In the traffic
...In that love that never ends
Touching my arms
You told me words of hope
Watching in your eyes
I felt you are the one
Close to your scent
I knew my life was changing
Loving that hope
A gift filled from love
Watching your eyes
I felt i was the one
Cause close to my scent
You knew your life was changing
Wishing to live
An endless gift of love.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Yes, it's safe
Yes, they are friendly to Americans there. Yes, they can distinguish between politics and private people. The most famous is an American Immigration official who spent part of his holiday in Palmyra and left his card there for all to see. (At leasrt that is what he claimed to be, civilian I mean)I heard they were even friendly to civilian Israelis who sneaked in.
Really, I never felt so safe ANYWHERE else. Close to zero sexual harrassment (compared to what I tend get in the West), zero hostility, sincere smiles and laughs on odds instead of nagging, people are honest, sincerely hospitable and don't get on your neck the way they do in package tourist ressorts elsewhere. People are always hanging out on therstreet chatting or having tea and so are watching what is going on around them ( plus the usual secret police and staff having an eye out) but the only negative effect you will likely notice of these circumstances is when you decide to write political messages to amnesty international or something. This setting makes for very safe walking by yourself until late at night.
And just the way people react to civilian strangers in that special spot on earth: Should you get lost, some elderly couple or another person might insist on helping you find your way back by bussing you there in their midst, as happened to fuzzy me who always gets lost and has a hard time crossing busy intersections by herself. Very easygoing and caring people.
As a not too ugly single female, you might get more marriage proposals than you can politely refuse though. Always these suitors!
This is a painful story...First of all have coins with you, because even if there is a taxi meter you will pay more if you don't have little money with you.Usually drivers pretend that
1)they don't have change,or
2)they really don't have, so you have or to surrender or to find a shop near that will change the money,or
3)they keep tip by themselves and you find yourself fighting about 25 sp(or more...)...Which generally is not a big thing, but if you think that mini buses take just 5 liras for a ride, then yes, you feel bad throwing money from the window...
If the taxi doesn't have a meter wait for another if you have the time(damascus is full of taxis, rarely you won't find many),if you don't or bargain the price from before(nothing more than 70 sp for rides inside the city),or pay last minute as much as you think and leave(but try to be fair anyway,and of course you must have the price exactly or you will have to fight again).No, this won't cause you trouble. If the driver disagrees strongly call the police, he is illegal anyway...
By all the ways even if you agree the price or not, with taximeter or not ,if you use them often at the end you will have a nervous breakdown...So, better with minibuses(and it is more fun also)
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
Just avoid accounts at the Commercial Bank of Syria.Try traveller checks and cash.The system with ATM is not very trustworthy yet(there are two machines,as far as I know, one opposite Cham Palace Hotel and one at City Mall).If you plan to stay long time there is Western Union office(Ommayad sq,Athnan Malki str,2nd building after Library al Assad).
Just avoid the bank, you will anything else but problems getting your money.
mind the taxi fares
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.
cars have the right of way
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.
Visas for Syria
If you are mailing your passport to the Syrian embassy in the United States, you should know that it will take about three weeks to be processed. It cost $100 for Americans and $68 for Romanians. If you need to contact the embassy, keep calling until someone picks up the phone. There is little chance that they will return your calls or reply to an email.
Buy a Guide Book
One of the major problems in Damascus was the lack of information in other language than Arabic. We try to visit the city without a guide, what is not difficult, taking a taxi in some points and walking. But it is hard to understand what you are seeing if there isn’t written information. So buy a good guide book …
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
It is true that Damascus –and Syria in general- is really a very safe place. People are friendly and hospitable and if you express a common sense, you’ll never have any problem. I never felt unsafe and although I could speak only two or three Arabic words, people were always willing to help me. The only “danger” as other Vters have said, is the taxi drivers: always ready to overcharge and cheat you and never have a taximeter or small change. The best way to deal with them is to avoid using a taxi, but if you have to, then discuss the price beforehand and keep in mind that a simple cross-town ride costs around 30SP.
I suppose I should give the...
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.
If you have to go to the...
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.
Damascus seemed to me to be a...
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'.)
The drivers in Damascus are...
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.
police is everywhere,with or...
police is everywhere,with or without uniforms,political police,private police,economic police,antizionist police,and so on...so be politically correct with everybody,do not say in public that you dislike the arab leaders;how many of them in damascus main street? so the result is that nobody will bother you in the street because of the fear of the police
- Historical Travel