After two years of dreaming, planning, postponing, procrastinating and finally getting the much dreaded spousal approvals, we finally got our act together and left Istanbul in mid May. 5 riders, 5 loaded bikes + 1 wife, we headed south to visit Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. My spousal approval arrived with one condition: No Iraq and no Lebanon....Well, Iraq was certainly out of the question, but Lebanon, especially the vibrant Beirut and the ancient Roman city of Baalbek in Bekaa Valley were of great interest. Unfortunately, Israel's plan to turn the south of Beirut into a parking lot, put a dent in our plans so we had to skip Lebanon...Oh well, maybe next time.... Here is our humble ride report...Firstly, the group: Hakan Erman and his wife Deniz Erman, KTM 950 Adventure Levent Firat, BMW R1200GS Orhan Arsel, BMW R1200GS Görkem Özgelen, BMW F650 Derya Savaş, BMW F650 In early May, we took care of the paper work. By paperwork, I mean visas. Apperently, depending on your citizenship, you can get visas at the various borders, but we did not want to take a chance with the notorious middle eastern customs officials, so we took care of it in Istanbul. Syria wanted to see the Egyptian visa first, Jordan did not want to be bothered, and insisted we get our visas at their customs. We also had to get international drivers licences and 'carnet de passage', international circulation document for motor vehicles from the Touring and Automotive Club of Turkey. Both of these documents are a must if you want to enter Egypt. We heard horror stories involving some Italian riders spending 1 week at the Egyptian customs bacause they thought it wasn't necessary. In mid May, armed with the Middle Eastern section of the Lonely Planet, we headed south to the Syrian border. Arriving at the Turkish - Syrian Border south of Antakya. Buying Syrian liability insurance and getting ripped of (but nicely) Paying some tax that we have no idea about, and being ripped off again (but nicely) And again, some more tax (no clue). But we are offered some ice cream as well.... Beware..... Leaving Turkey and entering Syria..... <table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/orhan.arsel/IstanbulToCairo/photo#5110083724220035906"><img src="http://lh4.google.com/orhan.arsel/RuqqEqKj80I/AAAAAAAAADs/OQMzRxB_rL4/s800/01-77%20Entering%20Syria.JPG" /></a></td></tr><tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">Kimden <a href="http://picasaweb.google.com/orhan.arsel/IstanbulToCairo">Istanbul to C...</a></td></tr></table> Getting cheap and dirty gasoline...The price of unleaded gasoline in Turkey is USD 2.15/liter, and in Syria USD 0.20/liter. No unleaded though....... Fixing a busted headlight of the KTM. It's getting dark, and we don't want to take chances. After the border crossing we went via Latakia, a nice Mediterranean coastal town, then turned inland towards Homs and headed directly for Damascus. We were rushing bacause the idea was to reach Cairo as fast as possible, and than crawl back up doing all the sightseeing we can handle. After hitting a rain and sand storm on the way, we arrived in Damascus late in the evening after about 600 km of riding, with the hopes of finding a decent bed&breakfast. Well, we tried every single hotel and pension mentioned in the Lonely Planet, but couldn't find a single room. Our last hope other than a bus stop was the 5 star Cham Palace. We found three rooms there, with a not-so-middle-eastern price tag of USD 190/room. After grabbing a quick bite in a neibourhood restaurant, we crashed. Our plan is hitting the road early, cross to Jordan and reach the legendary Wadi Rum (Roman Valley) the next day. A billboard showing the ex-King Hussein of Jordan with his wife on his Harley. The funny thing about Jordan is, the King banned all motorcycles. ALL. That means only you the tourist, the king, and his police can ride on motorcycles of any kind. You can leave the key on the ignition. Nobody will touch it. On the way to Jordan's capital, Amman. Another rain storm with heavy winds, blowing lots of sand. The King's Highway is crossing the entire country vertically. The road surface, already polished by tires of heavy trucks, got quite slippery with rain and sand. We all had a few instances where the rear tires lost track. Scary situation in a foreign country. Getting rest on the road side. A thoughtful truck driver stops to check on us. He wants to know if we need any assistance. Our first camels.... The Hejaz railroad, built by the Ottomans at the turn of the century to connect the capital Istanbul to Damascus, Amman, Aqaba and Mekka.