Damascus is one of the most ancient cities in the world and the oldest of the existing capitals of the planet. Its past is directly related to many chapters in the Bible: according to legend, it was here that Cain killed Abel, the apostle Paul converted to Christianity, and King Nimrod found his last resting place.
Note: according to allcitypopulation, the population of Syria is 18.28 million (2021).
How to get to Damascus
Damascus International Airport is located 26 km from the city center and receives flights from Aleppo, Deir az-Zur, Latakia and other cities from around the world. SyrianAir flies to Aleppo (1 hour on the way), Deir al-Zour (1 hour), Qamishl (1.5 hours) and Latakia (45 minutes).
You can get to the city center both by taxi and by buses that come to the city center to the Baramkeh stop; departure every half an hour, around the clock.
Trains depart from Damascus to Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Raqqa, Deir az-Zur, Latakia, Tartus. However, railway is not the most popular mode of transport in the country, trains make many stops and are very slow. The best “passage” is between Aleppo and Damascus. In addition, night trains depart once a week to Istanbul (35-36 hours) and Tehran (60 hours), twice a week to Amman.
The main railway station Khaddam is located on the southern outskirts of the city. In addition to it, in Damascus there is another central station, which is located in the very center – Hejaz.
There are two bus stations in Damascus:
- Harasta, located 6 km from the city center, from where buses depart to the north of the country. It can be reached by minibus from Al-Merjeh or Shoukri al-Quwatli stops.
- And the new Al-Samariyeh bus station, which is located on the western outskirts of the city. Buses leave from here to the south of the country – to Bosra, Beirut, Amman and other cities of Libya, Egypt and Jordan.
In addition, the city has several bus stations for minibuses that run around the nearby outskirts of the city.
All buses of large private companies depart from the Harasta terminal: to Aleppo (5 hours), Deir ez-Zur (7 hours), Hama (2.5 hours), Homs (2 hours), Latakia (4.5 hours), Palmyra (5 hours) and Tartus (3.5 hours). The most popular and reliable companies are Kadmous and Al-Ahliah.
Many companies also send their flights from the Al-Samariyeh terminal, the best is Damas Tours: Bosra (2 hours on the way, departure every 2 hours from 8:00 to 22:00) and Suvediya (1 hour 40 minutes on the way, departure every hour from 8:00 to 20:35).
International flights depart from the Al-Samariyeh terminal: Beirut (4.5 hours, departure every hour from 7:30 to 18:30), several buses a day to Amman (5-7 hours on the way).
Buses to Istanbul (30 hours on the way) and other Turkish cities depart from the Harasta terminal.
Cuisine and restaurants in Damascus
Many restaurants are located in the area of the Suk-Saruja market. Here you should try the famous vegetarian falafel (20-30 SYP), chicken shawarma (50 SYP) and manakesh (10-20 SYP). The most courageous can take a chance to taste the camel kebab. All this is tasty, inexpensive and quite safe for the Central European stomach. There are also many fast food cafes where you can have a bite of french fries (40-50 SYP), chicken burger (75 SYP) or pizza (110 SYP for one).
To taste authentic Damascene cuisine, it is worth taking a walk to the Midan district, which lies south of the old city. It is easily accessible from the western gate of Souq al-Hamadiyya or from Bab Sahir. The main street – Jazmatiya – offers a huge selection of traditional cafes with falafel, shawarma, etc.
The most luxurious restaurants in the city: Scoozi (the best pizza in the city, there is no alcohol on the menu), Haretna, Nadi al Sharq (near the Four Seasons hotel, the best Indian cuisine in Damascus, the president dined here twice), Rotana Cafe, Cafe Trattoria (Italian cuisine), Leila’s Restaurant and Terrace, Beit Jabri Restaurant (Sharia as-Sawwaf, 14), Arabesque Restaurant (Syrian and French cuisine) and Downtown.
Entertainment and attractions of Damascus
The Old City of Damascus is considered a unique site, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by a Roman wall and retaining its original layout in many places, it is interesting for its antique quarters and Via Pecta. Other local “masts”: the world-famous Umayyad Mosque, where the head of St. John the Baptist is kept, the mausoleum of Salah ad-Din, in which the ashes of the legendary sultan, who began the expulsion of the crusaders from the East, rest, the residence of the Turkish Vali – the Kasr- al-Azem, the Cathedral of the Antiochian Orthodox Church (Temple of the Virgin), the underground church of St. Ananias (the apostle Paul was baptized in it), the Bab-Kisan tower, the Takiya-as-Suleimaniye mosque. The city is also famous for its numerous medieval madrasahs and markets, including the famous Souq al-Khamidiya and the largest spice market, Bzuria.
The Old City of Damascus is considered a unique site, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Numerous tombs are no less interesting: Seyida-Zeynab – the granddaughters of the Prophet Muhammad, Seyida-Rukiya – the granddaughters of Caliph Ali, the daughter of Hussein, the Bab-as-Sagyr cemetery, where many historical figures are buried. And the cave of Magarat-ad-Damm on the slopes of Mount Qasyun is famous primarily for the fact that it was in it, as it is believed, that Cain killed his brother (Abel’s sarcophagus is also located there).
The most interesting museum in the city is the National Museum with its unique artifacts of ancient civilizations from Mesopotamia to Phoenicia, a collection of the first samples of writing, a collection of provincial antique art, a famous collection of weapons, a reconstruction of the Dura-Europos synagogue with the only frescoes of its time on the theme of Old Testament legends, and also a luxurious ethnographic collection. The Military Museum in Damascus is famous for one of the richest collections of ancient and medieval weapons in the world. Bimaristan, a museum of the history of medicine with rare exhibits, was once the hospital and medical academy of medieval Damascus.
From Damascus it is convenient to make radial sorties to Bosra, Maalula, Seydnaya and Palmyra.