Damascus - the Greatest City in the World?
Damascus Travel Blog› entry 9 of 36 › view all entries
Damascus is fabulous, the first city I have really enjoyed (knocks the socks off Istanbul), my only regret being that I didn't spend more time there, but plans went awry as you will read later.
Digs were good, although a little pricier than expected at US$5 a night. I got my first shave since before leaving home, which was fantastic. US$1 for the real deal and plenty of tea included (I used to hate tea, but now drink loads of the local brew, black and sweet). Malcolm arrived a few hours later (he had business to attend to) and met up with Jessie after his early escape from Palmyra (he had run out of cash).
There is plenty to see and do here, the Souq is fantastic, the Umyyad Mosque (Sunni) still better than any I have seen to date, Saladin's Mausoleum pretty flash, the Shiite Mosque modern but spectacular, and St Paul's Chapel interesting if somewhat plain (this is where he was apparently lowered from a window in a basket to escape the Jews). The city has many contrasts, from the quiet, laid back Christian and Jewish quarters to the hectic pace of downtown. Again, this is a place where you take your like into your hands when crossing the roads, but fortunately they have built a few bridges.
The food, particularly the street food, is a real treat (I'm sure that not many of you would have expected me to mention food too often). I also found an Adidas shop so stocked up on some trainer socks (so cheap compared to the UK) and got some nifty shoes. I also purchased a black and white chequered Keffiyah, the traditional Arab headdress, in the Souq for about US$1, a great buy which would become invaluable in the coming days!
In the evenings I headed to the Karnak bar for some beers (Philadelphia, its Jordanian and was the Roman name for Amman, you learn something new everyday!), with Jessie and Malc. By day I just roamed the streets taking it all in, which is not easy as there is so much going on. I will not go into any more detail here as it really is a place to experience yourselves. I would not be able to do it justice, but if you're thinking of heading that way (you should) let me know and I shall offer the best advice I can.
However, all good things must come to an end and I decided Jerusalem would be as good a location as any for Easter. This meant leaving by bus at 7am to reach Amman (the Jordanian capital) by 12 and then a mad dash for the Israeli border which closed at 2pm and would not be open again until Sunday. Amman is reputedly a bum town for tourists, so I didn't want to waste any time there.
But, as previously stated, best laid plans and all that. Apparently the last suicide bomber used the border crossing we were to use, and therefore the checking procedures had been tightened. We didn't hit Amman until gone 2pm, which basically counted out Easter in Jerusalem. I therefore decided Petra would be good and to give Israel a whirl later in the trip - the joys of independant travel.