Since Damascus is vying for oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, it should look slightly decrepit. I was picturing unpaved and narrow streets, filthy and labyrinthine, along the lines of Fez. But Damascus wears its age with much more sophistication. The streets, albeit labyrinthine, are charmingly cobblestoned. And Damascus may just be the cleanest city this side of Singapore, thanks to a team of men in orange vests who come through every night and rid the streets of litter.
In Damascus souqs are filled with tempting goods and manned by reasonable people. You get a few „look in my shop, no charge for looking” but no „my shop no good you racist!” So that’s nice. And while we’re making blatant comparisons to Morocco, it’s worth noting that Damascene mosques are open to the curious public for a nominal fee. Women do have to wear a cloak of the Druid variety, but at least you can enter and enjoy the splendor along with the hoards of Iranian pilgrims.
Mealtime in Damascus is always a pleasure. From falafel on the street to mezze in a grand courtyard restaurant frequented by diplomatic guests of the president (John Kerry’s picture was on the wall), the food is amazing. Every place has a different take on each dish; we’ve never had the same baba ganoush twice.
The State Department clearly thinks otherwise , but I think that Syria is a classy place where we’ve felt completely safe and welcome.
This post is a snapshot in time written in 2009 and things have obviously changed in Syria. I am so sorry for their suffering. In this case, listen to the State Department.