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 Home » Regional » Syria...


TODAY'S HEADLINES

 • Farewell for M.O.H Farook
 • Khan Ather & Habeeb Qadeer winds up their Saudi Arabia Tour
 • Dubai ruler plays up strength as Gulf markets fall
 • Dubai World to restructure 26-billion dollars debt
 • Dubai debt plan fails to calm Gulf markets
 • Rising India should strike deals with other Gulf countries too
 • ‘Aim for stars! If you miss, you land on moon’
 • ‘Haj a complete success’
 • Pilgrimage declared free of contagious diseases
 • Saudis work for foreigners at fruit market
 • Muslims lack leadership in India, Mani Shankar Iyer
 • Indian Haj delegation interacts with pilgrims in Jeddah
 • 19th Principals’ Conference held in International Indian School, Riyadh.
 • A Musical Event "EK-SHAAM MASTANI” in Eastern Province
 • Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention
 • Hajj Orientation Program Organized
 • UAE to build oil refinery on Pakistan coast
 • 11th Dubai Air Show begins amid much fanfare
 • Extra SR8 for services at Indian embassy will hit poor workers
 • Pilgrims urged to book with licensed operators
 • Two Keralites die in hit-and-run Riyadh accident
 • Tourism deepens Saudi-India ties
 • Shifa Al Jazeera Polyclinic begins its 7th Year Health Programs
 • ISRO committed to making India leader in space tech: Radhakrishnan
 • IISR holds food and fund-raising fair
 • Saudi King, Obama top Forbes most powerful list
 • Dubai Air Show a ‘ Perfect’ Event: Hamdan
 • Sir Syed Day at Riyadh
 • Embassy setup Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) in the Kingdom
 • Four MNS legislators suspended for attacking Abu Azmi
 • APUS honored community leaders, celebrates AP formation day
 • Trade pact a road to 1-trillion dollars Gulf market for India: Bahrain
 • Western Union cuts ties with its Riyadh partner
 • Education minister suffered from swine flu
 • UAE police seize 1.5 mn pills
 • Husband demands $300,000 to ‘free’ Canadian wife, kids
 • Expats criticize medical insurance program
 • Kaaba gold door maker passes away
 • ‘Cancer Care For Life’ campaign for Indian expats in EP
 • Over 5,000 people convert to Islam through mobile hotline
 • Paedophile to be crucified in Saudi Arabia
 • Saudi, Indian businessmen discuss ways to boost ties
 • UAE to organise lecture on 'Dialogue of Civilisations'
 • AMU's founder's day celebrated in Saudi Arabia
 • Indo-Saudi Joint Commission meeting will be held in Riyadh on Oct. 31.
 • Pranab in Riyadh for high-level talks with Saudi Arabia
 • SRTEPC organizes Indian Textiles Buyer Seller Meet in Riyadh
 • UAE's Saed company gets ISO certification
 • Pranab Mukherjee meets King Abdullah to boost bilateral ties
 • AMU alumni mark Sir Syed Day
 • UAE GDP could top 4.5 pct in 2010 - cbank official
 • Dubai to raise Dh7b in biggest sukuk sale
 • Expat sues govt over unlawful detention
 • Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be a crash-fest, says David Coulthard
 • UAE continues to be among the 50 most prosperous countries in the world
 • U.S. serious about getting Doha round trade deal - EU
 • Hyderabadi poets steal the Indian Embassy Mushaira
 • Saudi female TV journalist gets 60 lashes
 • Saudi Arabia bans all fatwas by imams
 • Urdu – Source of positive thinking and inspiration for major revolutions
 • Malls in UAE signal culture shift by offering baby-changing rooms for males
 • Desert in UAE to green in 39 years
 • Dubai Holding official questioned in Dh200m fraud
 • US-UAE nuclear deal to take effect soon - State Dept
 • UAE, India trade likely to grow over 50 percent
 • Prices in prime areas in Dubai go up 8%
 • DIIC hosted reception to Asadudeen Owaisi
 • Six killed in Sharjah air crash
 • Mushaira 2009 Invitees passes available at Embassy. "To see the List of Invitees Click Here"
 • "KAUN SA GEET SUNOGI ANJUM"
 • Tamil Sangam Riyadh and Dammam paid tribute to S.A. Abdul Mallik
 • Saudi haj tourism loss highest in 50 years
 • Remittances by expats now four percent of Saudi GDP
 • Creative ad designers for brighter future
 • LBC journalist asked to prove innocence in sex-show case
 • Saudi student expelled for ‘cheating’ in US
 •  Saudi arrested for attacking police officer in Jeddah
 • Saudis allowed to buy firearms openly
 • Indian girl seriously injured after a stray bullet hit
 • Indian Haj Pilgrims will arrive from Tuesday
 • Nida saves the day at Urdu poetry night
 • First "Salar-e-Millat" award presented to Abdurrahman Saleem
 • UAE to help developing nations in poverty eradication
 • Women MPs refuse to wear headscarf in Kuwait House
 • Burj Dubai to open on December 2
 • Seminar on Mental Health Challenges at Workplace in UAE
 • UAE retail group eyes Indian expansion plan
 • Ex-WTO chief "mildly optimistic" on Doha round
 • Trader gets back 10kg gold forgotten at Dubai Airport
 • Dubai provides stage for icons of enterprise
 • Parents wary as school term starts in Saudi Arabia
 • Saudi Mobily telecom refinances $400 mln loan
 • Gulf Arab econ growth to slow to 0.7 pct in '09 - IMF
 • UAE to host Gulf petrochemical industries meet
 • Mushairah-2009 on Oct. 22 in Riyadh
 • “Ek Shaam Suhani bhulayi na jaaye” Memorable Gazal Nite by Mohammed Vakil
 • London, Oct 8(ANI): Dr Hafez Almedlej, the chairman of the Saudi Professional League Commission, has
 • India the most attractive tourist destination
 • Sex braggart gets five years, lashes
 • India, Saudi Arabia to increase cooperation in tourism sector
 • Dubai to host India property exhibition
 • Saudi king in Damascus to mend fences with Assad
 • Saudi envoy to Pak refuses to divulge anything on Sharif-Saudi king deal
 • UAE to host camel festival
 • Tharoor in Dubai to promote ties with UAE
 • UAE, Cuba sign accords to strengthen ties
 • UAE calls for establishment of regional stock market
 • Saudi pressure may see Musharraf to go scot-free, Sharif not contest elections till 2010
 • Bahrain backs India's UNSC bid, tweets Tharoor
 • BSNL, MTNL interested in Zain deal - Kuwait's Kharafi
 • Emaar opens Dubai Mall Medical Centre
 • “India Tourism Road Show” on October 6, 2009 in Riyadh
 • Dubai announces Emirates Energy Award
 • UAE foreign aid co-ordination appeals for Philippines, Indonesia aid
 • Saudi Arabia records four new swine flu fatalities
 • New Saudi university slammed for co-ed classes
 • Gitex expects to draw top Saudi players
 • Asian schools face the litmus test
 • Dubai family talks of narrowly escaping death
 • Saudi Arabia flogs teenagers after rare riots in eastern region
 • Dubai airport passenger traffic up 10.7%
 • Two suspects arrested in 'phone scams' inquiry
 • 13 UAE banks exposed to troubled Saudi groups
 • UAE economy gears up for strong revival
 • Baby girl brings relief to distraught family
 • Saudi youth sets fire to wedding tent
 • Dubai Airshow to be held in November
 • UAE equestrian exhibition to open Wednesday
 • Dubai International records double-digit growth for third consecutive month
 • More women than men suffer heart attack in Gulf
 • Kuwait to deport 17,000 foreigners involved in illegalities
 • Over 600 Chinese nationals working in Saudi embrace Islam
 • Saudi prince wants 50 pct of Liverpool FC - paper
 • Saudi Arabia issues guidelines for Hajj pilgrims
 • Fire guts apartment in residential building on Hamdan Street
 • Bahrain uses mosques to promote public awareness about swine flu
 • Abu Dhabi hospital opens H1N1 facility
 • Businessman gets back Dh500,000 left at shop
 • Vacation in International Indian Schools in the Kingdom extended
 • Almost 100,000 passengers use Dubai Metro in one day
 • Cancel veto rights of permanent security council members: Iran
 • 100 killed in Sudan violence
 • Indo-Saudi forum set for Oct. 31
 • Ahmadinejad sues senior religious leader for insulting remark
 • Saudi Arabia’s ‘love’ for Nawaz Sharif lost?
 • India to setup higher education centers in the Kingdom soon: Shahare
 • APUS pays tribute to YSR
 • Kuwait to gradually end system of sponsorship
 • UAE, Qatar most competitive countries in Middle East
 • UAE apologises for aircraft row, India assures early release
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From the Euphrates to the Mediterranean, from Zenobia to the Crusaders, there is not an inch of land in Syria that history and men have left untouched. A veritable open-air museum, with deserts and oases, blue beaches and valleys dotted with olive trees, the earth itself in this cradle of humanity is steeped in an Oriental perfume. A land of biblical tribes, its most beautiful legends are born there where the sand has turned to stone.

Sumerian in the 5th century BC, Canaanite in the, 3rd century BC, then Amorite, Aramaean, Hellenic, Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine and Arab, pagan, then Christian and Muslim, Syria is a place where religions and civilizations have always converged without ever crowding each other. For proof, one need only look at Damascus, the oldest capital in the world still inhabited today. Nested like a jewel in its ancient walls, the old city unfolds its ancestral charms between minarets and church steeples.

While exuberant and business-minded, this city, whose beauty won it the nickname "Halo of the moon on earth" and "Beauty mark of the world" delights in linyering over the ritual of tea-drinking. With smiles all around, friends and foreigners alike are invited to sit back and join in the tradition. And where better to start than in the Souk al Hamidiyeh, a must for every tourist on his or her way to the Omayyed Mosque. Elegant women with veiled silhouettes rub shoulders with porters in djellabas and sundry smooth talkers urging you to step into their boutiques for "the pleasure of the eye" and the dismay of your wallet!

One of the most beautiful holy places in all of Islam, the Omayyad Mosque is also a symbol of religious syncretism. Built in the 7th century, it encompasses an earlier Aramaean structure, a Roman temple to Jupiter and a Byzantine church. Dedicated to Allah in 636, this sanctuary is home to many sumptuous Oriental rugs as well as an impressive reliquary bearing the head of Saint John the Baptist. Close by, the 18th-century Azem palace looks like it comes straight out of a tale in the Thousand and One Nights. The inner courtyards, with their multi-colored basalts, limestone and marble walls bespeak the refinements of the Ottoman empire, which ruled the city for more than four centuries. The arch on Madhat Pasha street marks the boundary of the former Christian quarter, where all communities have been living together for centuries in perfect harmony. Wandering haphazardly through the narrow, winding alleys where craftsmen of every origin, including Armenian, are carving away on pieces of gold and silver, you might stumble across the moving little chapel dedicated to Ananias. A contemporary and disciple of Christ, Ananias had a vision sending him to Paul, whom a heavenly Light had blinded; when Ananias laid his hands on him, Paul was cured and began his life as apostle to the Gentiles.

On Friday, the Muslim sabbath day, the city center is deserted as the Damascenes flock to the banks of the Barada, where families gather to picnic, puff on their hookah pipes or take a snooze while the children play at being crocodiles in the rough-flowing river. The smell of smoking kebabs combines with the syrupy music screaming out of' the transistor radios to lend a most picturesque color to the whole scene. In Damascus, an evening not to be missed on any account is dinner at the panoramic, revolving restaurant at the Cham Palace hotel.

While reveling in the refined atmosphere and sampling the best Oriental specialties of the capital, one can in a single glance take in the flickering electrical garlands of Damascus, the jewel at the desert's gate, the place known as the "lily among all flowers."

Bosra: the charm of a dark city. Located in the fertile Nukra plain at the country's southern limits. Bosra is one of those magical places that was long ago plunged into the oblivion of history, only to reemerge for the eye's pleasure thanks to the generosity of several enlightened patrons. An old trading city dating back more than 2000 years, this Nabataean town was made capital of the Arabian province when the Romans annexed the region in the early years of the modern era. Later, it became one of the key cities of Islam representing tolerance, for it is said that this is where the young Mohammed met the monk Bouheira, who foretold his vocation as the Prophet. Among the vestiges of the ancient city, the most stunning are those of' the Roman theater. Considered as the very symbol of Bosra, the theater has been admirably preserved thanks to the construction of the Ayyubid citadel, built by Saladin in the 12th century. It is among the biggest and most beautiful amphitheaters in the world, and in its black basalt walls the entire history of the city can be retraced. The sobriety of its lines and harmony of its proportions enhance the natural brilliance of the black stone facade ennobled with touches of' white limestone. As a consummate refinement, during the hot season the theater used to be covered with a silk canopy, which was sprayed with perfumed water in order to refresh the fifteen thousand spectators in the audience. A veritable museum-city, Bosra is still inhabited today, its population gathered around the vestiges of the old city, perpetuating the centuries-old tradition of one of the most captivating sites in the country. The city's only hotel is located near the theater. Practical and luxurious, a night in the Bosra Cham Palace provides a welcome relief from fatigue before the next day of touring. With its little terraces opening on to the swimming pool and the antique theater, it is the perfect complement to the grandeur of Bosra. Heading north, one comes to the rich valley of the Orontes. Nicknamed the Rebel1ious River, its banks have been lined with waterwheels since the dawn of time, drawing water in buckets to irrigate the orchards and supply the towns. In the picturesque city of Hama, they like to say that if the squeaking of the "norias" stopped for a night, the entire town would suffer from insomnia. The only hotel in the region" the Apamea Cham Palace, is ideally situated to allow you to explore all the local splendors while sejourning in the exquisite comfort of an international-class Oriental palace.

As in all countries of sand, wherever water is to be found, you can be sure that men have followed. Continuing along the Orontes to the north, one comes to Qalaat al-Mudiq and the site of Apamea, sister-city to Palmyra.

This stopover site along the caravan route was founded by one of Alexander's lieutenants, who named it in homage to his Persian wife, Apamea. In the time of the Seleucids, it was second largest city in Syria after Antioch.

It was surrounded by a fortified wa11 8.5 kilometers long and had roughly a million inhabitants, including 120,000 nobles. From its bygone days of glory, the city has preserved the smooth and cabled columns lining the interminable "cardo," the monumental avenue 1,850 meters long and 37,5 meters wide running across the center of the city, while the ruins of the governor's house still evoke the visit of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The site is full of mosaics, some of which can be, seen at the neighboring museum. One cannot stroll through Apamea without stumbling across untold numbers of pilasters, basins and friezes. To walk here is to walk on whole stratums of civilizations past, perfumed with the humus of the centuries and the magic of stones spattered in gold and honey. Here, just as in Palmyra, "the desert wife, "the eye is irresistibly drawn in search of the invisible silk route, and one turns to the silent gaze of the statues hoping to discover in the end the secret of the legendary beauty of queen Zenobia. Sometimes we tend to forget that places of worship are as much gifts of God as they are monuments to human achievement. What better reason, then to make a visit to the basilica of Saint Simeon. It was here on this mystery-filled hillside, where only the cypress trees interrupt the solitude of one's thoughts, that the Byzantinc emperor Zenon had a basilica built in the 5th century in honor of Simeon Stylites. Nothing but a shred of stone is now left of the enormous pillar on which the ascetic monk lived for 42 years, and the deserted sanctuary is inhabited by the wind alone, still echoing with the singsong of fervent prayer. For centuries, pilgrims from around the world couldn't resist the pagan gesture of carrying off with them a tiny fragment of the column as a reminder of this site, so vibrant with an invisible faith. Pilgrims from Europe and elsewhere continue to come here to visit the sanctuary and pay homage to the monk's memory.

Next stop, Aleppo, where the noonday sun beats down on the cracked walls of the imposing citadel, hunched up on its centuries old foundations. To find a bit of fresh air, the best place to head is the souk, like so many caverns of Ali Baba, the souks of Aleppo extend for more than ten kilometers and are by far the most fascinating in the entire Middle East. Souks for woo1, gold, Turkish slippers, Kaffiyehs... A fragrance of cardamom and musk fills the air, as the senses are dazzled by this farandole of colors, movements and sounds. The souk can be a pleasure for sight and touch, or it can be the pleasure of bargaining or just enjoying a hit of conversation over a Turkish coffee.

The secular magic of the Orient and its bazaars will always fascinate us. Second-largest Syrian city, Aleppo has always rivaled Damascus. A temple of gastronomy, Aleppo boasts the best restaurant in the country. Perched on the heights of the Chahba Cham Palace hotel, the restaurant offers candlelight dining against the backdrop of an unbeatable view of city and citadel. You can have excellent Russian caviar and an exceptional shrimp ramekin, ending with a divinely delicious fresh apricot tart that would melt the resolve of the most steadfast of dieters. And all of this will cost you less than $20!

Far from the desert, but still close to the sand, the beaches of Lattakia on the Syrian coast are a family experience. Grandmothers peek out of their chadors to watch over their grandchildren, splashing gaily in the warm, blue water, while the women tend to their shopping and the men play backgammon. This is the Oriental Riviera., and the same elegance and savoir faire is to be found when dining on the terrace of the Côte d'Azur de Cham hotel, where people are sure to dress for the occasion. Close by, the setting sun lends its golden glow to the Crusaders' mighty fortress. Begun in 1170 by Tancred, prince of Antioch, the Crac des Chevaliers is the most famous medieva1 fortress in the world. The massive Qalaoun tower stands over 650 meters high and commands a view of the peaceful Boukeia valley. On a clear day, it is just possible to make out the first range of mountains in Lebanon. To the north, one can see the Safita Tower, which served as a beacon to the Crusaders' ships. The Safita Cham Palace hotel stands at the foot of this monument, dominating the surrounding valley, the stage setting for many of the battles fought during the Crusades. Inside this fortified dream, which the Crusaders ringed with ramparts to ensure its protection, the shadows of va1iant knights still slip silently along the gothic arcades as if they had only just deserted the place. While you are still shivering off this strange sensation, you can't help but feel reassured by the singular discovery that in this land of solitude and history, the mortal hourglass is not filled with the sands of this desert. In Syria, time cannot be measured, it is neither wasted nor won, it simply glides over the stones like a smile crossing the face of the Middle East.

 Other cities in Syria...
  •  Syria
  •  Aleppo
  •  Arwad
  •  Banyas
  •  Bosra
  •  Damascus
  •  Hama
  •  Homs
  •  Latakia
  •  Palmyra
  •  Tartus
  •  Zabadani


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