MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE AND PLACES EXPERIENCED IN SYRIA
Click below to learn about the places, people, and food Laila and Ahmed experienced in Syria.
"...Go back as far as you will into the vague past, there was always a Damascus. To Damascus years are only moments, decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time not by days, months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality. She saw Greece rise and flourish two thousand years, and die. In her old age she saw Rome built, she saw it overshadow the world with its power; she saw it perish.... She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies.” –Mark Twain
Often called the Cradle of Civilization, Syria’s history dates to that of the first civilized man. A country of fertile plains, mountains, and desserts, Syria was home to countless empires. It was once the center of the Islamic Empire and survived many invasions and occupations over the ages from the Romans, Mongols, Crusaders, and Turks.
Legend has it that on a journey from Mecca, the Muslim Prophet Mohammed cast his gaze from the mountainside onto Damascus but refused to enter the city because he wanted to enter paradise only once – after death.
Ibn Battuta (1304-1368) was a 14th century Moroccan-born traveler who traveled over 75,000 miles in 30 years, at a time when airplanes did not exist and the main mode of transportation was camel or horse. This was more than any other traveler of his time, including Marco Polo.
The old city of Damascus lies on the bank of the now dry River Barada, enclosed by old city walls. It is romantic a maze of alleys filled with lovely arches, bazaars, street vendors, coffeehouses, mosques with fountain courtyards, churches, and a historic Jewish quarter.
Located about 150 miles from Damascus (or four days' journey by camel), Palmyra was a trade outpost between the Phoenician and Mesopotamian civilizations.
Queen Zenobia was a legendary and beloved woman who ruled an ancient empire of Palmyra. In 270 Zenobia launched an invasion and conquered much of Rome and Egypt.
Al-Hamidiyah Souq is Syria’s largest and central souq, located inside the old walled city of Damascus. In 2005, the souq was one of the treasures featured in the BBC series Around the World in 80 Treasures by Dan Cruickshank, in which Cruickshank visits 80 of the world’s greatest manmade treasures.
Bedouins are age-old tribally-organized communities that herd livestock (primarily sheep and goat) and traditionally wandered the desert.
A 1200-meter high mountain, Mount Qasioun majestically overlooks the city of Damascus. Local residents often drive or sit along the mountaintop, smoking shisha and drinking hot tea or hot chocolate from the on-site vending trucks while enjoying the sunset.
KRAK DES CHEVALIERS
Between 1096 until 1291, waves of European Christians known as Crusaders arrived in the present day Middle East to gain control of the Holy Land, or Jerusalem.
Maaloula is located in the mountains nearby Damascus. Its name is Aramaic for “entrance,” describing the town’s religious heritage. According to popular beliefs, St. Thecle, a beautiful young Christian convert who studied under St. Paul, fled from her home when persecuted by her parents and the Romans for her newfound Christian faith.
Hama has the reputation of being one of the most charming and picturesque of Syrian towns. The city's river is lined today with 17 historic "norias" or waterwheels that traditionally were used to push water to surrounding agricultural areas and gardens.
Aleppo is amongst the oldest cities in the world, serving since ancient times as a strategic trading post. It subsequently became a center of Arabic culture and architecture, and until recently was filled with well-preserved buildings over hundreds of years old, including mosques, old homes, minarets, and a famous citadel and souq (market).