Destinations, Syria

Getting Lost in Damascus

July 11, 2010

New and old Damascus

Leaving Hama, we took a morning bus two and a half hours south through spectacular desert scenery, to the ancient city of Damascus.

Continually referred to as the oldest city in the world, Damascus is a fascinating mix of old and new. The population is young, and decidedly modern. Outside the walls of the old city it’s clearly a place that is on the move, although many of the developments we saw seemed to be at some sort of standstill.

Inside the walls of the old city, however, it’s a different story.

The old city of Damascus is a place for getting lost, and so during our three days in the city, we did just that. Inside the old city walls is a two-story building with a curved roof. Damascus’ main souq is a long single corridor in this building, with streets leading off it.

Mostly full of clothing and lingerie stalls, shoe shops, beauty-product shops, ice-cream shops and toy sellers, it comes to an end at the city’s main mosque, along with a row of stalls selling prayer beads and Korans before the street branches off into quieter, leafy alleyways where ordinary Damascenes go about their lives.

Leafy alleyway in Damascus

We ended up stumbling upon the Christian quarter in time for the evening services, and rather than the call to prayer, the sound of clanging church bells filled the air. The area seemed more liberal than other parts of the city, and it’s also the place to go for a drink.

Damascus was our last stop in Syria, and although after leaving Aleppo we enjoyed the country immensely, it was difficult to let our guard down with food and hygiene since being sick. After only eight days of being weak and exhausted from the heat and hardly eating or eating only falafel sandwiches, we found ourselves longing for the cleaner streets and food that we’d heard Jordan would bring.

I felt defeated, in a way, and so early on! But since Alicia only had just over a week left in the Middle East, we rationalised our early exit from Syria by telling ourselves we could fit in more than expected in Jordan.

I mean, who can visit Jordan and not go to Petra, or Wadi Rum??

For more images from Damascus, visit my RTW Travel Photography site.

Want to read more about Syria? Check out all the Syrian posts in the archive.

Who's afraid of the Middle East? Not Alicia or I. Overlooking the King's Highway, JordanOn my RTW trip during the summer of 2010, I met my friend Alicia in Istanbul and we spent the next 46 days travelling overland through Turkey, Syria and Jordan before I headed to Egypt solo to join up with a quick organised tour through upper Egypt.

Read more about this leg of my trip on my Middle East roundup page.

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