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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Damascus is Buzzing

The atmosphere in Damascus is electric now, and the streets of the Old City more alive than we've seen them before - and we've been regular visitors since 1998. Summer traditionally sees Syrian expats from around the world returning home to spend time with their families while Damascus has long attracted Gulf Arab tourists escaping the sweltering summer temperatures of the Arabian Peninsula - while it's warm here now (low to mid 30s Celcius), the Gulf is scorching (average mid 40s Celcius), so Syria is a cool escape in comparison. But we're seeing travellers from all over the globe getting lost in the Old City's labyrinthine streets at the moment, including Europeans, Australians and Americans. By the look of their travelling gear - harem pants and hippy attire dominate backpacker wardrobes here - they were expecting a cheap destination. But Damascus now boasts an array of beautiful boutique hotels, an ever-growing number of fine restaurants, a handful of hip bars and stylish cafes, a lively arts and cultural scene, and an increasingly chic shopping area in the new city. We're reporting on all of these for magazines over the next week or two, so I'll try and share a few of our discoveries with you as we go.

Pictured? That's Naranj, a relatively 'new' restaurant by Damascene standards, which was very good - the buzzy atmosphere indicative of that found in the whole city at the moment. Although Naranj is not the best, and don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise - that's a title reserved for Al Halabi at The Four Seasons Hotel, and I'll tell you why in detail very soon.

3 comments:

Troy said...

I was there last summer in August and found it wonderful. As you mention, a great mix of travelers from everywhere, not to mention the locals. Just a great place to be right now.

Lara Dunston said...

It is a really great place to be right now. Lebanon is too, I hear - and we'll be back there in a few weeks - although I'm too scared to say 'Beirut is buzzing'. The last time I used that headline for a story on Beirut's restaurant and bar scene for Lifestyle+Travel, just over 3 years ago), the Israelis were dropping bombs on the place by the time the story came out...

jen laceda said...

I'd love to go to Syria soon! Aleppo, Damascus, the Crusaders' trail...