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Damascus Mini Guide
Damascus Often has Political Tensions, is Visiting Worth the Risk?
Almost all Middle Eastern cities are tense and caution should be exercised on whether to visit and on how you act when there. Having said that, Damascus, for the greater part is a stable city which has much to tempt the traveller. Considered to be the world’s oldest city continually inhabited, it is home to the burial place of John the Baptist which is one of Islam’s holiest sites and the city is mentioned dozens of times in the bible. For a large part of the early 20th century, Damascus was under French rule and some evidence of this can still be seen across the city.
What’s the Best way of Getting to the City?
Damascus International Airport accepts flights from all over Europe, the Middle and Far East including some budget airlines such as BMI from the UK
. The airport is on the outskirts of the city and buses and taxis are a cheap way of getting to the city centre. Hiring a car is a good option as it will allow you to explore some of the region outside the city as well as making travel between your hotel and the airport more comfortable.
There Must be a lot to see in the City as it’s so old?
You’d need a lifetime to truly experience Damascus but on a short visit there are several must-see attractions. The best starting point is the Souk al-Hamidiyya, one of the most attractive markets in the Middle East. Built partly on the site of the old Roman forum, you’ll walk through monumental Roman columns to enter the souk before being tempted with all kinds of enticing goods. At one end of the souk is the Umayyad Mosque which, over the millennia has been temples, churches and mosques depending on the city’s rulers. This is the site of the tomb of St John the Baptist, known as the prophet Yayah to Muslims.
At the other end of the souk you’ll find the Citadel, a huge fortification, dating from pre-crusader times. Another fascinating sight is the mausoleum of the infamous Saladin, enemy of the crusaders and the most ruthless and successful of the Arab leaders of the time. Finally, if you’ve hired a car, try to get to the top of Mount Qasioun for an incredible view of the city, especially at night.
What can I buy There to Take Home?
The souk will have all you need in the way of souvenirs from vividly coloured spices to bejewelled slippers, traditional headgear and nargileh pipes. You’ll also be able to buy local produce including fresh and dried dates.
What About for Entertainment?
There are several excellent restaurants in the city, many of which have musicians or dancers to entertain customers after the meal. Many people also choose to sit drinking coffee in one of the city’s thousands of coffee shops. Some of these even have a story teller to enthral the customers as they drink. There are also several nightclubs which welcome western visitors.