Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunny Syria

Masjid Umayyad, Damascus, one of the world's largest and oldest mosques. The masjid holds a shrine which until today contains the head of Nabi Yahya a.s. (John the Baptist), honoured by both Muslims and Christians alike.

There are also many important landmarks within the masjid, among them is the place where the head of Husayn (the grandson of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w) was kept on display by Yazīd I. The tomb of conqueror Salah Aldin al–Ayoubi (Saladin) stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the masjid.

The tomb of conqueror al–Sultan, Salah Aldin al–Ayoubi.

Sham Village, Damascus.

Damascus Gate, the world's largest restaurant.

Brig, Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus.

Chicken Shawarma for breakfast at Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus.

Bakdash Ice–cream Parlour, Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus. Bakdash has been in operation since 1895.

Bakdash's silky smooth, pistachio–covered Booza, a pounded ice–cream made of mastic and sahlab (salep).

The ever popular Bakdash Ice–cream Parlour, Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus.

Souk al–Hamidiyeh, the most famous souk of Ancient Damascus. The souk is located against the southern walls of the city's citadel, close to Masjid Umayyad.

The souk was built during the Ottoman (Turkish) era. The first part (the Eastern part) was built in 1780 and the second one (Western) was built in 1883. The souk was covered and renovated several times later. The souk is 600 meters long, 15 meters wide, and about two–storey high.

Damascus is the world's oldest, continuously inhabited city, and The Ancient City of Damascus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Baklava, Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus.

Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus.

Ruins of the Jupiter Temple at the entrance of Souk al–Hamidiyeh, Damascus.

Masjid Umayyad, Damascus.

The tomb (green) of conqueror al–Sultan, Salah Aldin al–Ayoubi (Saladin), 589–532H/1137–1193 AD.

The empty, marble tomb was a gift from Wilhelm II, the King of Germany, to Salah Aldin al–Ayoubi, when he visited Damascus in the reign of Othmanian Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1878.

Old Damascus

Sheesha shop, Damascus. Smoking is a way of life for many Middle Easterns.

Street sign, Damascus.


A café in Damascus

Coffee, anyone?

Sham Village, Damascus.

Photos by SkyJuice and Qusai Alazzam.
© All rights reserved.

Syrian Arab Republic was one of the countries I've had the privilege to visit recently. Syria was part of Sham (The Levant), a wellknown trade region, hundreds of years ago. Sham (Arabic: شام), al–Sham, or Bilad al–Sham, endonym of the region bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, comprises of Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Syria. Ash–Shām or Sham (الشام) sometimes refers simply to Damascus, the largest city in the region.

Who would've thought, aye? Needless to say, many of my friends were surprised with my travel destinations this time around. Naturally, they were expecting me to go to Europe, considering my admiration for that particular region. Well, I didn't blame them. What can I say, I even surprised myself. Indeed, I was planning a trip to a few European countries, when I changed my mind all of a sudden. I thought, why not?

So yes, my recent holiday was my maiden voyage to the Middle East. A family member worked there for a decade and I've several Middle Eastern friends, so the region wasn't exactly an unfamiliar territory for me. Still, nothing could prepare me for the reallife adventures. I'm pleased to say that I've had a great time and the experience was an eyeopener.

Syria, however, is quite a strange place, for lack of better words. Generally, the people in Damascus weren't as friendly as the people in a neighbouring country I visited, although they seemed more relaxed. The landscape was harsher and bare, houses were pretty simple, the spoken Arabic accent was different, and the food and goods were less expensive. After all the good things I've heard of Syria, it turned out to be a bit of a letdown. Perhaps, I might change my mind if I were to see more of the country and spend more time there.