Unlikely many other Arab cities, Damascus' old city is not just a tourist attraction or souq. It includes many, many cafés and restaurants, and the presence of the merchants and small shops that line the various souqs appear to be a catalyst for a truly vibrant nightlife. Families come here to promenade and spend time together. Young people come to hang out with friends. Students, at least prior to the civil unrest, came to smoke sheesha and talk. It is obviously a treat to wander through these old streets in daylight, when it is possible to take pictures of the various monuments and really savour the architecture. But coming at night lets you take pulse of the city's population, and to really feel the social fabric of this ancient city.
Damascus, once an important member of the Decapolis, or the ten Roman cities of the Levant, has its fair share of Roman ruins - or at least Roman ruins that have been turned into someone else's ruins. The Temple of Apollo is perhaps the most prominent example of this, as it is located at the juncture between the Hamidiya Souq and the Umayyad Mosque. What remains of the Temple is not cordoned off, and there has been little attempt made at ensuring that the ruins are not further damaged by human activity. Indeed, beneath them you will find all manner of ambulant sellers and refreshment stands, capturing the worshippers who exit the mosque with their sweets and sherbets. Not much is left of the Temple except for its high arches and the exquisite pillaster that crowns them. It seems odd at first that these Roman ruins are not in some way protected, but that can often give way to a sense of wonder at how the memories of invaders past are so handily incorporated into the everyday in Damascus.
I've already explained a bit about Saladin in my tip on his Mausoleum, so I won't cobble together a history lesson once again. Nevertheless, the importance of Saladin in Syrian history is hard to underestimate, probably because the current régime has seen him as a convenient model of anti-Western resistance over the course of several decades of antagonism with Western powers and especially during the Bush-era pariah state title bestowed upon the country. Whether or not figurative forms are expressly forbidden by Islam, they are fairly uncommon in Islamic art, especially in the guise of sculpture. For this reason, the manner in which the Saladin monument has been render bears considerable traces of European tradition, albeit in a way that is more reminiscent of statues in Budapest or Sofia, where no small number of Syrians went to study during the Warsaw Pact years.
I can't say that I visited this hammam or that it is possible to go in, but it still caught my fantasy. Part of the reason for that was that this hammam seems to have been stuck amongst modern developments in the outskirts of the old city. While it has been preserved and is evidently undergoing some repairs or restoration work (or at least was, prior to the civil unrest), it is currently amongst a series of ugly highrises, the sorts of buildings that are ever so common in Middle Eastern cities.
Qaymarryeh Street extends to the east of the Umayyad Mosque (it starts from the back of the mosque) and goes out to end at Bab Touma in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. It is a lively street that is filled with cafés, restaurants (many of them targeting tourists) and small shops. On weekends it's a popular place for people, especially young people, to hang out. Given the proximity of this street to many of the main attractions in the Old City, I'm sure that you will end up coming by here, but it would be a shame it was only during the daytime, missing the full vibrancy of the traditional Damascene nightlife.
Merjeh Square is part of the grimy, grey extension of modern Damascus that connects the old city to the more fashionable districts of Mezzeh and the Qassioun Mountain. It includes a large pilaster that serves as a monument, as well as a number of souqs that, while not traditional, offer a variety of traditional products and that highlight the manner in which commerce in this country is very much a conservative, familial affair. Merjeh Square is historic in so much as it is exemplary of the 20th century development of the city, somewhat reminiscent of Algiers or even Barcelona, although it cannot really compete with the historical nature of the Old City. Nevertheless, its quaint small shops and the plethora of popular restaurants selling traditional foods can make for a nice break from the tourist draws of the Old City.
I did not have the full opportunity to explore Tekkiya Sulaimaniya, a Tekke in the Ottoman tradition, and was only attracted by the beautiful stonework of its hammams. These are completed in the traditional style, with a dark grey stone that shows various patterns throughout. This massive complex was intended to be a stop on the way to Mekkah, as Damascus was an important way-station for all pilgrims coming from the Levant and from the expanding Muslim lands of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and Central Europe. It was completed in 1560 and was built by Mimar Sinan, the famous Ottoman architect responsible for some of Turkey’s greatest architectural treasures. The entire complex contains a mosque and a madrassa, or religious school, and was meant to accommodate the dervish orders that are popular in Turkey and the Balkans. This is considered to be the finest example of Ottoman architecture in Syria.
Umayyad Square may sound old and historical, but it really isn’t. In fact, it marks the start of the grimy, 20th century extension of the city of Damascus, and has a hideous abstract sculpture that makes the city feel like some sort of knock-off Eastern European capital. The square is terribly busy, with lots of traffic coming and going towards the airport and the countryside, but there are still some interesting aspects. This is where you will find the University and also the Ministry of Defense (so be careful of what you photograph). It also has great views of Qassyoun, the mountain that dominates the view out from the city.
Hammams are a popular aspect of any Muslim city, and, despite the fact that they are essentially public baths, they retain a certain luxurious mystique to them. Anyone who has been scrubbed with what feels like steel-wool by a burly Syrian will know that this is not entirely justified, but, with the advent of widespread full plumbing inside private houses, they have taken great strides towards meeting this stereotype. The Malik Zahir Hammam is one of the oldest of these institutions. It stands to the north of the Umayyad Mosque, where it was first constructed in the 16th century. Unlike some of the historic hammams in next-door Turkey, this particular institution has not been gutted and turned into a fashionable spa. It may be a tourist attraction and offer a variety of services that were no doubt not offered to the Sultans and Caliphs (read: mud facials and exfoliating masks), but the bulk of its services are still traditional. They will still crack every joint in your body and rub you down with natural exfoliants, and the steam room and heated marble are still highly unstable in terms of their range of temperatures. Nevertheless, the entire experience is a very relaxing one, and more rudimentary of the services can help make even the most skeptical of visitors feel as though he has really been transported to a timeless replica of the city’s glory days.
Whenever I look at the photos I've taken, I'm feeling warmth inside right in the middle of my chest. Sounds corny but...I don't know about you. There's something about a place. Yeah, the places to see, that's the usual tourist stuff, but if I may add -- and largely for me - it's the uniqueness of the people. I think the best attraction there is in a place is it's people, it's culture, the kindness.
If Nigeria is the smiles of Africa, and the Land of Smiles in Southeast Asia is Thailand -- IMO the smiles of the middle-east is Syria.
People are friendly and always has a smile to offer. So I would definitely consider people as one asset attraction to a place. And you'll find plenty of those smiles in the old Damascus area.
And I don't know really why local people here wanted to be photographed eagerly when they know that they can't take a copy of the picture, but still they wanted to, and that what makes this place a culture photographers paradise.
The perfect place to relax with your family and friends ,Cham City Center . It has plenty to offer you- a choice of over 100 superb shops, restaurants, fast food outlets, a children’s entertainment center, Health and Fitness Gym, and Business Center.
Located in the heart of Damascus, in one of the most beautiful and quiet residential region . in general ,you can reach Cham City Center from anywhere in Damascus in less than 20 minutes driving.
Previously we were limited to small outlets, but now the city boasts the impressive Cham City Center mall, an international standard, family oriented retail and leisure facilities, established in 2006.
Cham City Center is the most prestigious in the country so far It covers an area of over 80.000 sq .m. it comprises of 6 levels of retail ,dining ,entertainment outlets ,health club and more than 400 covered car park areas.
Cham city center has more than 100 prestigious stores including the most famous local and International brands, where you have also a wide choices of restaurants , fast food and cafes.
Cham City Center health club include a gym containing the latest model equipments , indoor swimming pool and spa . When you decide to runaway from your daily routines, you will not find any better place than Cham City Center.
Damascus Boulevard, situated near the Four Seasons Hotel is preparing to roll out the Red Carpet for Damascus.
This development is a joint venture between SSTI, Khorafi (Kuwait), The Ministry of Tourism and the Municipality developed in conjunction with the Four Seasons Hotel.
The mall layout, overlooking the park and views of the Four Seasons Hotel, incorporating a restored Mosque, sets the scene for relaxed outdoor shopping, strolling through stores and cafes in open air.
The official launch is set to take place during the month of July, introducing Damascus to the new address in the city just in time for summer. Current tenants trading include Costa Coffee, Sega Fredo, Simo sunglasses and D&M ladies fashions hosting some of the top international brands in the world.
The well known Rotana Café forms part of the restaurant/café offering at Damascus Boulevard. This unique store in the Middle East will attract the attention of the entire family, with a multi level design, indoor and outdoor dining areas, CD store and the latest in sound and light technology. This café will be talked about throughout the region and is set to change the face of entertainment in Damascus.
Damascus Boulevard caters for high end users with an acquired taste for luxury and the better things in life. Long summer evenings will be consumed by strolling through the Boulevard, relaxing at one of the cafes and indulging in exclusive fashion shopping.
A selected tenant mix will provide shoppers with fashion, jewelry, accessories and relaxed dining and entertainment opportunities. The mall is 100% let and tenants are putting the final touches to their stores.
It is time for something new in Damascus and this is where it is happening.
Beautifull mosques in Damascus.
The mosque was built after the Memlouk style.
In the northern part of the mosque there is a rectangular open air court with a colonnade with five small domes. The colonnade leads to the main prayer court topped with seven domes; one, and the highest, over the center, and three over each of the two side porticos. Hence the mosque is known as the mosque of domes.
Built during the late Memlouk era in al Darwishieh near the square of Bab al Jabiah, by the last Memlouk governor of Damascus (Prince Sibai son of Bakhtija) before he was killed in the battle of Marj Dabeq, 1516.
There is a small open court inside it ,a prayer place, porticos, two tiers of rooms and a shrine with dome on top. From the roof an octagonal minaret pops out rich with arched windows, round panels, colored rows and stalactites dangling from below the balcony of the Muezzin.
Zainab al Kubra, peace be upon her, is the daughter of the Caliph Ali Bin Abi Taleb.
Her shrine in "al Ghouta” of Damascus is one of the most important Moslim shrines in the world and a wonder of Islamic architecture, visited by hundreds of visitors every day.
with an area of 150 X 190 m, and 90X90 m for the courtyard and 30 X 30 m for the main hall of the shrine. The arcade floor is covered with valuable marble tiles. The shrine has four gates, each is four meters wide with a four meters wide beautiful portico, behind which there are seventy rooms with facades of basalt stones, similar to the facades of old Damascene houses.
The roof of the shrine is 10 m high covered with wonderful Iranian china tiles .The dome is plated with pure gold plates that make it glitter day and night, and add a unique attractive sight to the whole land scape.
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