Dancin' In Damascus..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
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Trip End Mar 02, 2007


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Friday, September 1, 2006

Greetings from Damascus.

We had a lovely journey down from Palmyra to Damascus on one of the Kumuka overland trucks that was heading our way. The bus was big, it was bouncy and it was oh so comfortable after some of the absolute shitboxes we'd been catching around the place. Thanks for everything guys, hope all goes well with the wedding back in Sth Africa in 6 months time.

Anyway back to Damascus.

On a journey from Mecca, legend has it, the Prophet Mohammed looked down from the mountainside on Damascus but refused to visit the city because he wanted to enter paradise only once, and that was when he died.

With that in mind we made our way to the city that stakes a claim to being the oldest continuously inhabited in the world. And boy, is it showing it's age in some parts. The old city is still the Damascus of the Orient, filled with bazaars and blind alleys, minarets, mosques and fountained courtyards, cathedrals, street car vendors and coffee/sheesha houses.

In essence most travelers only come to visit Damascus for the old city and as such so did we. The Souq is an amazing thing to behold, the sheer scale is mind blowing. They say that the Aleppo Souq is the one that maintains the real feeling of old. We found it the other way around. In Aleppo all they did was throw Australianisms at you (there was a reason for that we later found out). In the Damascus Souq they left you to your own devices and it seemed to go on for ever. We would wander aimlessly for days in and out of the various quarters searching for those ever elusive gifts for the folks back home. Sorry people, still no luck but we did pick up some nice stuff for ourselves.

We were staying in an old Damascene merchants house that has been converted into a pensione. All the larger Damascene houses look inwards as opposed to outwards as we tend to in the western world. The centre of these houses was a courtyard generally with garden and fountains. You can imagine that this is where most traveller would meet each day to trade stories tips etc. It was also the place where and enormous fat chap dressed in traditional Arab garb would lech onto women half his age. We would spot him all over Damascus sniffing behind some young women like a dirty old dog on heat. I say, neuter him and send him home to whatever rock he crawled out from under.

As you can see from the majority of the photos we spent a bit of time in and around the main mosque in Damascus. It's fairly unavoidable as the Souq is centered around it but if you have to walk passed and around something everyday then it may as well be Umayyad Mosque. It simply must be one of the most magnificent buildings in all of Islam, and certainly the most important religious structure in all of Syria. In sanctity we're told it's third only to the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina. More impressive is the fact, yes fact, that worship on the site dates back 3000 years. Now that's historical shizzy right there. And even more impressive were the pimped out threads we had to wear to visit the place. I had a bubble skirt on to cover my knees (my best feature I thought) and Kat was decked out as an Ewok warrior from the planet Endor. Ewoks are hot.

Apart from just wandering around the place we had some great meals in Damascus in some lovely old houses that have been converted to various flavours of restaurants. Our favourite had to be a place called Old House which served some very tasty Italian meals. In Turkey we had kebab fatigue, in Syria it's a falafel overdose. So any other variety of meals is a welcome respite these days. Even McDonalds is a rare treat to us.

We also had a couple of meals and a hammam with a couple of fellow Australians (quite rare in the ME at the moment) which was fun. It's not often you run into like minded people anywhere and to do so in Syria was quite the treat. Hi to Toby and Kalita, we look forward to visiting you in your Inner West hovel, drinking cats piss from a cask and eating vegetarian sausages fresh off the barbie.

So that's Damascus, there really are so many reasons to visit if you ever have the inclination. We loved it all, well actually, we hated the taxi drivers as they are complete pricks and never ceased to amaze us with the ability to continually try and rip us off. Yes I really hate those bastards.

Anyway, Damascus is a great place, check it out and spend some time. You won't be disappointed.

Next pod, Quneitra - Syria.
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