05-Mar-2008 -- This was the first visit to this Confluence. It is located in the Syrian Desert approximately 7 km off the road between al-Sukhna and al-Ṭayyiba, two small Bedouin villages east of Palmyra.
I originally planned to take a taxi to a point halfway between the two villages and have the driver wait, while I would attempt the 13 km to the Confluence and back. Near the Confluence lies the famous 8th century Umayyad summer palace Qaṣr al-Ḥayr al-Šarqiyy, which is visited by tourists quite regularly. This made finding a driver easier but at the same time complicated negotiating the fare, since taxi drivers are used to make the 120 km trip to the castle, although for vastly inflated prices. After much asking around I finally secured a reliable ride to the drop-off point, and went early in the morning.
At this time of year the sun has not much force yet, so temperatures were moderate. The trip was pleasant and we made a short stop at al-Sukhna, which is a little quaint but lively village. We were asked by a policeman who we are and where we were going (we said: to the castle), which I thought at the time of being of little consequence. When we came to the spot on the road closest to the Confluence, the driver, unwilling to wait the 3-4 hours the round-trip would take me, left the road and drove straight into the desert.
At several points we had to track back or make considerable detours because what looked like dried riverbeds, large boulder fields, or other obstacles made a direct approach impossible. The car I used was a small Korean people carrier with flimsy suspension and no 4wd. I feared sooner or later the car would brake down or get stuck in the sand. My driver initially unconcerned began to wonder aloud if we would make it back. I walked the last 500 m to the Confluence and took the necessary pictures.
The landscape looked barren and dead, but I was told the whole desert in this area bloomed in like a gigantic flower garden after unexpected intensive rainfalls a dozen years ago. We asked a Bedouin shepherding his large flock of sheep a stone throw from the Confluence which would be the best way back. He suggested following one of the faint tracks in the sand due northeast which would lead to Qaṣr al-Ḥayr al-Šarqiyy.
After a short visit to the castle we returned back to Palmyra. My visit had an unexpected aftermath. Late in the afternoon, just a few hours after my return, the police turned up at my hotel, requested to see my passport and had a little chat with me and my driver. They wanted to know what I did out there in the desert, and inspected my GPS and maps. It turned out to be a friendly conversation over several cups of tea, and suspicion was soon replaced by genuine curiosity.