By Mark Vernon
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Additional resources for 42 : deep thought on life, the universe and everything
Chesterton To the traveller, fewer countries offer greater delight than one darkened and derided in contemporary politics: Syria. There is Apamea, a Roman city that overlooks the broad plain of the Orontes valley. Like the more famous Palmrya, located in the desert halfway to the Euphrates, Apamea is remarkably preserved. The colonnade of its cardo maximus (main street) rises out of the cultivated fields that cover most of the site, well over a mile long, taking your eye to infinity in a dazzle of white marble.
A particularly delightful find was a water cistern on the north wall, a tall arched room with a continuous roof 32 metres long, giving it 15 seconds of reverberation. In such an acoustic, a clever singer could perform a solo four part harmony. qxp 11/14/2007 12:28 PM 42 Page 42 42: Deep Thought on Life But an even more a remote spot had caught my eye in a travel book: Nebi Uri, on Syria’s border with Turkey. The only practical way to reach it is to hire a taxi for the day which, although at around $100 was by far the most expensive way to travel, meant that my party could take in a couple of other sites en route.
Declining his offer did pose a problem. Not only is Nebi Uri hard to pronounce in Arabic, (being full of vowels) but it is also known by several other names. We thought we might overcome this nominal issue by pointing to Cyrrhus on the map. This settlement, which flourished in the second century, is close to Nebi Uri and a more routine tourist sight, due to possessing two Roman hump-backed bridges that carry traffic to this day. However, Syrians seem to place little trust in maps, particularly when it comes to spots on the Turkish border; bloody territorial disputes have turned maps into potentially subversive documents.
42 : deep thought on life, the universe and everything by Mark Vernon