|Palmyra, the Roman’s great desert outpost 17kms from Iraq, was my next destination and we all piled into taxis to the bus station then a tiny minibus for a 4 hour drive, possibly the most uncomfortable bus I have been on this year. I was like a squashed sardine and with no aircon and a 40 degree day, it was unbearable! I eventually arrived late in the afternoon and after a bit of a wander around the town (all one street of it) I went back to a car to have a few beers with some others from my group.
There is one particularly offensive woman, Anne, who every day manages to offend everyone at least a dozen times with her uninformed and prejudiced opinions on everything from how the Middle East is a disgusting, dangerous area to how Jews are taking over the world. Last night’s latest was how black people are responsible for all the crimes in New Zealand. The sooner I am rid of her the better!
This morning I went out to walk through the ruins of Palmyra, which were far larger and better preserved than those of Jerash, yet only 30% have been excavated so far.
Palmyra is one of the most famous capitals of the ancient world, with its grace and splendour still evident almost 2000 years after its construction by the Arab Queen Zenobia. Zenobia was the second wife of King Odenathus who already had a son first in line to the throne by his first wife. Rumour has it that Zenobia, a mother of a young son herself, was responsible for the assassination of the king and his first son. Upon their deaths in 267AD she immediately took over and proved herself to be an exceptional monarch, taking possession of the whole of Syria, conquered Lower Egypt and sent her armies across Asia Minor as far as the Bosphorus.
Zenobia had her sights set on Rome but her army was soundly beaten by the forces of the Roman emperor Aurelian in 271AD; he torched the city of Palmyra two years later. This was the beginning of the end for Palmyra and it fell to the Muslims in 634 and was finally and completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1089.