Unsuccessfully sneaking into a mosque

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Sep 26, 2010

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Where I stayed
Afamia Hotel Damascus
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Syria  ,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

240 km South-West of Palmyra lay Damascus so off we went. It took an annoyingly long 4 hours but we had some good photo ops on the way getting some shots of the road signs to Baghdad and Iraq. The desert down to Damascus was truly like the Middle East desert you imagine: stark, hot, empty. Mountains loom way off in the distance, but they are the same beige sandy color as the rest of the baking hot earth. Damascus looks very interesting as we get to the outskirts. Very smoggy as we come through the industrial sectors, but as we approach the city centre it clears up nicely and the cleanliness is a nice change from other parts of Syria. There are hills surrounding the city, but they are slowly being overtaken by the grey box shapes of houses. The concrete seems to be creeping up the hillsides.
Once we are downtown it finally feels as if we have arrived. The oldest city in the world. Sorry Aleppo! We arrive at the hotel. It felt fantastic to get there and have another bus journey done with. The hotel is great, probably the nicest I've stayed at in my entire world trip, but that's really not what I'm here for.

I have a quick walk around the city to old Damascus. I stop in the souqs for some old fashioned ice milk rolled in crushed pistachios. I grab a few trinkets and spend a bit more time in the souqs but this is mostly an orientation day so I know how to get around during my free time tomorrow. Dinner at a restaurant inside the souqs with rooftop view over the fantastic Blue Mosque. The food turned out to be a bit disappointing but I can't be too bothered about that.

The next day I woke up and finally got myself out of bed for some breakfast. Then I took the walk back through the souqs. They are much more grandiose and impressive than the souqs of Aleppo. I find the Blue Mosque, and I see everyone just taking their shoes off and walking in so I follow suit. Guards chase me in and inform me I must leave and buy a ticket from outside. I pretend I speak no English but they are having none of it, I am clearly not Muslim so therefore I must buy a ticket to enter this holy place. I glance inside once again and see kids running amok in this place of prayer. Ironic slightly, but I leave. I then spend the next 13 and a half minutes trying to skirt the mosque guards rather than part with my hard earned 1 dollar but I am consistently rebuffed by their vigilant patrols. Well done mosque guards, one point to you. I instead take many pictures from inches outside the entrances. Lets call it even.

I then make my way through the souqs to Azm Palace. This is a fancy palace located in the middle of the souqs where affluent families lived. It was constructed in 1750, so it was pretty interesting checking this place out. The grounds inside were full of foliage and pools and were quite nice indeed. After the palace visit, I finished my walking tour of old Damascus and headed back to the hotel. I've decided to be a lame tourist and I end up spending the night at a nice air-conditioned movie theatre, watching one of the new box office hits. Lame, Andrew. Very lame.

My visit to Syria is now over, I am off to Amman in the morning.

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