Syria on foot and in print

One traveler's road map for better relations between nations

It Was Not Accidental Tourism. Scott Davis went to Syria in 1987 with a plan. He, the innocent abroad, would travel alone in this ancient sector of the Mediterranean known as the Levant, see the Syria beyond Damascus, talk with real Syrians—and then come back home to Seattle and gather his impressions into a book in the tradition of writers like Paul Theroux. Afterwards, moving to a travel-and-write rhythm, he would become an adventure travel writer.

But things unplanned-for happened on the way to the Roman Bridge in Syria's far northeast corner. For one thing, Davis fell sick, and illness led him to pause and take stock of his motives. A trip designed to satisfy curiosity and further ambition became more of a soul journey. At the time, he was six weeks into the trip, in the town of Dier ez-Zoir on the Euphrates River. "I had a wonderful conversation with a scholar I met spontaneously—everywhere in Syria, you say hello to somebody on the street, and they have you at their house for dinner. That night I got violently ill. And I knew it had nothing to do with the food."

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