I have been twice to Syria and I have found some of the friendliest people in the world! I have discovered the myriad charms of this country and I have taken pictures of some breathtaking scenery.
The Old City is encircled by high walls and oval in form. The main access from the new city is via the covered Souq al-Hamadiyya. The souq leads us to the centrepiece which is the Umayyad Mosque. It is one of the most magnificent buildings of Islam. We have visited the Shrine of John the Baptist in the prayer hall of the Umayyad Mosque and the shrine of Hussein, son of Ali, and grandson of the Prophet. He was killed by the Umayyads at Kerbala in Iraq.
On the first day of our arrival, my two teenagers and I were already heading straight to the Old City and then right through the Souq al-Hamidiyya. We have walked through the spice souq, the gold souq, and we visited the Azem Palace.
Souq al-Hamiddiya is a long, covered market that leads into the heart of the Old City. It is a cobbled street lined with brightly coloured clothing, small family businesses that specialized in copperware, handmade furniture, carpet, and crafts.
We made sure to stop at the ice cream place called Bekdach! It is indeed the souq Al Hamadiyya highlight!! We have eaten an extraordinary ice cream made with sahlab (like semolina powder). The ice cream is gooey and elastic and it is topped with crushed pistachio nuts!! And it costs only 25 Syrian pound.
Inside the old city, we have eaten at Beit Jabri. It is a wonderful relaxing place nestled in the shadow of the Umayyad Mosque's eastern wall. We have ordered hummus, baba ghanoug, tabbouleh, bastoorma, chicken and lamb kebabs, barbecued on charcoal!! and it arrived on the table with the warm Khoobz el Arabi!
We have visited Aleppo, Bosra, Krak des Chevaliers, Homs, Hama, and Palmyra... and all by Bus!!
In Hama, we have visited the norias; wooden water wheels up tp 20m in diameter standing there since the 5th century. The Norias were built to supply water to places near the Orontes river. They are still in operation and I have seen young people jumping from the top of the norias and diving...incredible! The city of Hama is said that it dates to the 4th millennium BC.
All major cities have a local bus and microbus system which work perfectly well.
In Damascus, I have visited beautiful churches where I could listen to the Aramaic language (Jesus original language)!! It was amazing!
The Syrian people are genuinely friendly. They are always ready to help and my two boys made many friends in the neighborhood where we lived (Rukn ad deen). Rukn ad Deen is a popular area and the apartments are very cheap, no power cuts, no water cuts but we had only a fan! During the summer, the boys were feeling quiet hot with just a fan and 48 degrees outside!!!
The kindness of the people shows in many ways: the vendor at the market who will let you taste all his fruits before you decide to buy or not, the lady at the shop who will invite you in for tea and will have a real discussion with you, the young boy who will help you carry your water melons up to the 4th floor...
I have visited many areas in Damascus: Baraamike, Al-Muhaajireen, Mazzah, Jabel, Kafr souse... and many other areas but Rukn ad Deen was interesting because you could get very close to the population, have interesting discussions with them, have tea with them...
The Syrian people are hospitable. They invite you to their house and the men are separated from women. The women will serve you their best food and they will make you feel at home. The people are generous, warm, and friendly and peaceful!
It is indeed one of the most beautiful destinations in this planet!