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Damascus Travel Guide, Syria


It is thus, locally referred to as Al-Fayhaa and sometimes Dimashq and is the capital as well as the largest city in Syria with a current population pegged at 1.6 million approximately. Not only does the city possess a governorate by itself but it is also manages that of Rural Damascus, or Rif Dimashq.

Important facts about its lives and times: ancient to modern

While Damascus being such an old city, is bound to have a lot of history, it is truly mind-boggling to learn that written records about its existence, lives and times have survived from 6,000 to 5,000 BC, according to excavations and digs turning up proof on the outskirts of the city regarding its inhabitation. Most of these excavation sites are located at Tell Ramad. 

However, it has gained in terms of historical relevance due to the various foreign influences, including invasions as varied as Greco-Roman to Islamic Arabs, to Fatimids, Seljuks and Mamluk rules. They brought in myriad cultural nuances that molded the soul of a very adaptable Syrian city, open to many forms of cuisine, art and learning.

While the arrival of the Aramaeans, (who were essentially Semitic nomads from Mesopotamia) introduced the people of Damascus to a proper water distribution system, teaching them the importance of constructing canals and tunnels, it was only the later Romans followed by the Umayyads who perfected this part of the water system that still exists in the old city today.

Resilient as well as secular, modern day Damascus has held on to the Umayyad Mosque as well as maintained its famous churches, of which the Chapel of St. Paul is the most legendary; it also hosts the Bab Sharqi and the Souk Medhat Pasha, which is believed to date back to the Biblical period and is a quaint bazaar lane.

It enjoys a booming economy with funds coming in from the Arabian Gulf as well as the incoming Iraqi refugees (since 2003), but its most distinguishing tag, according to its tourism department lies in Damascus being called the Cultural Capital of the Arab world.

 People, culture and pluses in Damascus:

By and large a safe city, Damascus offers plenty of things to do and places to sight-see for the foreign tourist with people friendly, though shy, but willing to help in haggling for souvenirs at local craft stores when they find a visitor to their city getting ‘crooked!’ Even the shopkeepers in the conventional Syrian souks seem to find it natural enough for customers to strike a bargain and happily go along with the tourists looking for one! A must try when in Damascus is Mate (a local caffeinated drink) and of course, the famous Turkish coffee besides the water-pipes at various cafes doubling up as indoor sports clubs (backgammon, chess and card games are very popular in these places).

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