Syria's capital, Damascus, intrigues travellers. As one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, it brims with history and culture. Visitors usually gravitate towards Umayyad Mosque, the Roman walls and gates, biblical sites and the city's bustling markets.
Damascus © Judith Duk
The capital's wealth of historical sites date back to many different periods. 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 the capital of the Aramean Kingdom in the 11th century BC. It was also where the apostle Paul converted to Christianity and started the early church. However, the city's most glorious days were as the capital of the Umayyad Empire. The Umayyad Mosque, or Grand Mosque of Damascus, is one of the biggest in the world. Sadly, the Syrian Civil War has left the holy site in ruins, though it is still remarkable.
Souqs (covered markets) are a significant part of the Damascus experience. Travellers usually join locals in haggling over inlaid mosaic boxes, chessboards, jewellery and hookah (hubble-bubble) pipes.
That said, travellers are strongly advised to stay out all parts of Syria, as the country is an active conflict zone.