I’ve missed the last bus over the Syrian border to Aleppo, so have to spend the night in Antakya.
The town was founded in 300 BC by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Being on two trading routes, one the Silk Road to China, it prospered. It was famous for its school of Greek philosophy and Peter and Paul preached here. St Paul having had his conversion on Damascus’ Straight Street by then.
I read all this waiting for a lift into town, having refused a teenage boy’s offer of sex. He rejects my suggestion we hijack the minibus and drive into town ourselves.
I head out of the cold, bland hotel – perfect for the travelling salesman who’s shown me there – and into the market.
This is a fairly small town – population no more than 200,000 – but I walk for more than ten minutes through the souk. I pass children’s military uniforms complete with Turkish crescent, cheap shoes, wooden carrying platforms to fit on donkeys, bird cages, spices in sacks.
Walking out onto the street I see bicycle repair workshops with small boys gaggling by the doors, kebab shops where food is served to passing customers through open windows, a toy-come-sweet shop where a little girl is browsing, carrying a Barbie backpack. There’s a strong smell of wood smoke and then oranges and onions as farm loads are carried by. The only still and sterile places are the doctors’ surgeries.
All of this is along a narrow street, just a couple of feet away cars, minibuses and scooters stream home in the dark.
It’s all frenetically and intensively about trading and it’s very unlike Tesco.