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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

May 10th: Damascus

On May 10th 1973, or thereabouts, I was in Damascus.

After crossing the desert we stayed a couple of nights on the campsite outside Damascus.  We enjoyed the sights and wandering around the old city.  I especially liked the Ummayad Mosque, probably the oldest I've seen and in one of the oldest places I've been.  After all the travelling of that year I liked the idea that there were still more wonderful places to visit.  Damascus seemed a very relaxed place and welcoming towards tourists.  The outer suburbs were full of blocks of flats on the edge of the hills and here I felt the colonial remains of the French Mandate most strongly.

On the morning we were planning to leave for Beirut, we were all packed up and ready when we discovered that the border was closed.  Lebanon had remained fairly peaceful and Beirut had the reputation as the playground of the Middle East.  That was changing:  Israel had conducted a raid on PLO targets in April, and I believe this border closure was because the Lebanese army was fighting guerillas and Syria was supporting the guerillas.  We were just too late and Lebanon still has not recovered.

Instead we drove to the Krak des Chevaliers, the Crusaders castle to the north of Lebanon.  We still had to drive through a couple of miles of Lebanese territory but there was no border control on this road, just an endless line of traders selling goods along the roadside.  From the Krak we went on to the coast and then to the splendid city of Aleppo and so on to Turkey and back to Europe, though I wasn't back in the UK until the autumn.

There are good Patrimonium Mundi panoramas of Damascus here, including the Ummayad Mosque.  There are also some of the Krak des Chevaliers, starting here.

Gate in Damascus, 2008:  Picture by Steve Conger,  CC

The Ummayad Mosque, 2007:  Picture by Riyaad Minty,  CC

View Damascus in a larger map

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