24-Jun-2008 -- At the time of this visit, I was driving from Yemen to France, where I would start my new job in Lille. Joining me for the Syria and Turkey legs was my old pal and recruit to the DCP cause, Polly.
After our successful scoop at 34N 38E, we hadn't planned any more visits in Syria. However, during a visit to the thirteenth-century Ayyubid castle of Qal`at al-Šumaymis - a rather obscure Syrian site, albeit one with tremendous views over the Hamāt plains - I was giving Pol a GPS lesson and she noticed that we were only 4 km away from a Confluence Point. No self-respecting Confluencers could really give up an opportunity like that, and we decided to give it a shot.
Qal`at al-Šumaymis lies on top of a prominent hill a couple of kilometres north of the main Hamāt - Salamiyya road; the Confluence lies in farmland a couple of kilometres south of it (see Google Earth image). We hadn't conducted any preparations for this visit, so it was a case of just following our noses. In the end, it turned out to be a straightforward route. Along the main road, close to Salamiyya, there is an asphalt strip leading off to the "Scientific Agricultural Research Centre in Salamiyya". Although the previous visitors to this CP reported some problems at the gatehouse to this land, there was no-one around when we visited and simply drove straight through.
A series of tracks then took us to a small farm building located at around 350 m from the target, where we parked the Landy and asked some local residents for permission to carry on on foot. They weren't remotely fazed by our presence, and said we were more than welcome to wander around the fields. We took a fairly direct course across (apparently) unfarmed land to the (vaguely) farmed field in which 35N 37E lies. We found the point to be located almost directly underneath a small bush/tree. Farmhouses are clearly visible to the South and West, and the town of Salamiyya can be seen to the East.
The Agricultural Research Centre is part of the Syrian government's strategy to introduce more water-efficient farming practices to the drier regions. This includes experimental farming with drip irrigation, and other, similar, irrigation methods. In fact, one can see drip irrigation pipes in most of the main photographs of this visit report. 35N 37E therefore lies at the heart of this endeavour. Unfortunately, neither me nor Polly have even the scantest knowledge of the botany required for us to be able to say precisely what plants are currently being grown and experimented with in this area.
After the visit we wandered back to the Landy and carried on with our drive from Palmyra to Hamāt. The latter town is rather nice, with a laid-back feel and plenty of opportunities to sit with a coffee and `argileh whilst looking at the famous Nurias (Ottoman-period wooden water wheels used for, coincidentally enough, irrigation), and listening to the long, mournful groan that they make with each revolution. A great place to sit and reflect on another successful Confluence visit..!
The story continues at 38N 39E.