is so unique because it has not been exploited yet.

On the other hand, Turkey is not the cheap country we all thought it was. Prices are much steeper than in Syria. They are very similar to those of Lebanon, if not a little more. The only reasonable thing we happily paid for was the great rate we secured at the Hilton before leaving. The hotel is simply fantastic and first class. At US$80.00 a night, per double room, breakfast included, this price is less than half of what you’d pay at the Sheraton in Damascus. And, I need to add that the standard of service is much higher as well.


We ate a little bit of everything. The kids, as all aliens from outer space, preferred the fast food variety. I had spent so much time by the pool I really didn’t care much about what I would have for lunch or dinner. We had a couple of nice experiences with local food, once in the center at Sabah, a traditional Turkish joint, and then in a small wooden hut by the beach. Late at night we would go out for a walk on the pedestrian-only esplanade by the sea. I have no idea how long this seafront path stretches out. I had walked in either direction away from the hotel for over an hour but there seemed to be no end.

We came back yesterday (Thursday the 9th), in the same ferry boat. I’m so happy I’ve been able to take my mind and body away from work. I’m ever so grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to spend this quality time with my family as I haven’t had the chance to do so recently. I have been bitching about my need for a vacation and I finally was able to get it. I don’t think the therapeutic effects will last long after our return but let’s put it this way, if I hadn’t stopped and taken this time off right when I did the consequences would’ve been dire. I was on the verge of strangling a few people, or was it the other way around; a few people were on the verge of strangling me.


Next time around we visit Turkey it would be in the comfort and convenience of our own car. We intend to continue north in our pilgrimage to this beautiful and hospitable country. May be all the way to Istanbul! May be for a couple of weeks! It was good to be away. It’s good to be back.

26 comments:

Yazan said...

Ah, nothing beats family vacations...

Welcome back ya abu fares.

Its very weird that our northern neighbor is very little discovered by us syrians.

Golaniya said...

Lakan ya 3ammi; nass bitnam bil hostel w nass bitnam bil Hilton!
Sounds nice hal Marsin, and you're so right; it is better when a city is untouched by touristic flavor, unlike old Istanbul.

Did you have Iskandar kabab? :D
Apple tea?

Welcome back ya abu fares!

The Syrian Brit said...

Welcome back, Abu Fares..
Having, myself, just returned from holiday only three days ago, I assure you that all the therapeutic effects have already evaporated.. The expanded waistline will take much longer!!.. I will write about my holiday very soon, I hope..
A return trip to Turkey is a must.. I recommend Istanbul unreservedly..

DUBAI JAZZ said...

al hamdillah 3la al salameh Abu Fares, welcome back :)

I am glad you were able to extricate yourself from work commitments, albeit for a week.

I didn't actually know there is a ferry service between Lattakia and Mersin, I've always envisaged that my long-awaited trip to Turkey would only be on a bus. It's good to have an alternative, although seaworthiness is a question. (not the ferry's seaworthiness but mine! .... yes, I have a sea-nausea)..

Anyway, again I am glad to see you've re-energized, hope things will be better and smooth at work...

abufares said...

Hi Yazan
Family vacations are like boot camps. You have to get back to basics as far as the idea of fun is concerned.
And, this, my friend, requires a lot of skill and more importantly, patience.

abufares said...

Cham
You have to take my word for it, but when I was as old as you (and almost as sexy) I slept in far worse places than hostels.
Anyway, you're right, I always felt that life is unfair to the young. As for the old, it just sucks.

abufares said...

Syrian Brit
We've both missed our chance to meet this time. Please don't make a habit out of it.
Can't wait to hear all about your homecoming to Damascus, of course in your very own pleasant words.

abufares said...

Dubai Jazz
For Om Fares & the kids, the worst part of the journey was the sea journey. For me, it was just a convenient way to get from point A to point B.
I would never even consider making this journey in a bus. I hate busses so much.
I'm more than willing to travel Turkey in my own car though. With careful planning, and a couple of weeks to spend, it will be a most interesting visit.

KJ said...

El7amdella 3al salameh Abu Fares and welcome back!

I am very pleased to hear that you have enjoyed your holiday in Turkey, admittedly with a slight hint of jealousy as my trip to Turkey with my cousin, the other Kinan, has been cancelled due to my company not giving me a holiday.

In any case, we must make certain that for the next holiday we all go to Istanbul. Kinan and I have now a solid idea of the best places to sleep over, to dine in, and to experience some unspeakable yet novel things.

GraY FoX said...

Welcome back sheikh el shabab ,
well your post came right on time , i'm planning a trip to turkey next month so thank you for the awesome guide and the in-advance trip :P

Ammoontie said...

Glad to hear that you have had an enjoyable family vacation.

abufares said...

Hi KJ
It's good to be back.
I'm certain that you would enjoy your time in Turkey. Istanbul is my next objective of course. However, August is certainly not the best month for such an adventure. Next year, or whenever the opporunity arises I want to go there either in June or September. There's no point in visiting a beautiful city in this overwhelming heat. The whole point is to walk the streets and take in the essence of the place. So you might be lucky after all. Aim for Sep. or better yet Oct. if you can.

abufares said...

Hi Gray Fox
Ahlan BilRjal!
Please read my reply to KJ. Unless I want to be a beach bum and do nothing at all this is not the best time to travel. Next month would be just fine. I wish you the best of times and please let us know about it.

abufares said...

Hi Ammoontie
Glad to see you over. Thank you.

kaya said...

Hello Abu Fares. It seems you had a good holiday.
But I must ask. What is it about MEN the minute the get in a TAXI they have to ask name, model, price of car, is it personal car, petrol consumption.....ad nauseam taxi after taxi. Arrrrghhhhh!
I guess its like women at the hairdressers!!!
The sea journey does sound longish, but better than being in a car I think. Because when the kids arent sleeping they r fighting over who's elbow is taking up more space on the arm rest. :D

Arima said...

hamdillah 3la al salama! Hope you had a wonderful time...Turkey is so beautiful and you really must go to Istanbul sometime. I didn't realise that there was a boat from Tartous to Mersin....hmmmm maybe next time inshallah.

abufares said...

Hello Kaya
I thought you already knew that I hate taxis and busses. My successful attempt at friendliness with Ugur had an ulterior motive. He helped me with the luggage (although you might not think that I need any help because I exude an aura of masculine power and sex appeal, nevertheless I suffer from almost constant lower back pain - ah, it's another story, one of the those war stories distinguished men like myself use to impress young breainless chicks who might fall for this crap),,, OK where was I, yes, having felt that Ugur is a nice guy, I asked about his name and mobile number, which proved useful eventually. This isn't what you bargained for when you commented, but it so nice to hear from you, I can go on and on...

abufares said...

Hi Arima
Istanbul it is. Next time hopefully.
The ferry boat is between Lattakia & Mersin from July to August if I'm not mistaken. The round trip fare is US$118 for adults and US$50 for children under 12.
It's rather a boring ride although the speed, if you get on the upper deck of the catamaran, is exhilirating. It was a matter of convenience that's all. Still, next time, I'd rather have my car so that we can go places (assuming I have a longer vacation).

Kinan said...

Welcome back abu fares, you have been missed :)

We all need a break of the hustle and bustle of our daily routines every once in a while. Glad you enjoyed your time with your family :)

Good to have you back. Btw, could you tell us more about this book you're reading?! ;)

abufares said...

Hi Kinan
"The Man Who Fell to Earth" is a 1963 novel by walter Tevis. It depicts the life of an extraterrestrial humanoid who landed on earth on a one way flight to save his own people on Anthea from extinction. It's a master piece of modern literature and I recommend it as a must reading. In 1976, David Bowie made his movie debut and starred as T J Newton (the extraterrestrial) in what had later become a monumental film with a huge cult following. There are some fundamental differences between the novel and the movie but both are great and highly recommended.
By the way, this is my third reading of the book. Once you read and watch it, please give us your insight.

abufares said...

Kinan
I have recently learned that there is a new version of the movie being shot right now. I can't wait for its release although it will be very hard to top Bowie's performance.

Kinan said...

thank you abu fares :)

I will try my best to get a hold of the book. Once i finish my never ending "to-read" list.

Karin said...

SO GREAT you all hat a wonderful time - and that you returned safely!! I've been three times to Turkey and - besides of the "ONLY-for-tourist-places - love it very much! I can only urge you to make it to Istambul - it is an absolutely fascinating city you MUST see! Another tip is Konya, the center of the Derwishes as well as a fantastic place to buy clothes and other articles from leather! if history fascinates you as much as it does me, don't miss Asklepeion and Pergamon ... south of Istambul!

I love travelling by boat (never fed the fish!!) ... as much as I love to fly!

I forgot already what the word "vacation" really means .. I'm alright though!

abufares said...

Hi Karin
I'm so happy to hear from you and would certainly follow your advise on Istanbul.
Vacation... Ahhh, it's already in the past. I'm back to reality.

mirdifderya said...

Nice to hear nice things about my city of Mersin where I come from, just left the city came back to Dubai (another expat who lives abroad).

That the pedestrian-only by the sea contunuies about 5km, yes unfortunitly not many Turkish people can speak English or Arabic, I did lived in Damascus as well as, many middle eastern cities.

Please do come back to Turkey there lot more to Explore:)

abufares said...

thank you mirdifderya
i really loved mersin an had a great and relaxing time there with my family.
i intend to return to turkey, hopefully one coming summer.