July 16, 2001 – Damascus (2)




Just after moving inside the mosque, I am astonishing by the proportions and the brightness of the square (122m * 50m). The wonderful mosaic in front of the entrance also impresses me.


Damascus - Umayyad Mosque



After 2 hours of a welcome rest under the arches of the mosque, we begin the visit. In the square, stand (from right to left) the kiosk with a beautiful mosaic dιcor, the fountain and another kiosk with 8 columns.


Umayyad Mosque: The kiosk


Next to the kiosk under the arches, the wall is fully covered by restored mosaics with pieces dated to the origins of the mosque in 715. The dιcor is according to some experts a representation of Paradise.


The prayer room stands on the south side of the mosque. The room inspires me quietness, children play on the carpets, some Muslims pray, others have a rest or simply sleep inside this huge room.


Umayyad Mosque: The prayer room


The rear part of the mosque is reserved to women while the space near the minbars is the one of men. In the middle of the room, there is a space covered with a red carpet. The location is reserved to the Syrian president when he visits the mosque. Near this platform, we have a wonderful dome where we can see written inside 8 names with among them prophet Mohammed and Allah.


Umayyad Mosque: the central dome


A little further stands the tomb of St John the Baptist lighted in green.


When you exit the prayer room and at the right of the kiosk, there is the tomb of Hussein, son of Ali the brother in law of Prophet Mohammed.


The mosque has three minarets and each of them is unique, among them the Qayt Bay minaret built in 1488 with a mameluke inspiration.


Umayyad Mosque: the Qayt Bay minaret


Around 2 pm, we decide to resume our visit of the old town but before we have to eat something, a kebab will be perfect (SP 25) in a typical restaurant. After this little break we go to the Rouqayaa mosque, which was entirely rebuilt in 1993 with Iranian funds. The tomb of a grand daughter of Prophet Mohammed is located inside. There are a lot of Iranians doing the pilgrimage to see it. This mosque is very different from the Umayyad mosque, here everything is brighter, there are mirrors everywhere and a wonderful air conditioning system !!!


After these first steps in the old town, we come back to the hotel by following the Barada river, which circles a side of the old town. It allows us to discover other aspects of the souk and other categories of merchants. Near the hotel we decide to go directly to Alitalia office to know where the backpacks of Narcisse and Lydiane are, but the office is closed and we should come back tomorrow.


Then, we go to the hotel where I take my bag left in the bedroom of Bertrand and Jacqueline. I read parts of the tips books written by my predecessors. There are a lot of useful information on Damascus but also on other places in Syria. I take some notes for the next days in the country.


I am looking now for a cyber cafι to be connected to the internet and give some news to the family in France. There is such a place just next to the hotel (100 meters), the tenants are very nice with travelers, they show us how to bypass the ban of some sites like hotmail, yahoo… The way to do it is simple by using another site that preserves the anonymity of the connection (www.silentsurf.com). 1h on internet = SP 100 end of July 2001 but prices are cheaper with time.


A long break will precede the dinner because after the 2 other French we are very tired by 36 hours without sleeping. Bertrand and Jacqueline wake us up to go to eat something. We chose one of the addresses in our French Guide books (Guide du Routard and Neos) for the quality of the meals and their cheap prices. So we are going to the Al Rabi located in a small street near Merjeh place. We ask the waiter for typical food and of course his help was welcomed for our first oriental meal. We taste a lot of appetizers (Mezzehs), some local meals with chicken, rice or beans (ohra), a glass of water and of course a lot of water. To pay the bill, I had to change some USD in a shop near the restaurant, the change rate was acceptable and nearly the same as the official one (49,5 instead of SP 49,7 for a USD at the bank).


At 11 pm, we are heading for the former man railway station, Hedjaz, with a locomotive in front of the entrance. On the platforms, there are three passenger cars of the famous Orient Express train that have been transformed into a bar. We drink a Syrian beer but we wait for tomorrow to smoke our first narguileh.


We are back at the hotel at 1 am, the city seems to never sleep but we have to after a tough first day in Syria.





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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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