I’m fortunate I visited Syria before the current unrest.  I traveled from the port of Tartous through Homs, a town that dates from 1000 B.C., and saw the Crusader’s Castle de Chevalier perched high on the hill overlooking the green valley.  Over 30 Crusader castles sites exist in Syria, most of them in ruins.  Tourism is not a thriving industry in Syria.  Cotton is king followed by wheat, lemons and oranges.  The trip to Palmyra, the City of Palms lasted three hours.  I saw no military presence.  Most of the women I observed were covered but Syrian women can drive and vote.  The desert oasis of Palmyra once hosted a population of 50,000.  Traders journeyed through the oasis before the time of Christ.  Alexander conquered Syria, later the Romans and then the Persians.  I spent most of the day wandering through the ruins.  The main thoroughfare in the middle of the ruins sparked my imagination.  I could easily visualize the caravans entering the valley, their camels laden with spices, salt and goods from either the east or west.  The camels I did see in Palmyra were magnificent and apparently well bred.  I purchased a kilo of dates and enjoyed them on the trip back to the port.