There’s a lot about Syria that comes along very unexpectedly and Al-Mishtaya, or Almishtaya ins one of those places. The village itself is a quiet Greek Orthodox Christian village and one you would probably not visit were it not for a rather famous local attraction.
Krak des Chevaliers
When you travel around Syria this is no shortage of Citadels, forts and remnants of Christian and Muslim wars. The Krak des Chevaliers for though is probably one of the most famous sites related to the crusades.
Originally built as a medieval castle its job was to protect Christians on their way to the crusades – its history since then has been vast with it changing hands many times even up until recent times.
The last time it was occupied by was by the Al Nusra Front, AKA Al Qaeda who tortured the current caretaker of the castle. A sobering fact and one which only made the trip there so even more harrowing. He was though like most Syrians still smiling and only too happy to show us around and indexed share the shortly with us.
The place is frankly epic and while it takes fair drive to get here the journey is more than worth it if nothing else for this fort and the views it provides to the intrepid traveler.
What is also does is put you way into the Syrian countryside and right up by the Lebanese border and thus in need of somewhere to sleep. And this is where the hidden gem of Al-Mishtaya.
Staying in Al-Mishtaya
Al-Mishtaya is Greek Orthodox village that has one bar/restaurant, one burger kiosk and one hotel. The Hotel Al-Wadi proved to be of a decent standard with nice rooms and the all hallowed working internet, something I would later come to reply on.
First port of call was dinner at the Monza Restaurant, a pleasant enough affair with classic Syrian dishes and no lack of Arak, something which would come into play later.
To read about the best drinks in Syria click here.
It was then suggested by our Syrian hosts that we jump on the bus and head to a bit of a hip and happening bar, namely …….., here we found there was to be a surprise party for someone, something we were only to happy to crash.
We also found that they did tequila and decent cocktails, so immediately indulged. Once again Syrian hospitality took over and we were up dancing with the men and women of the bar – who might I add were evenly split, before some of the group decided it was time to end the party.
Back to the Monza Restaurant
It was here that things started to get a bit crazy. Most of the group were dropped back to the hotel, while 5 diehards, inclusive of one woman (this will be relevant later) went to hunt for live music.
Yes there was live music, but the main reason for the party was that one of the village was going to move to Dubai the next day and this meant a very Arabic style party, minus the AK 47’s
The rest of the vexing was duly spent drinking lots of Arak, and tequila whilst dancing with the men of the village. Of the perhaps 80 people in the room our sole female was the sole female, but not only was she made to feel welcome, but was party of the whole dance party atmosphere. This included people that had probably drank too much being placed on the shoulders of other people that had also drank too much and well, dancing around.
This might well seem innocuous, but just how welcome the people of Al-Mishtaya made us feel was simply unforgettable and was the evening. People will tall you that tours to Syria are scripted, but you truly cannot script the human condition and Al-Mishtaya proved that. And what really put the icing on the cake was that almost everyone we spoke to was a different religion. In some countries multiculturalism is a myth, but in Syria at least on the face of things it is not.
Street Food Al-Mishtaya
Can you get double icing on a cake? Well in Al-Mishtaya it seemed so. After drinking too much we found ourselves at the front of our hotel next to an open burger kiosk. I had discovered 3 am Street Food Al-Mishtaya.
We stopped for a burger, after all how could we resist, only for some of the original party people, cool kids in their 20’s to pull up for a few selfies as we wolfed down the burgers.
They talked of their dreams and how they wished things were more like the wesr (remember it is a Christian village), but all were grateful that Al Nusra were no longer at the their doors.
In essence there is nothing truly touristic to make Al-Mishtaya a must stay overnight, but if you want a truly off the beaten track experience then the place surely takes some beating.
Al-Mishtaya, a great place to eat, sleep, drink and party!
You can check out the YPT trip to Syria in September here.