The Imam’s voice from the nearest mosque woke me like a nice melody. It was still too early, so I thought it a good chance to start packing our stuff. Some minutes later I heard Assef waking up. So we drunk our morning coffee together and later all the company was gathered. The time was passing by until we decided to depart without really want to. The moment we were about to leave them, Assef told me: “I want you to know that you have a home here in Al Hamidye! It’s here for you whenever you need it…” It was really touching. A man that I had only met a day before; he opened his home like we knew each other for years! They invited us to come by again on our return from Jordan. We promised to each other to meet again in Greece or Syria.
His oldest son with his uncle accompanied us to the motorway and the nearest petrol station, showing us the way. So we departed to Damascus. The weather was cloudy. I was wishing not to rain because I was afraid the roads would transform into “skating rinks”!!! Fortunately, the weather made my wish come true. The motorway was consisted of 2 streams of traffic with 2 lanes each. The pavement’s condition was mediocre. The germination to Homs (65km) was really few. Pines were planted along the street, mainly for wind protection. From far away you could see the Lebanon’s bergs. The signs informed for frontier stations, reminding us how close we were.
As we were heading south the germination was decreasing. The green was running short and the vast steppes appeared. The scenery was different and impressive. At about 14.30 the heat was high, as we entered the famous Damascus. The first impression was disappointing because of the traffic jam. We headed to the ancient town, in order to find accommodation. It was really difficult because the town was the Cultural Capital of Arabic States 2008. The locals were willing to help, but without any success.
We ended up at the Hotel Al Medina – City Hotel (some friends who had visited the town had told us about it). The double bed room’s price was 70$ & breakfast. In general the hotel prices were higher than in the rest of the country. We had some rest and at about 6pm in the afternoon we headed to the Ancient Market.
The Ancient Market was only 5-10 minutes away on foot. We entered the souks through the central gate. It was indoor, settled and clean. The shops had everything and in reasonable prices, but the whole image was very different from that of Aleppo.
Damascus made a very important commercial crossway for many years. The reason of this commercial growing was the Grand Mosque. For many years was the place that every faithful Moslem should visit, for at least one time in his life! There weren’t few those who set off from many kilometres away to fulfil this “mission”. Many believers to cover the trip’s expenses were bringing with them sundry products, which they sold at the Damascus’ Market. This believers’ long journey involved dangers because of the muggers. The result was the creation of caravans, which gave them some security. Sometimes their size was of 30.000 people!!! Their departure was an incredible spectacle!
As it was natural we visited the Grand Mosque (ticket price: 50S£/person). Ploumisti was forced to wear“bur nous” to enter the temple. The external aspect of the Mosque was imposing. Its interior was majestic: the golden-green engravings on the walls were impressive and unique of their kind! Even the most demanding visitor would surely be pleased! Although it was crowded, you could stay there for hours!
Late in the afternoon we sat at a traditional “cafe” for authentic tea and argyle. It was standing right behind the Grand Mosque. We continued our wandering around the labyrinthine souks, while the shops were preparing to close. The time was about 21.30. We had the chance to taste the famous “blended” ice cream of Damascus. I personally think it was the most tasteful I have ever tried.
Getting back to the hotel - and while we were lost in the souks - we run up against the pre-marital ceremony of an Arabian bridegroom. We were invited to watch it and we were treated coffee with cardamom and local fruits’ juice. The songs and the dancing didn’t stop. At the table sat only men with only one exception… Ploumisti!
Damascus might be the most “western” town of Syria. However, it keeps in a high degree the authenticity of an “eastern” town. Next day we leave for Jordan.