Here’s a newsflash: contrary to what the US State Department may wish the world to think, Syria is not populated by terrorists, zealots and other bogeymen. In fact, Syrians are among the most friendly and hospitable people in the world, and most visitors to their country end up developing a lifelong infatuation with its gentle charms. Since Bashar
al-Assad took over the reins from his father in 2001, modernisation has been on the national agenda. This is no Levantine backwater – Syria is a modern, efficient and very proud nation with an administration that is becoming more liberal and outward looking by the day. It needs and deserves travellers to bear witness to this fact.
Fortunately, all this modernisation doesn’t mean that Syria has lost sight of its past. The country has more than its fair share of significant historical sites, all of which are respectfully maintained by the authorities. The ancient cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Bosra are all listed on Unesco’s World Heritage list, as is the sensationally beautiful ruined city of Palmyra. Mighty Crusader castles, labyrinthine medieval souqs, jewel-like Damascene houses and sacred Umayyad mosques are only some of the treats on offer; there are plenty more for those who are keen to search them out. Best of all is the fact that these monuments are often woven into the fabric of daily life – the locals worship in the mosques, shop in the souqs, drink tea in the houses and picnic in the ruins. And they’re happy for travellers to join them.
Talking about picnics brings us to the pièce de résistance when it comes to a Syrian so- journ – the food. The national cuisine is simply superb, so come with a big appetite. You’re bound to be replete in so many ways when you finally tear yourself away.
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