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A Day In Damascus


by Marni Echevarria



Welcome to Damascus, the vibrant capital of Syria and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Steeped in history, culture, and beauty, Damascus offers a mesmerizing blend of ancient traditions and modern attractions. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, history buff, or a lover of culinary delights, the city is sure to captivate your senses.


As you step foot in Damascus, you’ll be transported to a world where time seems to stand still. With its narrow alleys, bustling bazaars, and iconic landmarks, the city is a living testament to its rich heritage. From the moment the sun rises over the ancient rooftops to the magical evenings filled with music and laughter, every moment spent in Damascus is an exhilarating adventure.


Throughout the day, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of the Old City, wander through its colorful souks, visit historic landmarks, savor traditional delicacies, and find solace in its tranquil parks. With each step, you’ll be enveloped in the spirit of Damascus, making memories that will last a lifetime.


So, join me as we embark on a journey through the heart of Damascus, discovering its hidden treasures and experiencing the essence of its vibrant Arts & Culture scene. From the vibrant morning to the enchanting evening, every moment in Damascus is an opportunity to explore, indulge, and be captivated by the artistic tapestry of this remarkable city.


Morning in Damascus

As the sun gently rises over Damascus, the city awakens to a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Begin your day by strolling through the Old City, where history comes alive at every turn. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with centuries-old buildings adorned with intricate architectural details.


Start your morning with a visit to the Umayyad Mosque, an architectural marvel that dates back to the 8th century. Step inside and marvel at the intricate mosaics and grand courtyard, while experiencing the spiritual ambiance that fills the air. Take a moment of tranquility in the serene courtyard, surrounded by the soothing sound of the fountains.


After exploring the mosque, make your way to the vibrant Al-Hamidiyah Souk, a bustling marketplace that offers a sensory feast for the senses. Lose yourself in the labyrinth of shops filled with colorful fabrics, aromatic spices, and traditional handicrafts. Engage in friendly banter with the shopkeepers, who will happily share stories and offer recommendations.


As the morning progresses, take a leisurely stroll along the Barada River, which flows through the heart of the city. The serene banks of the river are adorned with green gardens and picturesque bridges, offering a peaceful respite from the bustling streets. Take a moment to sit on one of the benches and immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings.


For art enthusiasts, a visit to the National Museum of Damascus is a must. Housing a vast collection of artifacts and artworks, the museum provides a fascinating insight into the rich history and cultural heritage of Syria. Marvel at ancient artifacts, intricate jewelry, and beautifully preserved mosaics, as you delve deeper into the stories of the past.


Before moving on to the next part of your Damascus adventure, indulge in a traditional breakfast at one of the local cafes. Savor the flavors of freshly baked bread, creamy hummus, and fragrant tea infused with herbs. Immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, watching as the city comes alive with movement and the aroma of spices fills the air.


With your morning in Damascus off to a perfect start, you’re ready to delve deeper into the vibrant Arts & Culture scene that this captivating city has to offer.


Exploring the Old City

Step back in time as you explore the enchanting labyrinth of the Old City of Damascus. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a treasure trove of ancient architecture, historical landmarks, and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.


Start your exploration at the iconic Bab Sharqi, one of the seven ancient gates that lead into the Old City. As you pass through the towering gate, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of narrow winding alleys, adorned with intricately carved wooden balconies and colorful facades.


Make your way to the heart of the Old City and discover the awe-inspiring sights of the Al-Azem Palace. Step into the opulent chambers and marvel at the stunning frescoes, delicate marble carvings, and intricate wooden screenwork. The palace offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of the ruling elite during the Ottoman era.


As you continue your exploration, don’t miss the chance to visit the historic House of Ananias, a place of great significance for religious pilgrims. It is believed to be the location where the apostle Paul regained his sight after being struck blind. The simplicity and spiritual aura of the house make it a serene and contemplative place for visitors.


Wander through the narrow alleyways and stumble upon hidden gems like the vibrant Khan As’ad Pasha. This 18th-century caravanserai has been transformed into a lively marketplace, buzzing with activity and offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of traders and merchants of bygone times.


As you venture deeper into the Old City, you’ll encounter the breathtaking sight of the magnificent Azm Palace. This impressive fortress dates back to the 18th century and boasts imposing stone walls, ornate courtyards, and beautifully decorated rooms filled with historical artifacts.


A stroll along Straight Street is a must-do during your exploration. This ancient Roman thoroughfare stretches for over a mile and is lined with charming shops, cafes, and historic buildings. Lose yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, as the street buzzes with locals and tourists alike.


As you navigate the maze of the Old City, take the time to absorb the beauty of the traditional architecture, intricate details, and the glimpse of local life unfolding around you. Every corner holds a story, and every step transports you further into the rich tapestry of Damascus’ artistic and cultural heritage.


By the end of your exploration, you’ll have gained an appreciation for the preservation of history and the deep roots of tradition in the Old City of Damascus.


The Bustling Souks

No visit to Damascus is complete without immersing yourself in the vibrant and bustling souks. These vibrant markets are a hub of activity, where locals and tourists come together to experience the sights, sounds, and aromas of traditional Syrian life.


Begin your journey through the souks at the Al-Hamidiyah Souk, located in the heart of the Old City. As you enter, you’ll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors, with shops overflowing with textiles, spices, sweets, and handicrafts. Take your time to explore the intricate details of the architecture, from the arched entrances to the decorative tile-work.


Make your way through the maze of narrow alleyways, pausing to browse the stalls filled with vibrant fabrics and intricately woven goods. Admire the skill of local artisans as they create beautiful rugs, tapestries, and traditional clothing.


As you wander deeper into the souk, the air becomes perfumed with the scent of spices and herbs. Stop by the spice shops and let the aromatic blends transport you into a world of exotic flavors. From sumac to saffron, cumin to cardamom, the variety of spices showcased here will ignite your culinary imagination.


Indulge your sweet tooth at the confectionery shops, where you’ll find an array of tempting treats. Try the famous baklava, a pastry made with layers of filo dough and nuts soaked in sweet syrup, or sample the delicate rosewater-infused pastries and decadent pistachio-filled delights.


As you explore the souks, engage with the friendly shopkeepers who are always eager to share stories, offer recommendations, and engage in friendly banter. Don’t be afraid to haggle and negotiate prices – it’s part of the shopping experience and adds an element of excitement.


Beyond the shopping experience, the souks are also a great place to immerse yourself in the local culture. Take a break at a traditional tea house and savor a cup of refreshing mint tea while people-watching. You may even have the chance to witness a traditional musical performance or an impromptu gathering of local musicians.


As you navigate through the bustling souks, allow yourself to get lost and discover the hidden treasures that await around every corner. The souks of Damascus are not just places to shop – they are vibrant social hubs where the essence of the city comes alive, showcasing the artistry, craftsmanship, and authentic charm of Syrian culture.


Historic Landmarks

Damascus is a city steeped in history, and its historic landmarks are a testament to its rich cultural heritage. From ancient Roman ruins to medieval fortresses, these landmarks offer a glimpse into the storied past of this captivating city.


One of the most iconic landmarks of Damascus is the Citadel. Perched on top of a hill overlooking the city, this imposing fortress has stood for centuries, witnessing countless historical events. Explore the fortress walls, climb up the towers for panoramic views of the city, and delve into the rich history of the site through the interactive exhibits.


Just a stone’s throw away from the Citadel is the Roman Temple of Jupiter, a majestic structure that dates back to the 2nd century AD. Marvel at the impressive Corinthian columns that still stand tall, and envision the grandeur of the temple in its glory days. The nearby Roman Theater is another must-visit site, where you can imagine the roar of the crowd and the performances that once took place in this ancient amphitheater.


Step into the ancient world as you visit the Mausoleum of Salah ad-Din, the resting place of the renowned Muslim military leader. The tomb stands as a symbol of his valor and leadership, and the surrounding gardens offer a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.


For a glimpse into the history of Damascus during the Islamic era, visit the Azm Palace. This magnificent palace has been lovingly restored to its former glory, showcasing the opulent lifestyle of the ruling class. Stroll through the elegant courtyards, admire the intricate architecture, and explore the museum inside, which houses a collection of artifacts from different periods.


Traveling back even further in time, make your way to the Bab Kisan, one of the ancient city gates. This well-preserved gate serves as a reminder of Damascus’ medieval past, allowing you to imagine the caravans and travelers that once passed through its towering arches.


As you visit these historic landmarks, take a moment to reflect on the rich tapestry of history and the countless stories that have unfolded within the walls of these ancient structures. Each landmark holds a piece of Damascus’ past, and by exploring them, you become a part of the city’s ever-evolving narrative.


A Culinary Adventure

No visit to Damascus is complete without embarking on a culinary adventure and indulging in the delicious flavors of Syrian cuisine. From aromatic spices to mouthwatering kebabs, the city is a paradise for food lovers.


Start your culinary journey by sampling the iconic Syrian dish, shawarma. This popular street food consists of tender slices of marinated meat, usually beef or chicken, roasted on a vertical spit and served in a warm pita bread with a variety of toppings and sauces. With every bite, you’ll experience a burst of flavors and textures that will leave you craving for more.


Another must-try dish is the savory and fragrant falafel. Made from ground chickpeas, herbs, and spices, these deep-fried balls of deliciousness are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Enjoy them on their own or stuffed into a freshly baked flatbread, accompanied by a tangy tahini sauce and a refreshing side of tabbouleh, a salad made of finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, bulgur, and lemon juice.


For a true taste of Damascus, venture into the lively Al-Hamidiyah Souk and seek out one of the local restaurants serving up authentic Syrian cuisine. Indulge in mouthwatering delicacies like creamy hummus, smoky baba ghanoush, and flavorful mutabbal, a roasted eggplant dip. Pair these appetizers with freshly baked bread, called khubz, and you’ll have a satisfying start to your culinary adventure.


Be sure to sample the delicious Syrian meze, a spread of small, flavorful dishes that are perfect for sharing. From stuffed grape leaves (warak enab) to cheese-filled pastries (sambousek), these colorful and delicious plates will tantalize your taste buds. Don’t forget to try the rich and fragrant kibbeh, a dish made of minced meat, bulgur, and a range of spices, which is shaped into balls or patties and either fried or baked.


Indulge your sweet tooth with the delectable Syrian desserts. Treat yourself to a slice of baklava, a delicate pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and sweetened with syrup. Savor the sweetness of basbousa, a semolina cake soaked in rosewater syrup, or enjoy a cup of aromatic Arabic coffee, rich with cardamom flavors.


To truly immerse yourself in the culinary culture, consider taking a cooking class where you can learn to prepare traditional Syrian dishes. Engage with local chefs, discover the secret techniques, and gain a deeper understanding of the flavors and ingredients that make Syrian cuisine so unique.


The culinary heritage of Damascus is a true reflection of the city’s rich history and cultural diversity. Each dish tells a story, and every bite transports you on a journey of flavor and tradition. Prepare your taste buds for an unforgettable experience as you embark on a culinary adventure through the vibrant streets of Damascus.


Relaxing in the Parks

When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, Damascus offers a sanctuary of tranquility in its lush parks and gardens. These green spaces provide a peaceful retreat where you can unwind, connect with nature, and rejuvenate your senses.


One of the most popular parks in Damascus is the Al-Jahiz Park. Located in the heart of the city, this expansive green oasis is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic with friends and family. Find a shaded spot under one of the many trees and savor the moment of peace amidst the vibrant city.


Take in the natural beauty and fragrant blooms of the Al-Rawda Park, where well-manicured gardens surround a serene pond. Relax on one of the benches, listen to the soothing sounds of the water fountain, and watch as the colorful flowers sway in the gentle breeze.


If you’re looking for a place to stretch your legs and engage in some outdoor activities, head to the Tishreen Park. With its open green spaces, jogging paths, and playgrounds, this park is perfect for a morning jog or a fun-filled day of outdoor games with friends.


For panoramic views of the city and a peaceful escape from the urban environment, make your way to Mount Qasioun. This towering mountain offers hiking trails that wind through pine forests and lead to breathtaking viewpoints. Pack a picnic and enjoy a serene lunch while taking in the stunning vistas below.


As you explore the parks, you may come across locals engaged in traditional activities such as playing backgammon, enjoying a game of chess, or reciting poetry. Embrace the cultural experience and perhaps join in the leisurely pastimes as you soak up the atmosphere.


In the warmer months, the parks come alive with cultural events and festivals. From outdoor concerts to art exhibitions, there’s always something happening in these green spaces. Check the local calendar to see if any events coincide with your visit and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts and culture scene of Damascus.


Whether you’re seeking solitude, a scenic walk, or a place to connect with locals, the parks of Damascus provide the ideal setting to recharge and find respite from the city’s energy. So, take a moment to unwind, breathe in the fresh air, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you in these serene urban oases.


Sunset Views from Mount Qasioun

There is something truly magical about witnessing a sunset from Mount Qasioun, the majestic mountain overlooking Damascus. As the day draws to a close, the golden rays of the setting sun bathe the city in a warm glow, creating a breathtaking panorama that is sure to leave you in awe.


To make the most of this experience, venture to one of the viewpoints along Mount Qasioun just before the sun begins its descent. As you ascend the mountain, you’ll notice the cityscape stretching out below you, with its domes, minarets, and rooftops dotted across the landscape.


Find a comfortable spot and prepare to be mesmerized as the sun slowly descends towards the horizon. The sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant oranges, pinks, and purples, casting a magical light over the city’s ancient structures. Watch as the color palette evolves, creating a captivating spectacle of nature’s artistry.


As the sun sets, the city comes alive with a different kind of energy. The lights of the city begin to twinkle in the gathering darkness, giving Damascus a romantic and enchanting ambiance. Take a moment to soak in the panoramic views and marvel at the juxtaposition of ancient landmarks against the modern cityscape.


As the sky darkens, the twinkling lights below blend with the stars above, creating an ethereal atmosphere. The cool evening breeze carries with it the sounds of the city, inviting you to reflect and appreciate the tranquility that descends upon the mountain.


After witnessing the beauty of the sunset, consider staying a while longer to experience the vibrant nightlife that Damascus has to offer. Descend the mountain and make your way to one of the local cafes or rooftop terraces where you can enjoy a delicious meal, sip on a refreshing drink, and continue to take in the stunning views.


Keep in mind that Mount Qasioun is a symbol of Damascus and holds great cultural and historical significance for the people of the city. Remember to show respect for the environment and ensure that you leave no trace of your visit.


Watching the sunset from Mount Qasioun is a truly unforgettable experience. It allows you to connect with the natural beauty of the surroundings while marveling at the splendor and allure of Damascus as it transitions from day to night. So, don’t miss the opportunity to soak in the breathtaking views and create everlasting memories as you witness the sunset from this magnificent vantage point.


Evening Entertainment

Evenings in Damascus are filled with vibrant energy and a myriad of entertainment options to suit every taste. From traditional performances to modern cultural experiences, the city offers a diverse array of activities to keep you engaged and entertained well into the night.


Immerse yourself in the local culture by attending a traditional music or dance performance. Damascus is known for its rich artistic heritage, and you can witness the beauty and grace of traditional Syrian dances, such as the Dabke, a lively group dance that embodies the spirit of celebration and unity.


For a taste of the local arts scene, head to one of the city’s theaters or performance venues. Here, you can experience the talent of local musicians, actors, and dancers as they bring stories to life on stage. The performances range from classic theater productions to contemporary interpretations of Syrian culture.


If you’re a fan of live music, Damascus has a vibrant music scene with venues catering to various genres. From jazz clubs to traditional Arabic music, you’ll find a variety of establishments where you can enjoy the sounds of talented local performers. Sit back, relax, and let the melodies transport you to another world.


For those interested in visual arts, the city is home to numerous art galleries showcasing the works of local artists. Explore the exhibitions, admire the diverse styles and techniques on display, and perhaps even have the opportunity to meet and converse with the artists themselves. This is a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the local art scene and appreciate the talent that thrives in Damascus.


For a more relaxed evening, consider visiting one of the city’s traditional cafes. These cozy establishments provide a perfect setting to enjoy a cup of aromatic Arabic coffee or indulge in a flavorful shisha (hookah). Take your time as you sip your drink and engage in conversation with friends or locals, immersing yourself in the sociable atmosphere that characterizes Damascus’ evenings.


If you’re seeking a lively ambiance, explore the vibrant nightlife scene of Damascus. From trendy bars to rooftop lounges, the city offers a range of venues where you can mingle, dance, and socialize with locals and fellow travelers. Enjoy live music, DJ sets, and a vibrant party atmosphere as you make unforgettable memories in this vibrant city.


The evening entertainment options in Damascus are diverse and cater to various interests. Whether you’re a lover of the arts, music, or simply enjoy soaking up the local ambiance, the city’s vibrant scene offers something for everyone. So, embrace the energy of the Damascus night and let the city’s enchanting charm captivate you.



As we come to the end of our journey through Damascus, it becomes evident that this ancient city is a treasure trove of arts and culture, providing a unique and unforgettable experience for every visitor. From exploring the historic landmarks of the Old City to wandering through the bustling souks, indulging in culinary delights, and immersing ourselves in the tranquility of the city’s parks, every moment spent in Damascus is filled with discovery and enchantment.


The vibrant Arts & Culture scene of Damascus showcases the rich heritage, artistic talent, and deep-rooted traditions of the city. Whether it’s exploring the beautiful architecture, marveling at the craftsmanship of traditional handicrafts, or watching captivating performances, each experience connects us to the soul and essence of this remarkable place.


As we witness the breathtaking sunset from Mount Qasioun and immerse ourselves in the evening entertainment, we can’t help but be captivated by the energy and vibrancy of Damascus after dark. The city comes alive with music, art, and festivities, allowing us to embrace the spirit of celebration and immerse ourselves in the local culture.


Throughout our journey, we have discovered the timeless beauty and the rich tapestry of history that make Damascus truly exceptional. From the Umayyad Mosque to the bustling souks, from the iconic landmarks to the serene parks, every corner of this city tells a story, weaving together the past and the present in a harmonious blend.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, an art lover, or a gastronomic adventurer, Damascus offers a captivating experience that will leave a lasting impression. The city’s warm hospitality, friendly locals, and vibrant atmosphere contribute to an unforgettable travel experience that goes beyond the mere physical beauty of the surroundings.


So, as you bid farewell to Damascus, take a piece of its rich heritage and vibrant arts scene with you. Cherish the memories of the bustling souks, the awe-inspiring historic landmarks, the flavors of its culinary delights, and the serenity of its parks. Allow the spirit of Damascus to inspire you and continue to fuel your love for arts, culture, and exploration.


In Damascus, history meets creativity, tradition blends with modernity, and every moment is an opportunity to be immersed in beauty. So, whether it be your first visit or a returning trip, let the charm of the city captivate you and ignite your passion for the arts and culture that define Damascus.