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From The Good Tourist

The Road to Damascus

The prophet Muhammad is said to have refused to enter Damascus. Approaching from the south… Muhammad saw the city with its gardens…and said, more or less, that any man may only enter paradise once. He chose the one hereafter.[1]

Home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, where metallurgy and agriculture developed, and the first alphabet was used, Syria is an appealing holiday destination. It is a land of stunning natural beauty, with snow-capped mountains, green valleys, beaches along the Mediterranean and of course, the desert; it boasts numerous ancient ruins, medieval castles and fortresses, and Islamic mosques. Down the centuries, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Turks all passed through Syria and left their mark and formerly it encompassed Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine…

Syria played an important part in the early history of Christianity and Islam, and Roman temples, churches and mosques co-exist side by side. It vibrant capital, Damascus, sounds like a magical place to visit with its various souks, cobbled streets, fountains, ornate tiles, courtyards scented with oranges, and a history stretching back thousands of years. You can explore the main archeological sites of the old city on foot. Down ‘the street called straight’ is the house where Saul became Paul and so helped ensure the spread of Christianity. Close by in the centre of the city is the Ummayyad Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, and created by thousands of craftsmen. The mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, honoured as a prophet by Muslims and Christians alike.

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[1] Fadel, Marie And Schami, Rafik: Damascus: taste of a city. English translation by Debra S. Marmor and Herbert A. Danner 2005

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