Damascus?? Why should I go to Damascus? That was the first question I’ve asked myself during the planning stages on this Arabian trip. Syria had never been an option for places I’d like to visit. Could it be the negative press they’ve been receiving, or the Level 4 security the American government imposes? Or better still, I think its me being bias as to how amazing this ancient city is. In a nutshell, Damascus is one of my favourite cities to visit – friendly people, amazing sites of historical importance, very low crime rate (no pickpockets!), amazingly clean, cheap, great food and a vibrant night scene.
Damascus with a population of 1.6million is the capital city of Syria. It is one of the oldest city in the world often referred to as - the oldest continuously inhabited city in history.
Old City of Damascus
As I first stepped in the medieval city (Old City), I can instantly feel the impact of its ancient history. From the walled fortress surrounding it to the cobbled street alive with daily activities. From the architecture rich in materiality to the network of mosques, churches and synagogues filled with worshippers.
Despite the vibrant street life, Damascus actually feels very easy and relaxed. The musical tune of azan from different mosques synchronizing with the Umayyad Mosque. This ‘walled city’ was designed particularly for pedestrian and light animal carriages.
Umayyad Mosque جامع بني أمية الكبير
The Grand Mosque of Damascus – Umayyad Mosque
This city contains more than 2,000 mosques. The Umayyad Mosque is one of the largest and oldest mosque in the world. This is a busy place to visit – with many tourist and worshippers alike. A huge number of worshippers from Iran can be seen at the Husayn’s tomb (Prophet Muhammad’s grandson). It also holds the shrine of John the Baptist (Yahya), a prophet both to the Muslim and Christianity religion.
Souq Al-Hamidiyyah سوق الحميدية
The star-like effect on the souq’s roof is actually produced from the shots of fighter planes during the war.
Workers producing hand made ice cream, one of the many businesses found in the souq.
Khan As’ad Pasha خان أسعد باش
There is a lot of khan (caravansary) in Damascus. A khan is used as a stopover for caravan travellers during the Ottoman period. This khan is definitely my favourite. I Love the bold black and white stripes adorning its facade.
The courtyard is also amazing. It contains balconies facing inwards and a water fountain that acts as a natural cooling system for the place. This half closed courtyard is able to trap heat during the colder season. Khan As’ad Pasha has won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
I fully recommend anyone to dine at the Al-Khawali. They serve authentic Syrian food which taste really good and is also good for money. past presidents and prime minister’s of many countries have dined here. The restaurant is conveniently located in Old Damascus on Straight Street, within minutes from Umayyad Mosque and Souq Al-Hamidiyah.
Leila’s Rooftop Restaurant
This restaurant is located next to the Umayyad Mosque. We had dinner at the rooftop which was really nice. Food is good and prices are affordable.
Orient Palace Hotel Damascus
This hotel is located next to the Hejaz Railway station and is a 10mins walk from Old Damascus . I feel like stepping into a bygone era the moment I enter the hotel. With huge sitting rooms and very antique decor. The service is very friendly and comes straight from the heart, something I did not expect at all. Rooms are big and very clean despite showing signs of age. Prices are cheap all season.
Damascus is the cleanest city I’ve been to (easily comparable to Singapore). Spotlessly amazing! It is also a very safe city to travel – there is no beggars and pickpockets (low crime rate).
- Taxi from Amman to Damascus (sharing with 3 other passenger) – 300SP per person
- Taxi to Damascus Airport from Old City – 350SP (after heavy bargaining)
- Taxi from Amman-Damascus taxi station (Al-Samariyeh) to the Old City – 400SP (we’ve got conned on arrival!)
- Flight ticket LHR-AMM+DAM-LHR – 550GBP
- Chicken Shawarma (cheap and filling) – 50-75SP
- Fries (large portion) – 50SP
- Bottle of mineral water 250ml – 25SP
- Bottle of large mineral water 1.5L – 50SP
- 1 tin of Coke – 50SP
- Mango juice in small bottle – 25SP
- Fresh pomegranate juice in a cup at Souq Hamidiyyah – 75SP
- Hand made pistachio ice cream at Souq Hamidiyyah – 60SP
- Dinner for 2 (starter, mains, sides, fresh fruits and juices, baklava) at Al-Khawali (Best Damascene Restaurant) – 1000SP
- Dinner for 2 at Leila’s Rooftop Restaurant (starter, main and fresh smoothies) – 700SP
- Twin room at Orient Palace Hotel – 1900SP per room per night
- Umayyad Mosque – Free entry
- Azem Palace – 75SP
- Khan As’ad Pasha – 50SP