RandyLeGrant's Travel Journals

RandyLeGrant

 
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There are journey people and destination people. Be a journey person.

  • 68 years old
  • From Oklahoma, United States
  • Currently in Connecticut, United States

Middle East in December

I am the Executive Director at GeoVisions. I'm in Amman, Jordan tonight and will be here through Wednesday. I'm then headed to Damascus and then Beirut to check up on our volunteers and tutors and and visit our projects.

Day 5-Thursday in Damascus

Syria Dimashq [Damascus], Syria  |  Dec 16, 2010
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Highlights

  • A visit to Old Damascus is a must-do for anyone who travels.

 I am in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, first settled in the 2nd millennium BC. I've decided to stay my time here in Old Damascus, the original spot Damascus was started. The narrow streets and vibrant markets are amazing. 

The day officially started around 6:15 a.m. departing from Amman, Jordan and driving by car to Damascus, Syria.  The entire drive took about 3 hours and that included a stop at the Jordanian border to pay the exit tax and the Syrian border to have my Visa and Passport inspected and stamped.

The drive from the border to the city is blotted with "camps" and for the first-time vistor you really don't know what to think.  It's a stark scene of severe poverty everywhere the eye can see.  Another oddity is the driver had to find us a taxi when we arrived Damascus, because he isn't allowed to drive his car inside the city with passengers.  That must be done by a proper Damascus taxi.  So at the side of a busy road, we jumped out, transferred luggage to an awaiting taxi, and made it to our hotel.

If you go by car it will take at least 3 hours if you leave very early in the morning and much longer if you depart anytime after 9:00 a.m.  There is an exit tax to leave Jordan and not entry tax for Syria.  It is NOT advised for Americans to reach the border and try to get an entry visa to Syria.  99% are turned away.  An entry visa now costs $131 and you need to have it in your passport at the time you arrive in Syria.  Don't mess about.  Those guys are not at all forgiving.  If you have any stamp in your passport from Israel, you cannot enter Syria not matter what kind of visa you show up with.

My traveling partner for this trip chose a hotel in the heart of Old Damascus and it was simply amazing.  An old converted Old Damascus home, it had the sitting area outside and the courtyard complete with fountain and fruit trees and the rooms were stunning.  It was like staying in a museum.

I was in Damascus 24 hours and I could have easily used 2 or 3 more days.  Don't rush.  Syria is not a place you are going to visit often, so when you're there you want to really see it.  The markets are amazing and you can walk by and sample Syrian candy, smell the dozens of spices and you can buy almost anything you could ever want.

I was in Syria for a fact-finding trip to determine the suitability for Damascus for our Conversation Corps and Conversation Partner programs.  More on our decision and plans later, but I found the Syrian people very hospital, friendly and engaging.

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