Crossing Syria

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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44
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Trip End Jun 19, 2006


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

After days of anxiety about whether or not I would be able to get my Syrian visa at the border from Jordan, having heard endless contradictory reports about the possibility of doing so, it ended up being a breeze. A brief exchange in my pidgin Arabic, confirming my New Zealand-ness, then an even briefer exchange of US$60, and my passport was stamped, and I was Damascus-bound!

And damn am I glad to be here. From the first, Damascus has impressed me. Palpably different from the other Arab cities I've travelled through so far, Damascus exudes a feeling of openness and discovery that is most welcome. It is a city not yet jaded by the influences of tourism, and, in my eyes, at least, is a better place because of it. The Syrian people, too, are superb. Everyone I have met so far has welcomed me with open arms, and with a friendliness that belies, indeed ridicules, the Western perception of this country. If only more of the world was so becoming.
The real charm of Damascus lies in exploring the labyrinthine alleys and souqs of the Old City, with its fascinating Christian and Jewish quarters, coffeehouses, hammams (bathhouses), and of course, the wonderful Umayyad Mosque - centrepiece of the Old City.

Add in the fact that the food is great, everything is as cheap as chips, and it doesn't have Jordan's transport system, and you get a place that's rapidly becoming one of my favourites.

xoxo
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