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TAG | trip to damascus syria

Leaving Aleppo was a hard task. We had memorable moments there and it was definitely much better than we were expecting, but we still had many others places to go and see. Right after Aleppo, we had a short stop in Hama to see an ancient roman site called Apamea before we start the trip to Damascus.

Damascus is the biggest and most important city of Syria. Multiply Aleppo’s craziness by 10 and then you have Damascus. Possibly because of this, the city is more open and multicultural and less strict compared to others place I’ve been in Syria. For example, you can go to the Christian area at night and see guys and girls together, more western products and big (and expensive) chain hotels and imported cars and their loud sound-systems driving around the city. These are things you’d never see in Hama.

Besides that you can find more or less the same things. Mosques, Citadel, souks, good food and so on. The main souk, called al-Hamidiyeh, has its roof marked by gun fire attacks made by the French in the middle of 20th Century. Similar to other souks, al-Hamidiyeh has a wide range of shops. Splendid handicrafts, silver decoration on copper, food and clothes. You can find everything there and it’s a good place to start a city tour. At the end of the souk you can find the beautiful Grand Umayyad Mosque.

As usual, we couch surfed in Damascus but now with an American girl we’ve met through other friends in Aleppo. She was studying Arabic at that time and we all shared her bedroom in the very old souk Sarouja. It was a bit hard to find her place because the taxi driver dropped us 2km away from her place. Fortunately, another great Syrian realized we were lost and decided to help us. He called our friend and asked for the right directions and changed his way only to take us to her place.

Like many others cities in Syria, the best way to explore is by foot. Don’t get intimidated by the size of Damascus. There are many things to be done and seen, also the city is usually very safe and people are always willing to help you as they did so many times. Just be careful with the taxi drivers (this tip is universal, right?). Always ask them to turn on the taxi-meter, otherwise they will charge you much more (or drop you off in the wrong location).

Unfortunately, we got really sick (when I say really sick, I mean really sick) coming from Hama. Leah celebrated my birthday night in a clinic having an IV for 5 hours. I knew this moment would eventually come, but it couldn’t be on a worse day. For almost our entire stay in Damascus we had to stay at “home” during the day because of the excessive heat. Thankfully we have great travel health insurance and it covered everything. Never travel without one.

During the sickness period, tired of having rice for lunch, dinner and etc, we decided to go to the 4 Season Hotel of Damascus and have a nice coffee at the British chain Costa. At that time I was tired of “Turkish coffee” or “Nescafe”. The coffee was really good and the cakes were even better. But you pay the price. We spent more in two coffees + muffin than in a regular breakfast + lunch + dinner. But who cares? We were needing the western culture back in our lives. At least for only one afternoon.

It’s obvious that Damascus’s shine was blinded by this event, but we loved the city. I wish we were healthier and had more time to enjoy the city but we always have the possibility to go back. Syria has been an incredible place. Now we’re going to Jordan, specifically to Amman, where we’ll stay only a few nights before we go to Israel & The Palestine Territories.

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