The best thing you can do here about it is to not be ill!!!!!The services are pour and the medicines are almost all Syria-made.So if you trust only specific medicines, bring them with you.Generally, you won't have problems with your stomach by eating salads and drinking sink water, but it is better to avoid it the first 2-3 days, so your organisation is learning to accept the new bacteria.
Although if anything happen, good hospital choices are the Italian Hospital and the French Hospital.I have experienced(unfortunatelly) the French one. It was ok.
French hosp:Hospital st.Louis,Damas-Kassaa,tel:4440460,4440461,4450705
There is a new hospital up on Ayyar Street, it's called Mustashfa al-Sharq (Hospital of the East/the Orient). It was so new not even the taxi driver who took us there knew it. Anyway, since I had stayed close to Ayyar Street, it was the only hospital I had seen so far, and since there was nothing that indicated otherwise, I took it to be just any regular hospital.
Well, it is actually a mother and child hospital. This I noticed pretty much when I walked in - pictures of mothers and babies everywhere. We went there because my friend was really ill. Even though we were really in the wrong place (after all he was male and a grown-up), they treated him anyway. He had the flu, so I guess that's something children can have, too - they had all the medicines available. I thought it was very kind of the nurses and doctors to treat him anyway.
However, unless you have a sick baby or want to have help getting pregnant, this is not the place to go!
I didn't know quite what to expect from Damascus before I got there. Since I am not a fan of big cities, I asked everyone before whether this was one of those huge, hectic Middle Eastern cities. Mostly I was told that Damascus is ok and nothing compared to Cairo.
While that may be true, I have to say that the traffic in Damascus really shocked me. So many cars! Driving so madly. There is a permanent "concert" of honking and beeping that never stops, not even at night. Crossing a road may take absolutely forever. Many Damascenes of course seem to know how to do it, and walk out into the road although many cars are speeding through it. For an inexperiences person, a road can almost be impossible to cross.
People don't walk around with strollers - it would never work. They hold their babies in their arms. It's also almost impossible to walk with an umbrella, too many people bump into you.
When it rains, the roads become transformed into one huge gray puddle.
Some of the driving is really crazy. I saw some accidents in Damascus, not major ones, just little ones, but anyway.
Something very annyoing is when cars park on the sidewalks. They don't park sideways, but with their front on the sidewalk and the rear ends sticking out into the streets. So you can't continue walking on the sidewalk but have to walk out into the road which can be scary.
The traffic was definitely the thing that put me off most about Damascus.
You might be more of a big-city person and be fine with the situation. I hated the traffic there.
cars have the right of way - unofficially. There aren't many traffic lights for pedestrians... so basically when you decide to cross the road, you put your life at risk. I followed the "utttz" theory... to start crossing the road very slowly, so that cars see you, honk at yuo, and possibly avoid you. it worked perfectly! I had the feeling that a sudden move might have found drivers unprepared, and would have hit me. This way i felt sort of safe.
Damasucs is really REALLY very safe... during the day AND at night AND ESPECIALLY for a woman travelling alone. The only danger comes when you need to take a taxi - which is generally the case if you need to go to a bus station a bit out of town. Do taxi drivers have meters? I don't know, I didn't see any having one. So the only thing you can do is to agreed on a fare before you sit in the taxi. Another possibility - but it's more complicated unless someone local helps you - is to find a place where service taxis leave from (normally, but not only, bus stations) and take one from there to the place you need to go. Once again you need someone's assistance to find the right one. I'm not sure it's really worth the trouble, though.
Damascus seemed to me to be a crime free city. That was until my parents arrived to visit me, and promptly had their money stolen on the first day as they were leaving the Omayyad Mosque, of all places. I can't imagine why my Dad was carrying all his holiday money in a wallet in his back pocket, but that's another matter. The fact is that there are thieves around the mosque, and the mosque actually has plain-clothes policemen dotted around the mosque and the square next to it. This was the first time I'd heard of any theft, but talking to my landlady it seems that a lot of crimes go unreported, especially rape and murder among Syrians. This isn't meant to worry anyone, just to point out that crime DOES exist in Syria, despite what the guidebooks say, even though Damascus is a lot safer than most European cities. watch out for traffic and pollution too (the picture is of the Barada river which runs through Damascus and is heavily polluted...for more pictures of what to expect on the streets of Damascus, check out my new travelogue 'street scenes'.)
If you have to go to the Passport and Immigration Office, then all I can say is 'Good Luck'! It is a dreadful place, and completely foreigner un-freindly. If you stay more than 14 days, you have to come here. First of all, take more passport photos than you could ever imagine using(some sort of sedatives might also be useful!!). Then go armed with these and your passport to the third floor of the building. Take your pick of the queues - there are several, and it definitely won't be the right one, but none of them ever are. The office deals mainly with foreigners, but no-one speaks anything other than Arabic. There are a few signs in French, but these don't correspond with the Arabic ones, so it's best to ignore them altogether. If you happen to find the right desk, then you might get your extension in half an hour or so, depending on the officer's mood at the time, and whether you are an attractive female in a short skirt or not.
If you need to apply for a residence permit (called Iqaama) you need a letter from your sponsor (school or business), passport photos galore, passport details in Arabic, photocopies of your passport, an AIDS test certificate (they only accept tests taken in Syria, so ask your sponsor or embassy for the best clinic), several stamps (bought at a kiosk to the left of the main entrance, although you won't know which ones to buy until you've been inside), some patience and a lot of luck. Once you've been sent to every desk on the third floor, it is time to do a tour of the whole building collecting signatures (you could probably save a lot of time if you make a lot of small biro marks everywhere - they'll never know, but it's very risky!!!). Once everything is done, you leave your details (by this time you will have a small folder of papers) at one of the desks and be told to return after a month. When you return, you'll be told to come back again in a month, and so it continues..... I eventually got my residence visa in February, having applied in September, and this was considered quick.
Once you've applied for a residence visa, you need an exit visa if you want to leave the country (for a couple of days or for good)You need to fill in a long-winded form giving pointless info that no-one checks, as well as a mountain of stamps (No visit to the passport office is complete without at least 6 trips to the stamp kiosk). But of course, you need the iqaama to get one of these. You can usually get an exit visa by the next day, although you can play a little game with them if you have got the nerve. I handed my passport in by 10am, and was told to come back in 2 days time (i wanted to leave the next day), so instead I went back at 1pm saying 'Is it ready? I came in 2 days ago....' . They were terribly apologetic, ran around the office for me, and produced the exit visa after 5 minutes. On another occasion, they lost my passport, eventually finding it on someone's office floor! One final warning - if they tell you to go and see 'Mohammed on the second floor', you're in for a long stay; there are more than 20 Mohammeds on the 2nd floor, and none of them will admit to knowing anything about you or your passport.
I suppose I should give the standard warnings about drinking tap water, although I drank it from the moment I arrived and had no problems. Anyway, bottled water is very cheap, so if you're only there a few days, there's not much point trying to adjust to the tap water. Outside Damascus and the mountains, however, I stuck to bottled water.
The drivers in Damascus are probably the worst that I have ever seen, and most cars are probably more than ten years old. The plentiful dings and dangs are a testament to the fact that these men mean business, with their incessant honks and flashes. The roundabouts are nightmarish things for vehicular-bound travelers, and utter impossibilities for pedestrians.
The currency used in the Syria
is the Syrian pounds or Liras in Local language......
1 Euro =60 liras
The money in Arabic/Syrian called masari
Be aware that you wont be allowed to enter Syria if you have Syria Israeli stamp on your passport.Also do not mention Israel while you are in Syria.People prefer not to speak about it at all.
Prejudice can kill your soul and keep you far away from wonderful experiences.