here to read Dave's Syria travel report
One of the
cradles of civilisation with biblical sites, Roman cities and Crusader castles,
with a Mediterranean coast and desert climate.
Bordering the eastern
Mediterranean, Syria is part of a region recognised as the very cradle of
civilisation, not least in the central area around the banks of the Euphrates
where evidence of an ancient history dates back to the fourth millennium BC.
Elsewhere are displayed magnificent ruins of Roman cities and Crusader castles
and citadels from the early Middle Ages. But this historic heritage is matched
by an impressive wealth of natural scenery, deserts and oases, coastal beaches,
cereal plains, olive groves and snow-capped mountains.
Climate: In the west, especially along the coast, Mediterranean conditions
prevail with warm summers and mild, moist winters. Here, the climate is
comfortable from September to May which is the best time to visit. In the desert
country of the interior it is much hotter (often too hot!) and drier.
Damascus: Syria’s capital is the oldest continuously inhabited
city in the world. At 690m above sea-level, it grew up around the Barada River
and Ghouta Oasis which enabled life to be sustained in an otherwise
uninhabitable landscape. The focal point of Damascus is its charming Old City,
surrounded by a Roman wall, in which the main covered market, the Souq al-Hamadiyyeh,
lies among cobbled streets in the shadow of the Omayyad Mosque, built in 705 AD
on the site of ancient temples and a Christian cathedral.
Bosra: The former capital of the Roman Province of Arabia,
Bosra, situated at a crossroads of old trade
routes, was the first Muslim city in Syria. Its main point of interest today is
an Arab fortress enclosing one
of the world’s best preserved Roman amphitheatres seating up to 15,000 people.
There are also baths,
columns, capitals and minarets and great pools built to supply a metropolis with
Aleppo: Historically one of the great commercial centres of the
Middle East, Syria’s second city is almost as old as Damascus itself and even
more interesting. There is a plethora of ancient buildings, not least the
citadel, an immense structure in the heart of the old city, and the Hammam al-Nasri,
the most impressive bath in the whole country. The covered souk, catering for
locals not tourists, is another must.
Palmyra: Its rise to glory beginning under the Assyrians, the
desert fortress of Palmyra (Tadmor in Arabic) lies in the centre of Syria
between the Orontes River to the west and the Euphrates to the east. Located
beside a hot-water spring, Afqa, this charming oasis town is most notable today
for its breathtaking displays of Roman architecture in the form of its Great
Colonnade, theatre, Temple of Bel, Valley of the Tombs and many other
magnificent ruins covering 6 square kms. Overlooking the town is a 17th-century
Crac des Chevaliers: Probably the most famous crusader castle in the world, this
mighty edifice, in almost mint condition, was built between 1150 and 1250 on a
mountain pass between Turkey and Lebanon to protect eastern trade routes. From
its great height it provides superb views over the valley and surrounding