Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Walking Old Damascus (2)

You know how it is, when you are flat-out totally in love, you can’t see the flaws. In moments of clarity, I can understand that there could be hardships to living in Damascus. There could be problems meeting the codes for historical preservation while trying to install modern plumbing. There could be bureaucrats to bribe, there could be problems with labor, I don’t know any of this, I am just guessing.

None of it matters to me, I am so head-over-heels happy. Thanks be to God, AdventureMan shares my insanity, and we are having a wonderful time walking, walking, walking. He is SO patient with me, and all the photos I have to stop to take.

Today we visit the Ummayyad Mosque which also contains the tomb of John the Baptist. I think this is one of the reasons we love Damascus so much – the co-existence of Islam and Christianity, and the sharing of sacred spaces.

The parking area in front of the mosque is full of vendors. My favorite are the bread carts:

Non-Muslims have to go to the entrance where you can rent an abaya with a hood, so that you can visit the mosque. All visitors are welcome; entire tour groups are going through, French, German. You also have to take off your shoes, and the beautiful marble flooring is VERY cold! In some places, there is carpeting.

This is a tree-of-life detail from the treasury:

Once inside the Ummayad Mosque, they have that in-floor heating, so you can warm your tootsies back up while experiencing the magnificence of the mosque interior (please note the horseshoe arches):


The tomb of John the Baptist:

A funny story: as we are leaving the Mosque, AdventureMan says “where is this tomb of John the Baptist you wanted to visit?” and I looked at his in puzzlement. We had finished touring the whole mosque, and I had photographed the tomb.

“We already visited it!” I told him.

“When?” he asked.

“It was that beautiful tomb in the main mosque area surrounded by people praying!” I replied.

“No, that was somebody named Yahyah,” he corrected me.

“Yahyah is the name for John the Baptist,” I told him. Guess he would have appreciated it more if he had known at the time. I just assumed he knew.

I must have been a magpie in another life. I don’t know why, but I love these glittery Chinese decorations. AdventureMan bought one for me, a golden crown with big red “jewels”. The shops always catch my eye:

This is a famous ice cream place in the Souk Hammadiyya:

This shop was on the traditional medicine shop street. It had herbs, and dried creatures which can be used in healing, and unusual soaps, and also seashells:

This is the traditional souk at the beginning of the Street Called Straight (al Mustaqeen) which is undergoing renovation. Just wanted you to see the bulletholes through the roof:

I don’t know if you could find a truly bad meal in Damascus. I think you would really have to try! We found this wonderful restaurant, Al Kawali, not too far from our hotel, and we loved their food and we loved the atmosphere, and we loved having the bread baked right under our noses:


For those of you who, like me, are addicted to spaces and details – look at these gorgeous light fixtures, Damascene glass:

And last, but not least – we find the food so fabulous that we are eating too much. Our first time at Al Kawali, we order just some favorite mezze dishes and soup. When the tastes are so perfect, it takes less to fill you up, and this food is perfection.

We found this old house as we were leaving Al Kawali to walk back to the hotel:

January 9, 2008 - Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Bureaucracy, Community, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Travel | , , ,


  1. I want to go back there 😦

    This is beautiful. I loved the second pic above. It captures the true nature of Syria: the roman colonnades, the ummayyad courts, the ottoman architecture and the french colonial roof tops all in one scene.

    Oh and now you made me crave for the Bikdash ice cream 😉

    Comment by kinano | January 9, 2008 | Reply

  2. You’re so right, Kinan, it’s an amazing city, and unless you are LOOKING, it’s easy to be oblivious. I just love it there. Hope you can go soon . . .err, maybe wait until Springtime, when the weather is a little warmer!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. intlxpatr, I love Damascus in the same way that you do. There is such a magic in the air and rich history, I feel like the old Damascus is somehow caught in a time warp. And the food is the best I’ve ever had in my life.

    Incidentally, speaking of John the Baptist, if you ever go to Jordan there is a spot literally right next to the Dead Sea where there are relics of the baptismal wells that he personally used to baptize new Christians and there is a rock marking his point of ascension too. I wish I could remember the name of the place!

    Comment by harmonie22 | January 10, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thank you so much for this post. The pictures actually gave me chills. So much history…you can feel it.

    It was such an inspiring and interesting post and pictures, I really enjoyed it.

    Comment by jolynna | January 10, 2008 | Reply

  5. I lived in Jordan, Harmonie, and I remember going a lot of places, but only in Israel/Palestine was I told “this is where Jesus was baptized” and unfortunately, different tour guides pointed out different locations. I am a little cynical about those exact locations 😉

    A rock indicating from where he ascended – I think I am going to have to go back for a visit and see if I can find these places! Thank you for telling me!

    You are so welcome, Jolyna – and you are right, the history is incorporated right into the present. It’s part of what we love. More to come!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 10, 2008 | Reply

  6. I really loved these Syrian pieces and the great stills, it really makes one want to visit the country and share in its culture etc – thats really the biggest compliment one can give to a blogger post, you made Damascus look exotic, traditional, cultural and very striking.

    Comment by amer | January 10, 2008 | Reply

  7. Thank you, Amer! 🙂 I truly believe part of the success of this trip was staying at the Talisman. There are bigger, modern hotels, like the 4 Seasons, but it’s like the 4 Seasons everywhere else . . .the Talisman was so personal and charming, and just steps out the door were all these wonderful walks. (Did I mention we love walking 😉 maybe once or twice??)

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 10, 2008 | Reply

  8. […] Luke about the birth of John the Baptist, or as he is known in the Moslem world, the Prophet Yahya. We visited his tomb in Damascus; at our church in Kuwait on the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, one of the readings […]

    Pingback by St. John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit « Here There and Everywhere | June 24, 2013 | Reply

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