I’m not ready to declare Syria war free, but the south especially Damascus is quite safe now and with news of other travelers getting visas and some of the most exclusive visits to the war torn country of Syria had me fascinated. I was able to get over there in December before the news of the Iran and Iraq bombing and conflicts.
I missed seeing Syria about 11 years ago and it’s been high on my list of places to visit ever since.
I learned a long time ago a place doesn’t really seem to exist until after you’ve visited it. It’s almost imaginary. When you see the destruction first hand and meet refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and across Europe the statistics are no longer just numbers, they become meaningful. According to the UN: Pre-war population of the Syrian Arab Republic was estimated at 22 million. There are more than 6 million displaced internally and over 6 million refugees outside the country with most of them in Turkey, and large populations in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.
The damage not just to a few buildings was visible. Entire cities, mile after mile were absolutely devastated and in rubble.
Before you’re convinced there’s nothing worth seeing, let me quickly correct you. I visited two very impressive and amazing places.
I visited Krac de Chevalier Castle and was very impressed with how well the Crusader castle has held together. It is absolutely a stronghold and an impressive edifice on the top of the hill not far from Homs, Syria.
While we visited the castle I was impressed by the size and scale of the castle… it’s so huge!! It’s really a castle within a castle within a stronghold complete with moat, drawbridge, and sheer cliffs. The outer towers are setup to drop vats of hot oil and shoot arrows at invaders. It’s very impressive. It could accomodate 2000 knights. It was built back in 1142 and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
I also visited old city Damascus. Damascus has a very very long history. It was there that I found out that in Islam they say Jesus will return to Damascus in Saffron robes. The new show Messiah on Netflix starts out episode one with that premise. Great show. Saw it immediately after I got back.
Old Basilica of St John the Baptist; Umayyad Mosque. It used to be the Basilica of St John the Baptist before the conquest of the Ummayad Caliphate. There is a green clothed covered tomb inside which apparently contains John the Baptist’s head.
Wandering the old city was not intimidating at all. It was fascinating to see the people from all walks of life. Everyone bustling about and headed to various places. There are some great antique shops, crafts, and collections. It was a quick, but worthwhile trip. I hope to get back soon. There’s more I’d like to see. I hope nothing more than for peace on earth, peace in the middle east. My driver and guide were great.