Difference between revisions of "Damascus"
Revision as of 13:21, 15 June 2006
Damascus is the capital of Syria and its largest city, at about a million people. Until recently it was thought to be the world's oldest continuously inhabited city, and the old walled city feels especially ancient, with its narrow, smooth-walled alleys punctuated by enigmatic doors leading to the blank-faced houses' pleasing, verdant interior courtyards.
The Souq al-Hamidiyya, a tangle of streets packed with tiny shops, is entered through columns from a Roman temple built on a site that had been occupied by an even older temple. The souqs themselves smell of cumin and other distinctive spices and you can find passages dedicated to everything from leather and copper goods to inlaid boxes and silk scarves.
At the other end of Souq al-Hamidiyya is a fort-like section of the extant city wall that is the Citadel (but make sure to visit Aleppo's Citadel for a truly amazing experience).
Nearby, you can visit the mausoleum of Salah al-Din, known in the west as Saladin, the chief anti-crusader. There's a great statue of him on horseback right next to the citadel which will make you gasp if you walk all the way around it - underneath the horse's slightly lifted tail sit two dejected Frankish knights, one of whom is holding a shield with a lion on it. A not very subtle indication that he is Richard the Lion-Hearted, about to be further disgraced!
The October War Panorama. It's out in the suburbs but accessible by minibus or taxi. It's about US$7 to get in and well worth it. It was built with the help of the North Korean Government and the influence shows. There is an exhibit of military hardware outside.
Felafel stalls are all over the place. A felafel sandwich is a very cheap vegetarian meal. I never had any problems with the salad that comes with it although if you are being cautious you might want to ask the vendor to leave it out.