This city has long been on my list of places to see. Just the thought of walking in old continuously inhabited city in the world has a sense of magic about it. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
The ride from Palmyra to Damascus was another desert love-in. Not only did I feel more comfortable in my ability to ride a long distance completely off-road, but I was able to use natural features to always know where I was. As long as the high hills where to my right, the road was to my left and never more than 10-15km away. As a lure to try and get me back on the tarmac, the road dangled this little café in front of me when I was closer to the road than normal because of the hills.
Just so there isn’t any confusion, this café is in modern day Syria, not the US old west…
It worked for a lunch stop, but the desert just couldn’t be denied.
Finally, the desert had to be left behind- the quiet solitude of the desert ride buried under the blaring, unrelenting energy of Damascus.
Damascus isn’t just two different cities like you would call somewhere like New York with its short walk from the intensity of Times Square to the Sunday picnic feel of Central Park. Damascus is riot of different cities- the old city is a warren of streets harking back to Roman times, yet chunks of it were torn down to make room for Ottoman Mosques, sliced through by the covered markets built in the late 1800’s, and then partially destroyed by French attacks in the 1920’s. I don’t think you can say that age weighs heavily on the city, but the layers are unmistakable.
Damascus also removed the last of the unease I felt with some of the conservative religious aspects of Aleppo. Damascus is still a majority Muslim city, but there doesn’t seem to be that war with tradition and practical modern life that invades so much of Aleppo daily life. While my view is obviously simple and based only casual observation, choice of head covering, dress, and behaviour seemed simply that- choice.