Perhaps not the most usual destination for your holiday, Syria is an amazing place with an amazing culture if you try to get it to know better. Because of the unstable politics of the country and its poor human rights record, at the first sight Syria does not look like a place you’d care to spend too much time in. But the cultural heritage of Syria makes it one of the most accessible and unique Middle Eastern countries. Tourist attractions in Syria are many and spread all over the country, and despite conservative social norms, tourists are always welcome. So if you are looking for a genuine Middle Eastern adventure, get a taste of Syria’s magnificent sights, culture and cuisine.
The first thing you need to do when visiting Syria, is that 90% of the population is Muslim, so you will have to abide by a strict dress-code, especially if you are female. No matter how hot the country’s climate is, you should not wear any revealing clothes that might offend the locals. Other than that, unless you start to openly criticize the Syrian government, there is little chance that you’ll get in trouble. Syrians are friendly towards foreigners and the country’s crime rate is very low.
The country’s capital, Damascus, is the best gateway to all the other attractions you might want to visit, and it is a good place to get acquainted with the local atmosphere, so to speak. Damascus is the oldest city in the world, so it is well worth spending a few days there and discovering its sights and wonders. There are lots of museums and mosques in the city that you can actually enter even if you are a non-Muslim, and there are countless hookah cafes and traditional restaurants that you might want to try, as well as souqs and marketplaces where you can find anything that comes to mind. Take a bath in a Hammam if you want to get that Arabian Nights feel. Don’t forget to eat a genuine shawarma, probably the most popular dish in Damascus.
From Damascus, you can get on a bus and go virtually anywhere in Syria. Aleppo is a good destination, as it has a beautiful ancient citadel and numerous souqs, as well as a very interesting medical museum which used to be a hospital for the mentally ill. There are other Syrian cities which have their fair share of attractions as amusements, for example Homs, Tartous or Latakia, where the castle of the famous military leader Saladin is located.
The historical attractions are perhaps the most interesting things in Syria. Take Palmyra, for example, the ruins of an ancient Roman city. Palmyra was a hugely important trade center in the Antiquity, and today the ruins of Palmyra are the largest preserved Roman city in the world. The Dead Cities, ancient Roman and Early Christian towns which used to be part of Antioch. To make the the walk through the tunnels of history complete, visit Krak des Chevaliers, near Homs, probably the most representative Crusader Castle you can find anywhere.
Overall, Syria is a great holiday destination if you don’t want to stay in one place, but rather visit as many attractions as you can, and if you don’t mind following some basic rules, you’re guaranteed to enjoy it.