Resort information for Damascus, Syria
One of the most interesting places for travellers is the capital
city of Damascus, brimming with history as one of the oldest
continuously inhabited cities in the world, where the enormous
Umayyad Mosque, Roman walls and gates, Biblical sites and bustling
markets hold visitors in a spell of fascination. The wealth of historical sites date back to the many different
periods of the city's history, where mosques, churches, the old
city walls and ancient souqs testify to the occupation of Greeks
and Romans, Persians, Christians, and the Islamic Umayyad Empire.
Biblically speaking, Damascus was once the capital of the Aramean
Kingdom in the 11th century BC, and was where many centuries later
the apostle Paul was converted to Christianity and started the
early church. The city's most glorious days, however, were as the
capital of the Umayyad Empire, and many of its monuments are still
the pride of Damascus today. The Umayyad Mosque, or Grand Mosque of
Damascus, is one of the biggest in the world, its interior covered
from wall to wall with beautiful thick carpets and richly decorated
with ornate inlays and designs. The place to get to grips with present-day Damascus is in the
souqs (covered markets), the largest and most famous dating back to
1863, where haggling for inlaid mosaic boxes, chessboards,
jewellery and hookah (hubble-bubble) pipes is all part of the
experience. Cries of 'need a carpet/kilim/scarf?' or 'just one
minute to look and looking is free' will assault visitors along
with the fragrant scent of spices, and the sight of colourful
merchandise spilling out onto the thoroughfares.
Tipping is a common way of showing appreciation, but the
amount is left to the discretion of the giver. Ten percent is
standard in bigger restaurants.
Syria is predominantly a Muslim country and visitors
should respect religious sensitivity, particularly in the matter of
dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose
fitting clothes that cover most of the body. Headscarves are
unnecessary unless entering mosques. Eating, drinking and smoking
in public during the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it
is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. The
death penalty is enforced for drug trafficking.
There is no risk of malaria in urban areas, but travellers
to northern Syria in El Hassaka are recommended to take chloroquine
between May and October. A yellow fever certificate is required by
travellers arriving from an infected country in Africa or the
Americas. It is recommended that travellers are vaccinated against
polio. Although medical treatment is inexpensive, standards are
variable. Doctors are generally well qualified and most medical
personnel speak English or French. Basic medical care is available
in major cities, but medical insurance is strongly
Most visits to Syria are trouble-free, and crime levels are
low. Terrorism is a risk, and although not usually directed at
tourists, there is the risk of becoming an unintentional victim,
especially at places like the US Embassy.
Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken, language.
English is widely understood by many educated Syrians in the major
The international dialling code for Syria is +963.
The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
0044 for the UK). City codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Damascus.
There is good mobile phone coverage in urban areas, and many
networks have international roaming agreements. Internet access is
limited, but is available in Damascus.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin
attachment plugs are in use.
Local Time Information
Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from April to October).
Arabic hospitality can be somewhat overwhelming for first-time
visitors, and nowhere else in the Middle East will visitors receive
such a genuine demonstration of Arabic hospitality, accompanied by
a refreshingly sincere welcome, than in the Arab Republic of Syria.
'Ahlan wa sahlan' is a phrase that will be heard often throughout
the country, meaning 'You are welcome', and will more than likely
be accompanied by a traditional cup of Arabic coffee or a glass of
tea, or an offer to share in the family meal. Syria once included present day Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine
within its borders, but today is enclosed by Turkey to the north,
Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Jordan and Israel to
the south, and Iraq to the east. Its central position on the
caravan and trade route was largely responsible for its
intermingling of beliefs and ideas, having survived a myriad
invasions and occupations over the ages from the Persians and
Greeks to the Romans, Crusaders and Arabs. The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience
as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating
backdrop to everyday life on the streets. Part of the ancient
caravan route, the 500-year old souqs (covered markets) present a
riot of colour and turmoil to the business of buying and selling,
where anything from handmade chunks of soap and carpets to sheep's
tongues and underwear are sold from shops crammed into the narrow
cobblestone alleyways. On the streets donkeys, 1960s American
car-taxis, bicycles, minibuses and private jeeps vie for priority,
whereas street vendors and shoe-shiners clog the sidewalks, forcing
pedestrians to take on the traffic amid a cacophony of hooting and
shouting. One of the most interesting places for travellers is the capital
city of Damascus, brimming with history as one of the oldest
continuously inhabited cities in the world. Then there is Aleppo in
the north with its citadel, elaborately decorated hammans (bath
houses), ancient souq and the nearby ruins of St Simeon, considered
to be one of the world's oldest remaining churches. In Syria's
central region lie the ancient Greek ruins of Palmyra, located in
the desert oasis that has long been a crucial stopover for caravans
crossing the Syrian desert, while the friendly town of Hama is
famous for its ancient, wooden water wheels and is in proximity to
the impressive crusader castle of Krak de Chevaliers. Syria also
boasts many resorts along the Mediterranean Coast. Time spent in Syria will be as gratifying as it is interesting,
and visitors will return home with a collection of stories to tell,
a wealth of fond recollections and a camera full of