Category: Syria

Sep 25 2009

Damascus to Beirut

Spent the morning looking for the world biggest restaurant, Damascus Gate. The restaurant is far away from the city and is close to the international airport of Damascus. Since a cab will cost almost $20, I tried to take a bus there. Got to Baka bus station and took an airport shuttle (45SP, $1). The bus dropped me off on the highway and got to the restaurant after 20 minutes walk.

The restaurant
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It’s not that big as I thought, probably they just put more chairs in the restaurant to get the title.
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Got back to the city after taking 2 minibuses and one taxi (45SP too).
Went to Al Sumariyeh bus terminal by a minibus (10SP) at 12pm and took a bus to Beirut, Lebanon. Bus was delayed and finally left at around 2.30pm.

At the border, we were required to pay 500SP for Syria departure tax, however the custom wanted more for his own pocket. Got to Lebanon checkpoint
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and the immigration were so slow. They told me that I will need to pay 25000 Lebanese pound for a visa but I remembered that I read that I don’t need one. They only took payment in Lebanese pound and I had trouble finding people to change the currency. While waiting, the assistant bus driver took out my backpack from the bus and the bus left without me. So far I don’t have good experiences with Syrians.

Hitched a ride from some Saudi guys at the immigration checkpoint to Beirut.
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Got to Beirut and visited the mosque.
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A hip area with any cafes in Gemmayeh
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Spent a night with those guys in Journieh.

Sep 24 2009


The overnight train arrived at Kaddam train station in Damascus around 6.30am. Took a public bus back to the hostel and after cleaning up, went to Pullman bus station and bought a 9am bus ticket to Palmyra. Palmyra is around 3 hours (250km east) away.

Palmyra Museum
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The ruins
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Video of the ruins

Temple of Bel
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Got back to Damascus at 7pm.

Sep 23 2009


Went to Pullman bus station and got on the 9am bus to Aleppo. Aleppo is the second largest city in Syria with population of around 4.2 millions and is 4.5 hours north of Damascus. Aleppo and Damascus are vying for the title of oldest inhabited city in the world. Aleppo was said to be inhabited since 8000 years ago.

Met Jane, a Canadian on the bus and we spent time wandering around the city. We had kebab for lunch (250SP, around USD5).
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Walked around the souq which is said to be the biggest in the middle east. The Souq is around 12km in total length. Most shops were closed because of the Eid holiday.

Visited the Citadel which is around 2000 years old.
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View of Aleppo from the Citadel
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View of the Citadel
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We were walking around and Jane recognized a man who is one of the very few if any Buddhists in Aleppo. He has a small café
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and is trying to create a meeting place to teach Buddhism to people who have an interest in the subject matter. Met some new friends at his café.
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The great mosque
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Decided to take an overnight train back to Damascus so I can sleep on the way back to save cost and time, and just to try something different. The train took around 6 hours (110SP around USD2).
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Sep 22 2009

Damascus, Syria

Only slept for 2 hours today because I had to wake up at 3am for a phone interview. It might be weird to have a phone interview while backpacking in middle east, but since the position is with one of the biggest hedge fund, I can’t refuse this opportunity. It seemed like the job market in the financial sector has been improving lately because I have been getting more emails about openings in the financial sector in my mailbox. Since I woke up early, I decided to walk to the Abdhali bus station from my hostel in the old city. It’s only 30 minutes walk.
Took the 7.30am bus and after passing customs, arrived in Damascus at around 11am.

Decided to find my own way to downtown instead of taking a taxi since I have time and thought it’s a more exciting way. Took a public bus to downtown
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and in Damascus there were only 4 budget hostel in the same neighborhood at Saroujah st. Stayed at Al Saad since the other 3 nicer ones were full. Got the cheapest room at the hostel rooftop (300 SP ~6USD).
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Walked around the old city.
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Ate kebab for lunch.
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Started at Bab Touma which is the Christian quarter of old Damascus. There is a big souq in the old city with shops selling all kinds of stuffs.
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The citadel
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Went back at night, visited the Umayyad mosque. The mosque was converted from a Byzantine cathedral in AD705 when Damascus became the capital of the Islamic world.
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This is the famous ice cream store in the souq.
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