The road to Damascus
Trip Start Apr 27, 2010
36Trip End Apr 13, 2011
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We entered Syria via a land border on the road from Jordan. As the road leads north, the dramatic desert scenery and blue skies of southern Jordan give way to a flat, dusty plain and grey skies - and road signs for Iraq begin the appear. A huge sign of King Abdullah in his sheikh outfit waved us a tearful farewell from Jordan. Across the border, the ubiqitous face on every establishment and on the posters lining the roads is now that of President Assad, with his aviator shades and 'Man from Del Monte' suit.
It is soon evident that we are back in a land of traffic chaos as the cacophony of car horns grows louder on the approach to Damascus
My impression of Damascus is that it is a poor relation to Cairo - it seems to have all Cairo's cons and only a few of its pros. Cars cram every available space, and those that arent parked somewhere ludicrous are in a state of gridlock, blaring their horms every few seconds. Yet again, crossing the road is a potential suicide mission, it is even hotter than Cairo, and more crowded, just as polluted, less friendly, and only really has two main attractions.
The first of these, the main mosque is home to the remains of both John the Baptist and the muslim hero of the Crusades, Saladdin. It is a very impressive building, with polished marble floor and towering spires and minarets. I would have liked to spend more time there but was shat upon by a pigeon so had to leave to wash it off.
The main attraction is Damascus old town, a sprawling maze of winding backstreets and covered markets
It was whilst wandering around the old town that I had a close encounter with two world leaders. I was on my way to an old church, and the only tourist in sight, when I noticed that the street I was on was full of sinister looking people in suits, one of whom told me the church was closed and I had to turn back. On my way back down the stret, I could feel eyes burning into the back of my head, and as I got to the end, there was President Assad walking towards me, accompanied by some heavies. I managed to get a few photos before being told rather impolitely to put my camera away.
A car then pulled up and a small man emerged whom the president seemed very pleased to see
So my overall impression of Damascus is not that great, I'll be glad to get out of it later today as we head off to the ruined Roman city of Palmyra. I'm expecting most of it will be in a better state of repair than Damascus.