Damascus is the capital city of Syria (an Arab country), and has borders with
Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Damascus is located by the side of the
Barada River, on a high plateau (680 metres above sea-level) in the shadow of the
Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Modern archaeological studies in this area have shown
that the original settlement could have been founded as long ago as 8,000 BC, and
over the years this site has been inhabited by the Aramaeans, Romans, Greeks and
For centuries Damascus was an important stop along the vast, winding
caravan trade route that led all the way from western Europe to the far east, and was
famous for its dried fruits, wines and fabrics, including ‘damask’, woven silk fabrics
that were produced in the city and sold all over the world.
Modern day Damascus is a wonderful mix of vibrant, bustling markets and souks,
quiet winding streets and grandiose examples of Islamic architecture, and there is a
unique sense of ancient history preserved here, with the old city being one of the only
UNESCO World Heritage Sites (status gained in 1979) that is still as much the heart
of everyday city life now as it was hundreds of years ago.
There are many wonderful sights in Damascus, from historic buildings to traditional
markets and souks, and some of the favourites include:
* The Great Umayyad Mosque – this ancient sacred site has been worshiped
by many different peoples, and was once the site of Aramaic, Roma and
Byzantine temples. The amazing mosque that still stands here to this day
was built here by the Umayyad in the 8th Century, and contains two of the
most important shrines in the world, the final resting place of the head of St
John the Baptists, and outside in the courtyard the tomb of Salah ad-Din, who
at the height of his reign in the 12th Century ruled over a huge empire that
included Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Therefore the Great Umayyad
Mosque is an important pilgrimage destination, and thousands of people
come to visit this site every year.
* The Christian Quarter – the great houses of the Christian quarter are now
mostly restaurants, bars and hotels, and this is a wonderful laid back area to
visit, perfect for relaxing over a few drinks or a meal with friends. This is also
the site of one of Damascus famous historic seven gates, the eastern Roman
gate of ‘Bab Sharqi’, which is marked by a spire and three separate
* The National Museum – this excellent museum holds treasure from
throughout Syria’s long and rich history, such as sacred artefacts and
beautiful objects from the ancient city of Dura Europos (2nd Century).
* Azem Palace – this beautiful 18th Century building was once the palace of the
Assad Pasha al-Azem, the Ottoman governor the city at that time, and
contains many treasures and magnificent historic rooms.
* Nightlife – Damascus does not have typically modern, busy nightlife, but there
are a few lively nightclubs and hotel bars scattered around the city,
particularly in the Christian Quarter.
* Shopping – there are many things to buy in Damascus, (this has always been
a busy and important trading city), and the Souk al-Hamidiyeh has a number
of excellent shops and stalls that are open until late most days of the week,
(around 9pm). The streets around the Umayyad Mosque are full of lively
street markets and shops, and a good place to buy crafts is at Tekkiye
Suleymaniyye. Many of the souks and smaller markets are closed on
Fridays, and in the Christian Quarter traditional Sunday closing is observed.
if not, come back tomorrow on journeyetc.com and see what's new :)