Syria a historically and culturally ancient place, shaped by thousands of years of trade and human migration. One of the larger states of the Middle East, Syria seems abundant in widespread deserts and mountains, oases, and fertile valleys. Most of its beauty comes from its grand castles and preserved ruins. A blend of traditional settings and modern lifestyle, it may be the kind of place travellers may receive a lesson or two about the Ottoman Empire while sitting in a crowded cafe or bump into kids playing soccer on busy crowded streets.
Crusader castles, the majesty of imperial Rome, bustling medieval souks and long beach stretches, there may be much of Syria waiting to be explored. Built between 1142 and 1271, Crac des Chevaliers is a Crusader castle and may be one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. Often described using phrases like ‘epitome of the dream castle of childhood fantasies’ and ‘the finest castle in the world,’ Crac des Chevaliers was recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2006.
Along the journey in Syria lies Palmyra. Palmyra, an ancient Arabic city in central Syria. Known as the Bride of the Desert, Palmyra was a vital caravan dock for travellers crossing the Syrian Desert. Though the ancient site fell into disuse after the 16th century when the last ruler, Queen Zenobia, was toppled, a newer town was developed under the same name next to the ruins. The beautifully restored Temple of Bel and Valley of the Tombs in local sandy, honey colored stones at the site do full justice to the ancient splendour of Palmyra.
The Syrian coastline consists of long stretches of beach and green mountains which one may pass along their journey to certain towns and villages in Syria. Ras Al Bassit, Latakia, Banias and Tartusand Arwad are some of the famous beaches in Syria.
The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, is located in the aged city of Damascus and is one of the largest and most historical mosques in the world. It is considered by some Muslims to be the fourth-holiest place in Islam. Built between 705 and 715 AD by the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid I, it is the earliest surviving stone mosque. The walls of the mosque are made up of limestone blocks from the original Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. Though the challenges of the Syrian civil war have affected the holy site and toppled its minaret, it was once counted among the marvels of the world.
Located almost 56 km to the northeast of Damascus is Ma’loula. It is one of three villages where the local people are still speaking Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ. A town full of fantasy and spiritual stories, Ma’loula also houses two important monasteries, Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla.
Carrying on from Damascus is the largest city in Syria, Aleppo is also the most populated. One of the most historical, continuously inhabited cities of the world, Aleppo is home to the famous medieval covered souks (markets). Said to be spread as far as 15 km in length, one may find luxury to household goods and electronics to homemade items. A visit to the souks of Aleppo may be a interesting way of gaining and living a Middle Eastern experience.
How might the economy of Syria benefit from more tourism?