Damascus (د م ش ق) is the capital of Syria and its largest city, with about 4.5 million people - but what Damascus is really famous for is the reputation of the world's oldest continuously inhabited city. His old city, a maze of narrow streets, is full of enigmatic doors that lead to pleasant and calm gardens and white houses with lime. Walking in the old city is a step backwards in time and, despite the increase in tourism and traffic, it remains one of the country's greatest attractions, as well as the city's religious and social center.
Damascus lies on a plateau situated 690 meters above sea level, and is bounded by the Antilebanon ridge to the west and the Syrian desert to the east. The city is in the oasis of Ghutah and the water that supplies it comes from the River Barada. Although it is geographically close to the Mediterranean, the mountain range isolates Damascus from the coast and obliges the city to turn east.
Damascus has a semi-arid climate, due to the rain shade of the Antilbanon Ridge and ocean currents. Summers are dry and warm with little moisture. Winters are mild and (comparatively) rainy, sometimes with snowfall. The maximum and minimum temperatures in January are 12,6 °C and 0,4 °C, the lowest temperature ever recorded at -13,5 °C. The July maximum and minimum temperatures are 36,5 °C and 16,9 °C, the highest temperature ever being 45,5 °C. The annual rainfall is around 134 mm, from November to March.
See the state of time in Damascus in the next few days: msn Meteorology.
Its first historical reference occurred in the 15th century BC. when he was conquered by Pharaoh Tutmósis III. According to the Old Testament, it was the capital of the Arameu Kingdom in the 11th century BC. In the 10th century BC, it began to be attacked and went into war with several other kingdoms, including the Hebrew and the Assyrians. Finally, in 732 BC, he was conquered by Tiglath Pileser II. A few years after the fall of the Assyrian capital, Ninive, the Kingdom of Damascus was destroyed by Babylon.
Damascus was conquered to the Persians in 333 BC. by Parménio, one of Alexandre's generals, the Great. Later on it fell under the control of the Sellucidian Empire, which came into dispute with the ptolemeus, who ruled Egypt. On 66 BC B.C. he was occupied by Pompeio and belonged to the province of Syria.
It was on the way to Damascus that São Paulo, which was sent to kill Christians, had a divine revelation. He was approached by Jesus who sent him to Judas's house. Then he met Ananias and prayed for Christ together.
In the Byzantine Empire, Damascus was an important basis for monitoring the Syrian Desert, but was looted by the Sassanides. Damascus was later surrounded by Muslims in 635, and seized by Khaled Ibn al Waleed in 636. This meant a drastic change to the city, because it went from Byzantium and Christianity to the East and Islam.
The most glorious time in the city's history was the first decades of Islam, when it became the capital of an empire that went from the Atlantic coast to Central Asia, the Uyad Empire. This golden age ended with the birds, who moved the capital to Baghdad. Since then, it has fallen on the influence of several kingdoms and caliphates, the most important being the Fatyid Caliphate. Later, he returned to his times of glory, when Saladino conquered her to the fateful and started the Aiudine Dynasty. At that time I was at war with the French (the crusaders). Several monuments built by Nur al Din and Saladino are still the pride of Damascus.
In 1260, it was taken by the half-breeds, who removed the mongols. In 1516, the Ottomans of Turkey defeated the Mamelucos and controlled the city and the kingdom until World War I. After World War I, Damascus was released in 1918 by an Arab contingent under the command of the British Army of General Allenby. The Syrian National Congress was formed in 1919 under the patronage of Emir Faisal. He was declared King of Syria in 1920, and a month later he was defeated by the French on behalf of the Society of Nations.
After strong resistance and a few riots, Syria was proclaimed independent by the French general Catroux on September 16, 1941. This had no effect until 1946, and since then it has been developing and industrializing, while its political role has been strengthened by increased centralization.
Syria's busiest airport is Damascus International Airport. There are domestic flights to Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zur, Qamishli and occasionally Latakia, costing approximately 1000 SP only one day.
From Rio de Janeiro to the Emirates, with daily flights and connection in Dubai.
The airport is relatively well equipped with most basic services. It has some shops, with very low prices, especially perfume. Several products, such as Lebanese wine, arak (an alcoholic drink with anise flavor) and others are cheaper at the airport than in the city.
Getting currency exchange at the airport can be difficult, because the shamblers only accept US dollars. There are two multibanks in the main hall that accept foreign credit and debit cards, but they tend to be fallible. You'd better bring a small amount of American dollars with you and exchange at the airport until you get money out of the Damascus multibanks.
Taxi prices are very high because today only taxi companies are allowed (to pick up people) at the airport. The cost of a taxi from the airport to the city is around 500 SPs, but prices may vary depending on its haggling capacity.
There are also buses departing from and to the bus terminal at Baramkeh in the city center (the airport buses are the only ones that serve this bus station today - all the other services have been moved to the new bus terminal at Soumaria, outside the city center). The price is 45 SP + 25 for baggage and buses leave every half hour throughout the day. at the airport, leave the terminal and turn right; find the bus at the end of the building. There's a small ticket office. In recent years, the buses have been improved and are currently very good.
The bus leaves him a little far from Old Town, but there are many taxis to take him there. Make sure you use the taximeter, and pay less than 50 SP depending on the traffic.
There are train services to and from Aleppo, stopping in Homs and Hama. One of the trains continues to Qamishli via Raqqa, Deir ez zoor and Hassaka. There are also trains for Latakia, stopping at Homs and Tartus. However, buses or taxis are more convenient. Syrian trains are slow and stop. Despite this, the Damascus-Aleppo train is good. The main train station is in Qadam, a southern suburb. There are micro-car services on the Qadam-Assali route, between Qadam and Sharia al-Thawra in the city center.
There are weekly sleeping trains to Istanbul (35-36 hours) and Tehran (60 hours). There are also bi-weekly trains to Amman (very slow, usually requires a change of trains at the border).
Due to the turmoil in the area and the decline in demand in recent years, there are no longer any ferrys between Latakia, the country's main port and the closest to Damascus, and Alexandria (Egypt), Beirut (Lebanon) or Bodrum (Turkey).
However, the port is widely used by luxury cruises operating in the Mediterranean. Embarking on a cruise in Latakia is almost impossible, though. Government officials may require stamps from the Syrian Foreign Ministry and its embassy, depending on their mood.
Damascus is well served by bus. There are two bus stations: the west station serves destinations west and south (including Amman and Beirut), while the north station serves destinations north (including Aleppo).
There are frequent buses for Amman in Jordan, which take about four hours and cost approximately 6-9JOD.
Hatay Turizm has been operating frequent buses since Antakya in Turkey. You can also get one in Istanbul. Normally, you will have to reserve the seat one or more days in advance, and although the prices vary, you get a bus ticket for 80 TYL.
On arriving in Damascus by bus, make sure you move away from the bus terminal and find a cab downtown. If you do, you risk paying a much higher price than usual, which would be SYP150-200, because there are many cars pretending to be taxis at the terminal. This is usually a two-man scheme. one distracts him, the other puts his luggage in the cab bag and locks it.
If you get to the west station, bus number 15 takes you to Al-Marjeh Square in Old Town (where you can find many hotels) for 10 SYP.
You can take a shared taxi from Amman or Irbid in Jordan. Depending on the political situation, there is also a service for Beirut and other points in Lebanon, as well as some destinations in Iraq. Since Baramkeh Station closed, these shared taxis leave Soumaria, about 10-15 minutes from downtown Damascus, following Mezzeh Autostrade. The buses in 15 and 21 take him to Soumaria station from the bus station after Matry's Place.
In peak hours (10:00-16:00), the best way to transport is on foot. Smoking is absolutely prohibited in any form of public transport.
A great idea is to walk, especially if you're looking at the city's monuments, and it's the only means of transport in the Old City of Damascus. However, walking in the new part of the city, only in the areas of Maliki and Abu-Rumaneh, because the new city is usually full of pollution. Damascus drivers are not very responsible, so be careful to walk in the city, especially in the new part.
The minibuses, also known as servees, are one of the main means of transport in Damascus. All trips within the city cost £10 (approximately €0.33 or $R 0.75). You can go from one place to another in the city without having to change buses or, if you need to, a few times. When entering the bus, give a coin to any passenger to pass it to the driver and return the change, but remember to tell that passenger how many people are paying if he is in a group, or he wants to pay "to one" ("waahid") if he is alone. The route is written (in Arabic) on the bus signal. Minibuses don't usually have fixed stops except in very busy places, just wave to the driver when you want to stop.
There are many buses in the city that, like minibuses, cost £10. A very useful bus is #15, which goes from Al-Marjeh Square (Souq Sarouja\Cidade Velha) to the West Bus Terminal, which serves Beirut and Amman.
Taxis are abundant in Damascus, making them a great means of transport. The taxis of Star Taxi, a new private company, are more expensive than normal taxis, but they are also safer and more comfortable. You can call Star Taxi's headquarters, which you'll send to the nearest taxi you'll get. Taxis with the Muhafazat logo from Damascus on the door and a number on the roof usually has a taximeter, and you'd better just use them when you're trying to catch a taxi on the street. It is customary to leave a tip of £S10, beyond the amount indicated in the taximeter. At night, taxi drivers don't usually use the taximeter, so it's better to negotiate the price before entering.
It's not a good idea to rent a car in Damascus. There's a traffic jam almost always, especially in the summer, and it's very difficult to find parking lots, although that doesn't happen in the suburbs.
The biggest tourist attraction in the city is the medieval historic center, surrounded by about 5 km of walls, with the Omíadas Mosque in its center. It's a great place to lose yourself in your labyrinthine, busy souqs streets, admiring wonderful palaces, stepmother, carpenter and mosque, or spending time in one of your many cafés
- (س و ق ا ل ح to م to receive a) (in front of the Omíadas Mosque). A covered avenue, with hundreds of tiny stores, the entrance of which is made up of the ruins of an ancient Roman temple in the square of the Mosque of the Omíadas. The souq smells of comin and other spices and can find sections dedicated to everything from leather clothes and copper products to silk handkerchiefs and boxes marked on them.
- (also called Umayyad Mosque; ج ا م ع ب ن ي to in front of the Souq al-Hamidiyya) (in front of the Souq al-Hamidiyya) to be in the of the Commission). Leaving the Souq al-Hamidiyya, he finds the grandiose Omíada Mosque; this three-minaret building is an architectural marvel. It was an Assyrian temple, then a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, a church when Rome converted to Christianity, a church and mosque at the same time, and finally a mosque to this day. All the symbols of these times are still there and you can still see some Christian designs on the walls of the mosque. The mosque contains the tomb of São João Batista (for Muslims, the prophet Yahya). Women have to cover their heads, arms and legs. An abaya is included in the entry price (£50) (tunes covering the entire body). Although it is one of the most sacred places in Islam, foreign tourists are welcome to the mosque, to whom the prayer area is allowed to move.
- (ق ل ع ة د م to be ش, Qala'at Dimashq), Aal Al Bait Street (near the west exit of the Souq al-Hamidiyya). At the opposite end of the Souq al-Hamidiyya is a part of the city wall, with the appearance of a fort, the Citadel (although the Aleppo Citizen is more beautiful and impressive, it is a place to visit anyway).
- (ت م ث ا ل صل to to receive in-house), Aal Al Bait Street (in front of the Citizen). Near the Citizen, he can visit the Statue of Salah al-Din, known in the West as Saladino, the military leader who fought the crusaders. Located right on the edge of the Citizen, it's a huge statue of taking your breath. If you walk around it, you can see two French people shot under the tail just lifted up from the horse. These two knights are, according to the inscription, Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, and Reynald de Chatillon, Lord of Kerak, an important fortress of the Holy Land. Both were captured during Saladin's victory in Hattin; Guy was arrested in Damascus and eventually released, but Reynald was executed as a punishment for his many atrocities.
- , Tishreen Street, 6 (suburbs). Located in the suburbs, it's worth visiting. It was built with the help of the North Korean Government, whose influence is obvious in the construction style. There's an exhibition of military material abroad. You can pay a guide to show you the museum in Arabic or English. Approximately £S 327 (approximately €5.45).
- (ق ص ر ا ل ع) (near the Omíadas Mosque to the south). One of the most beautiful palaces in the city, this palace belonged to an Ottoman governor of the 18th century, Assad Pasha al-Azem, and has several bedrooms illustrating traditional craft and culture.
- (ا ل م ت ح ف ا in the ل, to be و, to be in the same), An Nasr & Rua de Al Jamiaa (in the new part of the city). The museum has many treasures of Syria's magnificent archeological sites, including sculptures and jewelry from Palmira, the 20th century European Dark Synagogue, which was reconstructed inside the museum, the world's first alphabet in ugartical trays and a mysterious statues of Mari priests.
- (ا ل ش ا ر ع ا to be ل to be م to receive the names to be taken up in the names of the members in the undertaking Al-Shāri` al-Mustaqīm). The Right Street, called by the Romans Via Reta, has been the city's main east-west artery since the Greek/Roman era. Around this street you can find the grandiose homes of the Christian neighborhood, most of them turned into bars and restaurants. In the end he finds the Roman gate of Bab Sharqi, and close to the Subterrarium Chapel of Santo Ananias, where it is believed that Ananias housed S. Paul after his conversion to Christianity. The Chapel of São Paulo marks the place where S. Paul climbed down the wall to escape his Roman stalkers.
- (Very close to Sharia al-Mu'awiya). Maristan Nur ad-Din is a 12th-century asylum, used until the 19th century. The patients were calmed down by music and by the noise of water from the sources. It is currently an interesting medical museum, which shows how the Arabs were advanced in this area.
- (ا ل ت ك ي ا to be ة to be ل to be س to be taken up by the members of the Tekkiye as-Sulaymaniyye), Sharia Shoukri al-Quwatly (on the banks of the Barada river). This wonderful mosque was ordered to be built by the Sultan Ottoman Solimão, the Magnificent and built by his main architect, Sinan, in a mixture of Turkish and Syrian styles. Near is a tekke or monastery, which is currently strangely stuffed with army planes, and the Madraçal de Selimiye, a center of local crafts.
- Syrian International Rali  (June) - Three-day Rali, beginning in Damascus and passing through the country, organized by the Syrian Automobile Club.
- International Flores Exhibition (July/August) - Forests and nature lovers meet each year in Teshreen Park for the annual flower festival in the capital.
- Jazz Lives in Syria  (August) - Annual jazz festival lasting four days and incorporating national and international talent. Occurs in the Damascus City.
- Damascus Film Festival   (November) - At the Omayyad Conference Palace and in various cinemas in the city center.
- Ramadan - The ninth month of the Muslim calendar (the date changes every year). Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex between sunrise and sunset and nights are spent eating, living together, buying and walking in the old city.
- Eid al Fitr - Party that takes place at the end of Ramadan to celebrate the end of fasting.
- Eid al Adha (November) - Also called the sacrifice festival, it begins on November 27. The festival follows the annual Islamic pilgrimage and commemorates the ordeal of the prophet Abraham.
- Look at the city since Mt. Qasioun — it's an essential activity in Damascus, since it offers a fantastic view of the city. The peak is accessible 24 hours a day, although the view is more spectacular at night, when the whole city is lit and the mosque minarets are lit with a green light. The Omíadas Mosque is particularly impressive from the mountain. There is a good variety of food and refreshments at the peak, from street stands to fine restaurants serving good local food and alcohol. However, check the price before entering - a very frequent blow in Damascus is a taxi driver taking him to his "favorite" coffee, where he ends up paying more than £500 for a cup of tea.
- Visit a restaurant in Old Town — There are many restaurants in the old city, each with its own unique charisma, but the most famous (and tourist) is probably the "Beit Jabri," although Al-Khawali is for many the best restaurant in the historic center. Another restaurant, the Narcissus Palace, located near the Omíadas Mosque, offers a fantastic experience. Every night, a singer and band play ancient Arab music, creating a fantastic restaurant environment.
- Take a bath in Hammam, that is a Turkish bath. - The Baths of Nur-al-Din (between the Azem Palace and the Right Street) and the Baths of Bakri (the first street on the right after entering the Old City through the Touma Bab) are two baths that are used to receiving Western tourists. A visit to any of these costs £500, including towels, soap and a massage. Nur-al-Din's only allow men; Bakri's can allow women to reserve in advance.
- Relax in a Hooka coffee - Hooka cafes are popular in Damascus and easy to find. The Old City is full of these, and this is where it finds the most traditional cafés. You'll probably find a crowd of men drinking tea and playing backgammon, all of them smoking hooka. In the modern part of the city, most coffee houses are aimed at the younger ones and are an important part of the city's night life, offering an enormous variety of cigarettes with varied flavors, from apple flavor, the most common, cappucino flavor. In almost all major restaurants, he can find hookas, including the old city restaurants.
There are several places where you can learn Arabic in Damascus:
- Language Institute of the University of Damascus  - The Language Institute is one of the best Arabic schools in the city; the course materials and all the interaction between students and teachers are done in arabic. Students are grouped according to their abilities (assessed by a test) in one of three groups: beginners, intermediate and advanced.
- Ma'had  - This state-run language academy is located in the Mezze district of Damascus. It is the cheapest option, although the courses are not as good as those of the Language Institute of the University of Damascus.
- British Council — The classes are expensive, and they are mainly directed towards diplomats and businessmen.
- Standard Arabic-Ascended Languages School  - The school provides basic courses for beginners and advanced people, some of them directed towards journalists, doctors, diplomats, engineers, etc. Normal classes have a maximum of four students. You can also have private classes with a teacher. Twice a year, certain courses are available at half the price. Teachers have experience teaching foreigners. Every Saturday begins basic courses.
- Arabic Studies in Damascus  - Offer various disciplines in Arabic.
- TikaTrip - Journeys and Studies in Syria  - Offers private Arab tutors as well as professional language teachers and all important services: including a car that picks you up from the airport, accommodation and advice on how to handle bureaucracies.
Damascus is one of the best shopping destinations in the Middle East. Prices are low, and as few stores rely on tourists to make a profit, they leave him alone to see the store until he's ready to buy. You can find small shops all over the old city, although Souq al-Hamidiyya has the highest concentration of stores. The souq is a fantastic thing to see, but prepare for the crowds.
The great Souq al-Hamidiyya is Syria's most famous souq. Full of spices, sweets and soaps, as well as rosewater, local specialty, and ice cream with almond flavor and with pistachios on top, available in the oldest ice store in the country, Bakdash. Souq al-Bazuriye is good for spices and sweets.
If you're looking for shopping malls, the Damasquino Mall is your destination, after the Cham Center in Kafr Sousah, where you can buy local crafts at fixed prices.
The best place to look for crafts is Tekkiye Suleymaniyye, where it has fixed prices, the Souq al-Hamidiyya and the streets surrounding the Omíada Mosque, where it needs to negotiate the price. The east end of the Right Street near Bab Sharqi has a lot of antiques and carpet vendors.
George Dabdoub, in Azem Palace in Old Town, has an excellent variety of carpet, textel and ceramic antiques as well as ancient furniture. It's closed on Saturday. Ghraoui, in Sharia al-Joumhouria, is famous throughout the Arab world for its excellent chocolates, stuffed houses, and crystallized fruit.
The hours of the Damascus shops vary, but most of them are open between 9:30 and 7:00 p.m., closing a few shops between 1:30 and 4:00 p.m., especially in the summer. The souqs are closed on Friday, except in the Christian neighborhood, where they close on Sundays.
A typical apricot dish is fatteh, made from soaked bread, yogurt and chickpeas. Delicious and very satiating, it's great on a cold winter day. Try it with sheep's or kid's tongue, or simple with pickles and nuts.
The shawarma is obviously popular in Damascus. There are many different varieties, including chicken and beef.
If you want to try authentic Syrian food, visit Midan, a Damascus section. It is in the south of the Old City and can easily be accessed by walking from the west entrance of the Souq al-Hamidiyya or since Bab Saghir. There's a main street called Jazmatiya that offers a lot of bunkers selling shawarma and falafel, butchers, restaurants and many pastry shops, which stand out from the rest of the shops for two and a half meter long sweets. This street should be visited at night, and it is always very busy (though it is a very safe street) until around 3:00.
the famous falafel sandwich (15-30 £S), the chicken shawarma (30-50 £S) and the manakeesh (10-20 £S; bread stuffed with za'atar, spinach, meat, tomatoes and cheese or other stuffing) are available all over the city and are cheap. Less common, but also very common in the city are the shops that sell foul (beans cooked with sauce) and homus.
Station One (near the Noura Supermarket in Abu Rumaneh) is one of many restaurants in the city that serve shawarma.
Another very popular food is camel kebab, available in butchers near Bab Saghir. As they used to hang a camel head to announce what they sell, it's unlikely they won't see it.
All over town you can find bunkers of natural juice. The orange juice (aasir beerdan) costs between £30 and £50, while other fruit is slightly more expensive. Some of these stalls also sell a variety of dishes, such as hot dogs, sojouq (Armenian sausage) and meat (kebab, etc.). This food may not be very safe.
By eating in bunkers, care for fruit and vegetables that are not peeled can cause infections. To be safer, go to newsstands that are full of people.
The area around Martyr Square has bakeries that serve the best, sweetest, tastiest and cheapest Baklava on Earth.
Eating in empty places is a bad idea. only restaurants with many people can be considered safe, in any case they may suffer food poisoning from shawarma sandwiches or other product (mainly in summer), so be careful!
- Souq Saroujah. A fast food restaurant that serves good pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and French fries. A large plate of French fries costs £50, a sandwich filled with chicken is £75, and a pizza for one person costs £110..
- , Najmeh Square (After Dar Salam School, follow 1st to right, 3rd Store), ☎ . A very welcoming restaurant that serves authentic Italian pizza, made in a traditional oven. The interior decoration is charming. The specialty is the pizza, but it also serves salads, dishes of mass, and entrances. It doesn't serve alcohol. The Il Forno Pizzeria also makes deliveries and ensures that the food arrives hot. $6-$15.
- , Midan (south of the center), ☎ . The best sandwiches, and great shawarma.
- (near the Cham Palace, follow the street in the direction of Jisr-al-rais, turn right in the street in front of the Adidad store). A great restaurant, with sandwiches in whole bread and apfelstrudel. €4 - €8.
- , Sharia al-Abed - Damascus Center, ☎ +963 11 221-1555. This restaurant offers basic food in the Middle East, including mezze and a variety of grilled meat. There is a separate section of families. You don't use alcohol, and you accept credit cards.
- Sharia Medhat Pasha. This restaurant serves decent paste and good pizza, but also forkbeards and alcohol. The service is sometimes not very good, but it is worth it to try out real Italian food. There's no menu, ask for any Italian dish you want and they probably know how to do it.
- (near Bab Sharqi and Pizza Pasta). It serves traditional Arab dishes, which are very tasty and cheap.
- , Midhat Basha, Old City (next to Beit Jabri). Food quality generates discussions: some like it, some like it. But surely wue has the best lemon and mint juice in Damascus and, if you want, you can just drink and not eat.
- . A great place to drink coffee. You have everything, including express. Full of intellectuals and bluetooth in the air. Several shops in the city, including:
- Bab Touma Business Center.
- Abu Romanih (Souq al-Kheir).
- , Rashad Jabri Street, Old City (departing from Bab Touma, go upstairs to the police station and ask the way). You can eat French fries or cheese. Reasonably cheap, very welcoming. You serve alcohol. SYP 1300-SYP 2600.
- Jisr al-Abiad. Daily and Arab homemade food. An excellent restaurant, but unfortunately it does not serve alcohol.
- (near the Italian hospital). A nice little coffee with the best coffee in town. great pancakes and muffins. A good place to escape the agitation of the ascena.
- , Abu Rumaneh (near the Noura Supermarket). Walk from Jisr al-Rais to Monte Qasioun; is on your right). The best pizza in Damascus, the rest of the dishes are also great. No alcohol.
- , Bab Touma (climb the stairs by the police station and follow the signals). One of the most popular restaurants in the city, with excellent mezz. Western dishes are not so good, but kebabs are not so special either. It's always full of nice people, and younger than in other restaurants. They don't serve alcohol during Ramadan.
- (near the Four Seasons Hotel). The best Indian restaurant in Damascus. You have great menus defined by S£600, or you can have dinner at la carte. The president ate here twice.
- , Damascus Boulevard (by the Four Seasons). A thematic coffee, part of Rotana Audio Visuals, which is probably the most famous recording studio in the Arab world. The chief of Rotana is Prince Walid bin Talal. The food is great, as is the hookah (see Activities). Some people say that Rotana is the best coffee hooka in town, with many Western dishes, all cooked by international renowned chefs. The view from this coffee is great, and you can see Mt. Qassioun and the rest of Beirut Street. There's also a souvenir store and a music store on the first floor.
- , Abu Rumaneh (near the United Colors of Benneton). A beautiful coffee that offers Italian food, hookas, and all kinds of coffee, including the traditional Turkish coffee.
- , Souq al-Abbabiyya - Centro da Cidade Velha, ☎ +963 11 544-5900. Leila's Restaurant and Terrace has tables on the terrace with a fantastic view from the Omíada Mosque. The restaurant serves traditional Arabic food; however, this kind of food does not appear on the menu. Ask the employee.
- , Sharia as-Sawwaf, 14 - Centro da Cidade Velha, ☎ +963 11 544-3200. Favorite restaurant between locals and tourists, this coffee offers classics from Syrian cuisine. It's located in the courtyard of an elegant daisy house.
- , Sharia al-Kineesa - Damascus Center, ☎ +963 11 543-3999. It offers a combination of Syrian cuisine and French cuisine. Although they serve alcohol, credit cards are not accepted. Arabesque is a typical elegant restaurant, so it's more appropriate to bring semi-formal clothes.
- , Sharia al-Amar Izzedin al-Jazzari - Damascus Center, ☎ +963 11 332-2321. This modern restaurant offers a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, and fresh juice. French is spoken more than Arabic. The interior is richly decorated in the Scandinavian style.
Drink and skirt
The coffee shops in Old Town are a point to visit. The hours can pass very easily with a cup of shay (tea) or ahwa (coffee) and the smoke of a nargileh (a kind of pipe). The An-Naufara (which means "The Source") is a fantastic place to spend time, in the heart of the old city, in the east and very close to the Mosque of the Omíadas. There is even a Hakawati (a traditional storyteller) present at 7 p.m. for most nights.
If you feel like drinking a European-style coffee, go to the street of Abu Rumaneh and look for Bennetton's shop. The area finds a large number of elegant cafes, including one from the Inhouse Coffee chain, which is very similar to the West's Starbucks, in prices and atmosphere. A large latte or cappuccino costs about £135. In every Inhouse Coffe store, it offered free Wi-Fi Internet.
In addition to these, you can find many bars and clubs in Damascus more recently. These are usually full of people at night, but they still guarantee alcohol and dance every night.
The Souq al-Saroujah is where there are the largest number of economic hotels. The Martyrs Square or "Merjeh" in Arabic is another place to address if you have little money in your hands, although many of the hotels are also brothels. However, at least the lower ones are recommended. Women traveling alone should avoid hotels in Merjeh Square, because it is the prostitution area of the city.
Most hotels in Damascus claim to have 5 stars, it's a two-star hotel for the Western world. The Syrian government is giving the stars to hotels by following a highly suspect assessment method, which assigns an absurdly high number to hotels belonging to Syrian chains or paying "baksheesh" (bribes) to the authorities. Due to the conflicting relations with the United States, credit cards linked to US banks will not be accepted (meaning that virtually all credit cards in the world are not accepted).
- , Sharia Bahsa, Souq al-Saroujah (in an attractive side street about 5-10 minutes from the city), ☎ [email protected]. There's an attractive courtyard, and clean rooms. Lunch included in the price. Employees are helpful and can find guided visits and other ‘tourist needs’. It is not permitted to bring alcohol to the establishment. £600 for a shared room (April 2010 prices), £1200 for a double with a shared bathroom, £1600 for a double room with a private toilet (January 2009 prices). You can also sleep on a mattress on the roof during the summer for £400 S... , e-mail:
- , Sharia Omar Ben Abi Rabia, ☎, Fax: 00963 112453817, e-mail: [email protected]. , 00963 11 2210024
- , Sharia Bahsa, Souq al-Saroujah (after Al-Rabie Hotel), ☎ [email protected]. Some of the rooms on the upstairs floor have no heater and may get very cold in the winter unless the door is open. The courtyard is smaller than Al-Rabie's, but the employees are nice and friendly. The showers are in the basement. There are friendly employees who can get guided visits and other "tourist needs." No alcohol is allowed in the establishment. Reserve ahead. Prices are higher than in neighboring motels - 560 ° for a shared room. £700 for an individual, £1225 for a double, £1700 for a double with a private bathhouse. Lunch including price.. , e-mail:
- , Sharia Souq al-Saroujah (at Souq al-Saroujah), ☎ [email protected]. Also known as Hotel Ghazal, this hotel is relatively recent in the Damascus economic hotels landscape. It has a very beautiful and traditional courtyard of the ascene. For breakfast they serve traditional tea and coffee, plus a completely free nargileh. You can bring alcohol to drink at the hotel if you want. The rooms and installations are new. The toilets are clean and have hot water. You have a safe to keep your values. Owners are helpful and nice, but they are less fluent in English than competition and do not usually get guided visits (but they may be able to help you if you ask them). They speak enough English to find rooms and give directions. If you have light sleep, avoid rooms near the kitchen, toilets and reception. The rooms facing the courtyard are calm. £900 for a double with a shared bathroom and £400 for a dorm room... , e-mail:
- , 29th May Street (above Yusef Al-Azmeh Square behind Assufara Cinema (of Ambassadors)), ☎ fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Completely renewed in 2001, this 60-room family hotel remains a very popular, safe and central hotel to stay, whether for a businessman or a backpacker. The 24-hour Al Majed Restaurant is on the last floor of the hotel, with a variety of dishes, from traditional Middle East food and Western dishes.
- , Al Abbara Street (you can also enter the hotel through a rope staircase on the city walls, some 100 meters from Bab Sharqi), ☎ . This hotel is in a unique location, with a few bedrooms in a tower on the city wall. Although the location is excellent and the decent rooms, the main reason to stay here is Raymond, the owner. A Palestinian who lived in Australia for 40 years, Raymond is the most friendly and helpful person he will ever meet. The laundry service costs £200 S. There's cable TV in the typical area, but there's no Internet access. The site has a map that can print and GPS coordinates.
- , e-mail: [email protected]. It rents rooms for people studying in Damascus in a beautiful, traditional Arab house in the heart of the Old City of Damascus. The house includes seven bedrooms, two toilets, two kitchens, a magnificent courtyard, and a terrace with a great view from the Old City. Home room has a TV, bed, wardrobe and heater (air conditioning in some rooms). The kitchens are fully equipped (gas stove, microwave, kettle, oven, etc.) and the modern toilet has hot water 24 hours a day. Washing machine, Internet access, and landline phone.
- , Bab Tuma Square square (near the Haretna Restaurant), ☎ . It's in Old Town, near Bab Tuma, in one of the narrow pedestrian streets, common in Old Town. Old Damascus has about a dozen bedrooms and was the traditional home of a 20th century trader. A Syrian family owns and manages the hotel.
- , Baghdad Street, Ekeibeh, Amara, Damascus, ☎ 00963 11 231 0884/0064[email protected]. Located in a recently renovated 400-year-old house, it offers 27 fully furnished Ottoman-style rooms divided between the two floors of the house. It has access to the wireless Internet, laundry service, and a fully equipped kitchen. There are two yards with views from Mt. Qasioun. Since €45. , e-mail:
- , Qudssaya, Damascus (approximately 10 km from the city center), ☎ . It offers multiple-size apartments for all kinds of people. Every apartment has its own porch with a view to cutting off the mountain's breath. Since 38.8.
- , On a side street, the entrance to which is on Al Bahsa Street (in front of the Venesia Hotel, near the entrance to the Souq al-Saroujah), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. The hotel has 25 air-conditioned rooms (double, triple and with two individual beds) with cable TV, telephone and minibar. Safe at the reception. Employees available 24 hours/day. There's a terrace with splendid views of the city. Since 25.
- , Old City, ☎ +963 933 356955, e-mail: [email protected]. It has air-conditioned rooms (both single and double) with cable TV, telephone and mini-bar TV. You can ask them to send a car to pick him up from the airport. There's a nice courtyard with a fountain, and full of plants. Since 25.
- , ☎ 963 11 223-2300fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. The national hotel chain, and one of the biggest business hotels in the city. ,
- , Bab Touma (in front of Hammam Bakri), ☎ +963 11) 543 0445/46 . An astonishing boutique hotel in a quiet street, behind a door with no sign. Installed in a magnificent old house, it has a beautiful courtyard and comfortable rooms. £7020-14040.
- , Sharia Shukri Al Quatli, ☎ +963 11 339-1000, fax: . The Four Seasons, located in the lower city, offers many services, such as spa, loves, and gym. This hotel includes the Al Halabi restaurant, with a traditional Aleppo kitchen in the north of the country.
- , Hamra Street, ☎ +963 11 3340240, fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. It offers all the services of an international four-star hotel; presidential suite, bathrooms with jacuzzi, comfortable rooms equipped with modern technology.
Keep in touch
Most hotels find a way to make international calls, but the prices are very high. Most Internet cafes have VOIP (a telephone on the Internet), and offer a much cheaper alternative, although the price reflects the quality of the connection.
Internet access is available in various locations throughout the city, including internet cafes and hotels, although the Syrian government censors traffic, which causes some connectivity problems.
In rural and modern areas of Damascus, it is common for perfectly healthy people to imitate beggars to get money. Sometimes you can try to trick him, and you have a lot of tricks to do it, so be careful.
For your safety, do not take advice or recommendations, especially about the accommodation, doctors and dentists, of taxi drivers.
In Damascus and the rest of the country only a few banks, very large, accept American Express traveler's checks! Multibanks and credit cards are not a good option for the foreign traveler either.
Syria's first multibank was installed in 2003, so it is still a rare novelty in many parts of the country, and is not always operational. There are foreign exchange houses in many areas of Damascus, especially near the big souqa. The euro, the British pound and the US dollar can be exchanged in this exchange house at the usual price. Look at the current exchange rate before you exchange it, not to be fooled. Many shops (mainly in the old city) also exchange. Although officially illegal, it's convenient if you're already in Old Town and need money quickly. Ask the shopkeepers for a shopkeeper, and they'll give you a store that makes a change.
- Bosra - A city near the southern border of the country, with magnificent ruins of a Roman city in the middle of the desert. Once upon a time it was also a swimming capital; today, it is one of the main attractions of the country.
- Homs - North Damascus, this is the third largest city in the country and one of the oldest (though not even compare to Damascus). Once an important Byzantine city, it has one of the most interesting Christian neighborhoods in the country.
- Palmira — Palmira is the country's largest tourist destination and one of the most impressive historical sites in the world. Called Tadmor by the sites (its ancient semi-tic name), the intriguing history of Palmira, as well as the profusion of columns, ruins of temples, and funeral towers, in an astonishing desert oasis, leaves its visitors speechless.
- Sednaya and Maaloula - A small Christian village about 27 km north of Damascus, Sednaya is supposedly the place where Noé planted the first vine after Diluvio. The Convent of Our Lady, built in the sixth century, attracts thousands of pilgrims to see its miraculous image of the Virgin, which is believed to be painted by São Lucasb. A taxi journey (25 km) through the spectacular mountains of Antilebanon takes him through one of the most picturesque villages in the country, also a Christian village: Maaloula. Here, too, you can find several churches and it's one of the few places in the country where the aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken.
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