Silk Road Adentures travel blog

Coverıng up at the Mosque

Takıng a break from souk shoppıng

The narrow streets of Damascus

It took us about an hour to cross the border in to Syria - maybe it would have taken less if Ray had not told the border guard that he had nice eyes! From there we made our way through to Damascus passing through quite Mediteranean like countryside with loads of olive trees.

The camp site in Damascus has green grass and hot showers a defınıte plus although it is a few miles from the city centre. The first day we had in Damascus was a Friday so most things were shut (Friday is holy day for Muslims). However this meant we were able to wander around the uncrowded streets without being pestered.

Some facts for you - Damascus is one of the oldest continuously lived in citıes in the world. It has been lived in by Egyptians, Greeks, Nabateans, Romans, Turks, Mongols and more recently the French (hence fantastic chocolate croissants here). The old city, as it is today, is encircled by the city walls and dates back to the early 15th Century. It is effectively a maze of narrow twisted alleyways (similar to Marrakesh for those who have been there - although not as touristy and therefore not as 'finished'). The houses and buildings hug the street front but open up behind into elaborate courtyards with gardens and many with fountains. On our first day of wandering around we peered into one such courtyard and were spotted doing so by the owner who promptly invited us in for a look around. In fact we have found the locals to be extremely friendly and whilst still 'salesmen' are certainly less pushy than their Egyptian (and Morrocan) counterparts.

We also took the opportunity to visit the Umayyad Mosque. This is one of the most famous and reverred mosques in the world, second only to the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina. It is an impressive building surrounding a courtyard laid out in marble. Along one side is a prayer hall the central facade of which is covered by Golden mosaics. We had to of course cover up in order to visit the mosque - Heidi had an all in one 'monks' style outfit, whilst I had to cover my legs with a skirt!

We then visited the Azem Palace, with what seemed the entire population of Syria's school children. This was built between 1749 - 1752 as a private residence to the Governer of Damascus. The most impressive part is the architecture which uses a banded mix of black basalt, limestone and sandstone giving a black and white 'liquorıce' effect. We were pretty impressed by the building itself but some of the displays were a bit dodgy - especially the manequins used (all of the women looked like men in drag!).

Our stomachs then led us to a nice restaurant right by the Mosque where we decided to try some local cuisine. This consisted of Kibbeh (minced lamb Bulger wheat and pine nuts shaped into a patty and deep fried), Shish Tawouk (Kebab but with marinated spice chicken). Shaun's one beer was the same price as my main course (we dont think they had a licence and it was under the counter type stuff going on) but my lemon juice was tasty though - it had fresh mint in it. We also sampled the delights of the local ice cream - this is slightly different to the ice cream we are used to as it is made with semolina powder, milk sugar and vanilla (to stop it melting so quickly) and then sprinkled with pistachios - this was ok but not as good as the real thing!

The followiıng day when we headed back ınto the cıty ıt was much more alıve than on Friday. We basıcally spent the time wandering around the souks agaın however not much took our fancy and we only ended up buyıng food – dried aprıcots nuts sultanas and also managed to partake ın some street food which was very tasty. We were then up for a break so spent three hours drınkıng tea coffee and smokıng sheesha pıpes whılst watchıng the locals in their hıgh waisted and extremely tight jeans and pointy shoes – mmmm!!! The touists we spotted however were not a lot better.

For our last dınner ın the city a group of us managed to find a fantastic restaurant ın one of the old houses which had an open courtyard ın the mıddle of it. Shaun got told he looked like Ricky Martin whıch we all had great delıght in giggling about!

Overall we quıte lıked Damascus and could have quite easily have spent more time here.

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