Outside Damascus lie Maalula, one of the few really pretty villages in Syria. the name means entrance. The village crawl up a hillside and have partially steep traillike streets. Parts of the place are timeless, you have a feeling of beeing in the antiquity, and the language spoken here are arameic, not arabic. Therefore Maalula is promoted as the place where the language of Jesus are spoken. Above the village itself, reached along a spectacular but sadly partially grafitticovered gorge, uou can visit the ancient Deir Mar Sarkis, a monastery dating back to the 4th century.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Road Trip
Early Christianity in the Middle East
In the bible the Apostle Paul was send to the house of Ananias in Damascus to await recovering of his sight. The bible says to "go to the street called Straight Street to the House of Ananias.
Well, the street isn't exactly straight, maybe it leads straight TO somewhere, I don't know.
Nevertheless, the house the Apostle Paul visited and stayed in, is indeed there in Damascus. Bab Sharqi (East Gate Street), is the modern name for this famous street.
The first thing you will notice, is the level of the streets in Damascus have raised alot in the last 2,000 years. The rooms in the house of Ananias which were on the ground floor in Pauls time are now in the basement!!Related to:
- Historical Travel
Bosra is a large-ish village about 2 hours and a half south of Damascus. It's supposed to be one of the top sights of Syria, but I must admit I was not so impressed. Its fame comes from the fact that it has a huge Roman theatre concealed within an Arab fortress: a great stunning sight. The disappointment came from the rest of the town and ruins: the so much advertised unmissable black basalt ruins turned out to be.... well, ruins. Ruins, I must add, in such a bad state of repair (read: no restoration ever) that it's hardly possible to make out what the various things would have stood for. Basically overrated unless you are an archaeologist.
Malula is a tiny (pop. 2000) village on the slopes of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. It's about 50 minutes away from Damascus, so it's the perfect location for a day trip. What's so special about it is that most of the houses are painted in light blue tones - very characteristic - and that the population doesn't speak Arabic but Aramean, the language of Jesus. There are also two fascinating monasteries (Deir Mar Sarkis and Deir Mar Takla) linked by a natural siq. Both monasteries - and this is what I liked best - attract visitors and pilgrims both Christian and Muslim: a wonderful example of how religions can live side by side, in mutual respct and integration. For more information please see my Ma'lula's page.
Souk Saroujah, north of the...
Souk Saroujah, north of the old city is usually free of tourists, apart from the area around the Al-Haramain Hotel. It is an old quarter and stretches both sides of a busy 'motorway'. There are a couple of museums hidden in here, which I didn't find until my last day, and unfortunately they were shut!
Exit the old city from the...
Exit the old city from the west side, using Straight Street, cross the busy main road, and look out for a small archway on the left...suddenly you'll be plunged into narrow lanes and never-ending food souqs. The old houses are crumbling down, the pavements are uneven, dust is everywhere, but this is real Damascus. Very few tourists (if any) discover this area, and it is like entering another world. It is certainly not geared up to foreign visitors, as this is one of the main souqs for local shopping. If you're looking for camel steaks carved from freshly severed heads, delicious tamarind juice served in a semi-clean glass, and odd-looking fruit and vegetables that you never knew existed, then this is the place to come. If you're not faint-hearted (in windy weather, it becomes quite a challenge to avoid bumping into a swinging carcass!) and can handle a fair amount of litter, then you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring this little known corner of the city. When I remember the name, I'll let you know!
For a break from the busy...
For a break from the busy streets, you could try sitting in one of the many public parks. be careful about which ones you visit though, as some tend to attract the wrong type of people. A good sign is a children's playground, and if there are groups of women in the park, it is normally OK. If there are only men, avoid it whether you are male or female, as you will get some unwanted attention! Tishrin park is the largest and one of the nicest. It is behind the Sheraton Hotel, quite a distance from the centre of town. There are a couple of nice cafes here too. Sometimes however, the piped music can be a bit too loud, and there are speakers all over the park! To get there, take any microbus heading towards Mezzeh and hop out at the huge roundabout near the Sheraton (to find the right bus, go to Jisr ar-Ra'ees, the President Bridge, not far from the National Museum, and ask around). There are also some nice parks just outside the old city at Bab Touma, one of them even has a funfair with an unusual airplane restaurant (you can't fail to miss it, as it is rather large!). In most parks, there are usually drink sellers who will come to you, offering tea, milo (a dreadful chocolate-type hot drink) or cold drinks.
There are several museums and...
There are several museums and monuments which are not on many tourist itineraries. My language school took us to many of them in a clapped out old bus. First, we went to the 'Panorama', which was described to us as being 'very beautiful', but other than that we were left in the dark until we got there. It is a huge monument to the Arab Wars against Israel, and is filled with propagandist items. It is interesting that the impressive Syrian tanks face some decrepit Israeli ones across the courtyard. The highlight, though, is the revolving auditorium in the roof, which houses a display of Quneitra (the town in the Golan which the Israelis destroyed before handing it back to Syria) complete with battle cries and an incomprehensible commentary in Arabic. You have to make a booking to visit this, which costs ordinary tourists US$10, but us students went for nothing. You have to take a tour of the building, and there seem to be at least 3 guides per person. However, if you ask any questions, they won't be answered, as all the guides seem to know are the dimensions of the building. You can see the 'Panorama' from the bus which takes you to the main bus station in north-eastern Damascus.
Another trip was to the Assad Library, but I skived this trip. A friend who went wanted to look at the books, but again the tour was mainly to show off the building, not it's contents.
Just before the suburb of Dummar is a huge monument to the 'Unknown Soldier' with an eternal flame (it was out when I went). There is a museum underground, but is only open to pre-booked tours on Wednesdays at 4pm, and I have no idea how to book a tour.
No “off the beaten”, but the...
No “off the beaten”, but the covered suq worth a visit. The architecture is interesting, the merchandise are surprising, the almond pudding is great and, and the people, the people …
Most visitors don't notice the small botanical garden on the opposite river bank to the Citadel. It is one of the prettiest spots in Damascus and free to visit.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Sitti Zeynep(mosque of as-Sayyida Zaynab)
This city and wonderfull mosque are just 12km far from Damascus. Zeynep is granddoughter of Mohammed. Woman has to wear black cover again! But this mosque worth of it.Related to:
- Religious Travel
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There is a Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus, a fact unknown to many. While I did not stay here, I...more
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