I’m sitting on the balcony of Beibers Hotel, having a cup of tea and writing in my diary. Just a few hundred metres across the steep valley is Qala’at al-Hosn, or Krak des Chevalliers, the magnificent twelfth-century crusader castle that we’ve come here to see.
Mohamed, the young kid who brought my tea, sits across from me on the balcony rail. We’ve already had the obligatory football conversation (the World Cup has captivated the interest of everyone in Syria, or so it seems) when he sees me looking at the castle and asks if I think it’s beautiful.
“Yes, of course.”
“Why? Why do you find this castle so beautiful?”
“Well, it’s an astounding piece of architecture, a tremendous feat of engineering, and so dramatically positioned there at the top of the hill with the steep valley falling away from it. Plus it’s an artefact of a bygone era, a time that was both romantic and very bloody.”
“I do not find this castle beautiful.”
“I see it every day. I have seen it every day for my whole life. When I sit out here on the balcony I do not even look at it; I do not see it.”
I suppose that’s why we travel – to see things that are outside our everyday realm, and to discover the beauty that lies in them – a beauty that sometimes only a visitor can see.
(Photo above, Qala’at al-Hosn, seen from the balcony of the Biebers Hotel)