the Degree Confluence Project

Syria : al-Suwaydā'

27.2 km (16.9 miles) NE of Umm al-Ruwāq, al-Suwaydā', Syria
Approx. altitude: 709 m (2326 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 33°S 143°W

Accuracy: 10 m (32 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: From the Confluence looking west #3: GPS pic #4: Philipp somewhere in the lava field #5: A closer look at the black rocks #6: The people who helped me getting back #7: Ma`ān and his wife

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  33°N 37°E  

#1: General area of the Confluence (distance 100 m)

(visited by Philipp Funovits)

07-Mar-2008 -- This was the first visit to this Confluence. It is located in the Syrian Desert approximately 30 km northeast of Šaqqā in al-Suwaydā' Province. I studied lots of grainy Google-Earth satellite photography to determine the best approach to this Confluence. The best I could come up with was a narrow road which runs north of the Confluence within 7 kilometres distance. There were gravel roads or sand tracks visible which lead closer to the Confluence, but I was prepared to make the 14 km hike in case those roads proved to be unusable. The satellite pictures showed a strange surface structure and colouring of the area surrounding the Confluence, and I was curious to find out firsthand what kind of landscape produced these images.

The first leg of my little excursion was a commuter bus which left Damascus for al-Suwaydā' at 7 a.m. al-Suwaydā' is the province capital and apparently one of the centres of the Syrian wine industry but otherwise a somewhat unremarkable middle sized town. The tedious task of organizing a means of transportation to the Confluence took me almost half an hour. No one of the local taxi drivers spoke any languages beside Arabic, so I had to rely on some local shopkeeper who had spent some time in Europe to translate my plans for visiting the Confluence using a wild mixture of Spanish and French. In the end I made it out of al-Suwaydā' with a humorous guy who had agreed to a reasonable price. We drove via Šahbā' and Šaqqā to the point closest to the Confluence. We had to ask one ore two times for direction in the smaller villages east of Šaqqā.

Even before we left the irrigated belt around those villages, I wondered about the large rocks strewn across the tilled fields. How is efficient agriculture possible when the fields are heavily salted with large rocks? They were, as it turned out, a hint to the landscape that stretches for hundreds of square kilometres east of the inhabited area and way across the Jordanian border. We soon entered a huge lava field consisting of billions of black basalt rocks covering the desert stretching to the horizon.

I left the car in 6.7 km distance from the Confluence where the immaculate tarmac pavement abruptly ended and the road continued as a gravel track. I asked the driver to wait a few hours for me and took off. There was nothing but yellow sand on which lay large boulders of black rocks neatly placed one beside the other. Their sizes varied; in some areas they were not much bigger than my fist, while other fields were filled with chunks larger than car tyres. I had to go as fast as possible and move very carefully to avoid injury at the same time. A sprained or broken ankle would have posed a grave threat in that situation. Despite the weak autumn sun the temperature climbed over 30° Celsius at noon.

I reached the Confluence at 1 p.m. after a two-hour hike. After taking the pictures I immediately left the Confluence. I decided to try a different route back which brought me back to the road approximately 4 km from the Confluence. Following the winding gravel road meant a little detour but proved much easier and quicker than ploughing through the black rocks. Subsequent visitors should probably follow the road a few kilometres further than I did before heading into the desert.

When I caught sight of the spot where I left the taxi I found out to my great dismay that the driver had abandoned me in the desert. Apparently he was too impatient to wait for my return and had left. At least I spared myself the fare. I pondered my situation while I tried to recover from my exhausting trip through the desert. Finally I decided to start to walk back. After two hours some people on a motorcycle stopped by who were on their way to a little settlement farther east for a hunting trip. They tried to get someone to bring me back at least to Šahbā'. They had to drive a few kilometres west for that because of the poor reception their mobile phones had. After some time some more lads on motorcycles showed up, shared their lunch packages with me and drove me a few kilometres before we met Ma`ān, a nice guy that brought me to his house in the next village called al-Jumīna. He helped me to a snack and a little rest before he and his brother-in-law gave me a lift to Šahbā' where he dropped me off at the bus stop.

 All pictures
#1: General area of the Confluence (distance 100 m)
#2: From the Confluence looking west
#3: GPS pic
#4: Philipp somewhere in the lava field
#5: A closer look at the black rocks
#6: The people who helped me getting back
#7: Ma`ān and his wife
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)