July 16, 2001 – Damascus (1)




The arrival is done by a fast pilot, 15 minutes before the oficial time (delay included !!). Damascus airport is relatiely big and modern. Each paasenger has to walk on a moist carpet (maybe by a disinfectant) before buying some more goods at the Duty Free open 24/24.


The immigration and customs formalities are done very quickly (less than one hour).


Welcome to Hassad Syria !!


So, at around 3 am, I am nearly the only westerner in the airport and I am preparing myself to spend some hours there waiting for the first bus for downtown. I go outside the airport to relax under a beautiful sky full of stars with a very good temperature (around 30°C). Many taxi drivers (official or not) try to catch me for a ride in downtown for prices between USD 20 and USD 6 but I prefer to wait for the bus.


I go back inside to better look at the airport trying to find a place to buy a bottle of water and a place to have a rest. This is when I see 4 French that I saw in Milan before the final check in. They don’t have any backpack, Alitalia must have kept them in Italy. They also want to take the first shuttle at 7 am. So we are going to spend the next 4 hours in the airport speaking and sometime trying to sleep but it was not very convenient. The presentation are quickly done : Narcisse and Lydiane should stay 6 weeks to visit Syria and Jordan, Bertrand and Jacqueline are here for nearly 3 weeks to do the same trip. We are going to see each of us again during the next weeks.


Finally, we take the Karnak shuttle (national bus company) for SP 20 (USD 1 = SP 50). 30 minutes later, we arrive in downtown at Karnak garaj in the new town. We are all decided to stay in the same hotels (I mean the cheapest ones) that is to say the Al Rabia or the Al Harramain located near the old town and near the souks. After some tries to find the good street, we find the Al Rabia hotel. With Narcisse and Lydiane, we ask for the price to sleep on the roof (SP 125) and to see it before accepting the deal. The roof is a covered terrace with a central alley and mattresses on both sides. After this visit, we decide to have a rest in the beautiful and vast patio of the hotel waiting for the judgement of Bertrand and Jacqueline who visited the Al Harramain Hotel (20 m from us). They come back very happy of their hotel. We decide to go there and see their roof to chose the best one. Here too, the Al Harramain has a patio but a smaller one but the terrace are better. We will spend our first two nights in Damascus on this terrace.


After all these first events, it is only 8:30 am but the sun and the heat make us believe that we are in the middle of the afternoon. Without waiting anymore in the patio, we are heading towards the Citadel and the old town. In front of the Citadel (no access because it is under restoration), there is a wonderful statue of Saladin (great Arabic warrior who took many crusaders’ castles). At the back, there are the two French loosers of the Hattin battle. A few meters after there is the entrance of the Hamidiyé Souk where we can admire a big poster of former president: Hafez Al Assad.


Damascus: Hamidiyé Souk


The crowd is important for this moment of the day, they all seem to want to see the wide variety of products that are shown in the tiny little stores. We are walking through the Souk until we reach the basement of the ancient temple near the mosque. We are heading after this first incursion for the spices’ and sweets’ souk where the merchants offer a wide range of products to the many veiled women that we meet.


Around 10 am, we have deserved a rest and it’s time for a breakfast. We discover the prices of some useful items: the true price of a bottle of water (SP 25 and not SP 75 like at the airport) and a kind of sugar bread with pistachios (SP 10). From the bakery, we are to the Umayyad Mosque and a magnificent square with a lot of bougainvilleas. Bertrand and Jacqueline, too tred to stay with us, are going to the hotel to sleep while we are entering the mausoleum of Saladin. Then, we pay the entrance fee of the Mosque (SP 50)..





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D1 : Lyons – Damascus

D2 : Damascus (1)  (2)

D3 : Damascus

D4 : Damascus – Palmyra

D5 : Palmyra – Hama

D6 : Hama – Apamea – Aleppo

D7 : Aleppo

D8 : Aleppo

D9 : Aleppo

D10 : Aleppo – San Simeon – Aleppo

D11 : Aleppo – Qalaat Al Saadin – Tartous (1)  (2)

D12 : Tartous – Krak des chevaliers – Beirut (1)  (2)

D13 : Beirut – Tripoli

D14 : Tripoli – Damascus

D15 : Damascus – Maaloula – Damascus

D16 : Damascus

D17 : Damascus – Bosra – Damascus

D18 : Damascus – Amman – Dead Sea – Amman

D19 : Amman – Jerash - Amman

D20 : Amman – Madaba – Amman

D21 : Amman – Kerak – Dana

D22 : Dana

D23 : Dana – Petra (1)  (2)

D24 : Petra

D25 : Petra

D26 : Petra – Wadi Rum

D27 : Wadi Rum – Aqaba

D28 : Aqaba

D29 : Aqaba

D30 : Aqaba

D31 : Aqaba

D32 : Aqaba - Amman

D33 : Amman

D34 : Amman – Lyons




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Last update : January 2002

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