Tourists seduced by Damascus

Many foreigners are coming to Damascus to live its oriental  atmosphere, touch its glorious past in Damascus castle, feel its magnificent architecture in Damascene palaces, sense God’s Almighty in its divine mosques and churches.

Some of them are travelers or have served their country in Damascus, were seduced by the Levant. For instance, Fernando Aranda whose father was a musician working in the palace of Sultan Abdul Hamid in the Sublime Porte came in 1903 and served as Honorary Consul for thirty years.  At the same time he was an architect, he designed the Hijaz Railway Station and hotel of Zenobia, and wrote a lot about political and diplomatic relations between Syria and Spain. Others, like orientalists  have authored books with photographs and information about Middle East and Damascus, some of them are still used as a reference until today. Another visitors category those who  have come to Syria based on a preconceived idea in order to enjoy nature and beauty, or to discern its ancient civilization, like tourist groups coming through Syrian assistance for tourism and traveling office. 

We met one of those groups, they were from various nationalities from Arab and foreign countries such as Egypt, America, Australia, and Malaysia. The aim of this visit was to see Old Damascus including churches, mosques, and different relics.

The group came overland from Lebanon, as a bus has been sent to Syrian - Lebanese borders in the early morning, hoping to reach the old Damascus and have a breakfast in one of the restaurants.

The round began by Bab Sharqi, but Mr. Hani Tawfik desire, one of the touristic group, was from the outset to know old Damascus history and modern markets, by declaring: “I heard a lot about souks and bazars in Syria where you can find inexpensive hand-made goods”. Therefore,  pace began from the east door of Damascus through the church of Ananias Navlin and his waif Marilyn. An Australian couple was surprised by the amusing and busy atmosphere of Hamidiya souk with its iron covered ceiling full of small holes where the sun comes though during daylight, and its black basalt paved lanes, without mentioning tourists and visitors everywhere from all parts of the world. Where shops, antique boutiques, stands are lined on both sides, as tourist and buyers bargain with shop-owners to buy hand-made products like crafted carpets, copper lanterns and mosaic wooden boxes. Those shops along with other ones vending household items, Arabian sweets and cotton outfits. “It’s a commercial industrial city in the heart of Old Damascus” remarked Leon from Malaysia. An old musical instrument called “Rababa” (a kind of flute made of cane), have had the largest share of the time. It was a long pause in front of the vendor who was playing on the musical instrument, as Nevin Habib the Egyptian lady asked about the price and usage of that instrument, because she wanted to buy as a memorial gift for her children from Syria.

Whereas what raised Javiar Cardinal curiosity, was traditional productions such as copper manufactures, arabesques, cotton fabrics and garments, silk embroiderers, brocade upholstery, carpets, and golden antiques and gifts.

While Helen suggested “ One day is not enough to see relics and markets, since we had no prevision about Syria, as we were in Lebanon and abruptly decided to go down to Syria. So let’s consider our experience only a discovery trip, and come again on a prolonged journey to enjoy and explore this country treasures.

We had lunch in an Oriental restaurant famous for its Halaby-cuisine. The Tour guide recommended barbecue and Kebab as main course, since the group members are from different nationalities, to fit everyone's taste. it was enjoyable to look at tourists exploring oriental appetizers from hummus, to baba ghanoush, tabbouleh to fattoush. Bon appetite, and come back again.



Haifaa Mafalani                   

Qandil Valley Fascinating Seashore

It is believed that the valley was named after “qandil” (a large lamp). It was used to indicate fishermen approach from beach, illuminating a large area of sea water and beach sand. It was placed either on the hills overlooking the village from the side of  Oum altoor village or on those surrounding Islam tower adjacent to the village.

Beach of Qandil valley is a beautiful place frequented by visitors to enjoy both the sea and mountain. It is a low spot of land embracing a number of rivers as a result of the ongoing flood from Laurent dam near it, whereas the sea is on the northern side.

Qandil valley administratively follows Zighrine municipality, which is a simple village with a sparse population about 25 km north latakia. Qandil valley beach is a distinct one with its gold sand extends on about 2 km parallel to pine and eucalyptus trees. Common restaurants and cafes are scattered between trees, having maintained simplicity and modesty. Qandil valley inhabitants work in agriculture and some industries service, besides few of them work in apiculture and sericulture.

The façade of this maritime village is on this pure natural sand seashore, which has attracted many Syrian and Arab drama directors. As a matter of fact, dozens of art works and music video clips have been shot inside its forest and beach. Tourists will find a lot of popular stone ovens in the village and on the edge of the river penetrating the village, offering local pastry made with thyme and dried yogurt. They can also enjoy sightseeing from their chalets overlooking at the splendid scenery unifying mountain and coastline.

Newcomers can also appreciate a streams and canals cluster that take the way towards the forest and woodland in Qandil valley to settle among giant eucalyptus and pine trees; making a natural picturesque scenery. Hence canals and streams banks are used as platform to place tables and chairs for visitors’ eateries; in addition to some wooden bridges adding to the magnificent scene more beauty. The village residents profit from the landscape by setting up simple investment projects on the tributaries banks. Visitors will find more attraction in apiculture and sericulture in the village and its boundaries.

To reach the shore of Qandil valley starting from latakia going north through the international highway in the direction of Kassab to Turkish border, then turning left towards the northwest to enter the green zone where citrus plantations and pine forests are covering mountains. You will enjoy a unique experience on the road as the entire landscape makes you sense the splendor and richness of the region.  


Haifa mafalani     

Tourism: Summer fever

Obviously we are living in a situation that makes most of us worry about the gloomy cloud shadowing  the homeland sky, whishing it will dissipate with the coming tourism season. At summer time, vacation fever becomes an obsession to all people. Hence we must take advantage of that obsession, by making  all folks around the world feel they belong to this land, the Levant land,  where most civilization sprang worldwide. A land which has always been focus of attention to those concerned in past, present and future. So that everyone in the world knows his motherland and Syria.

Since Syria is a cultural and historical threshold, being  a central piece in the widespread of  knowledge as it had offered to the world the first alphabet. Our ancestor who paved human civilization existence over distant past to present days.

Unfortunately, today Syria is facing an external as well internal conspiracy to distort leisure industry components. Plotters claim to be the owners of the tourism case.  The dimensions of this alleged affair are a revenge one. Taking revenge from a small country that was able to stand alone as bulwark against winds of submission and surrender to the planners will to reshape the region’s map, a scheme known as “New Middle East”.

Some parts of Syria are well known touristic attractions, dating back to BC centuries. Outstandingly those milestones arte unique, not even offered in countries that invaded our country leaving traces on our territories to the day, being an epoch witness. As matter of fact sightseeing in our country became the concern of tourists as well as archaeologists and historians.

It is worth mentioning that tourism new board has taken several actions and measures to encourage vacation industry. For instance, making tourists arrival to Syria easier both in terms of reducing residence charges, opening new markets, and improving leisure services. With a focus on promoting local tourism by making vacation costs in the range of medium to acceptable prices.

Finally, we all hope that this year tourism season will hold good news in its clear sunny sky despite the ongoing gloomy crisis. 

Haifaa Mafalani

Tourism… the cult of a society

When reading about a foreign delegation or other,  visiting  our country at this tough time,  in order to pinpoint history, features of deeply rooted prosperity,   as antiquities telling much about the past of this great country _ we stand proud.  We are standing in the face of those conspirators aiming to hit tourism sector right at the tourism season beginning. To begin with, they are seeking to abort people wishing to come to Syria, in order to deprive it of a supportive resource for national income.

At the moment, their main objective is defaming and discrediting Syria reputation, as a welcoming country with a hospitable and generous people, being a dream destination to a large number of tourists. For most Syrians facing such a fierce wave of hatred, and being subjected to such machination; was unimaginable.  But those  destruction scheme are no longer secret to anyone and does not require interpretation.

At May beginning, 2011 a French tourist who came to Syria in the midst of events, made a statement that triggered Syria's enemies. He literally said in his account which came in response to a correspondent of foreign agency: “We have not seen anything that disturbs tourism in Syria” with his mates confirmation that tourism sector in our country we must work in one way or another, to keep it away from ongoing events consequences, and are being exploited to undermine the Tourism Ministry efforts, and its new managing to protect tourist season and keep it away from being influenced by what has happened or is happening.

It is well known to tourism departments in Syria that most of foreign touristic groups, who are still coming, are French, British, and Germans, followed by Dutch, Australians. All aforementioned confirms the fact that Syria remains a central location as a crossroad to enter history from its largest gate. Hence lies the importance of this unique prehistoric site, not only for Syria, but for middle east countries as for the whole world. That’s why to pay attention to the need of making tourism a society culture and a national duty, so it will play an influential role, if embed in the people’s awareness whether working in the tourism sector or not. Since tourism revenues will fall back on everyone’s pocket directly or indirectly.

I do believe that the association of tourism with culture, as a general concept could be established at a national level, especially when efforts of concerned institutions combine to achieve such an equation. For instance,  cooperation between ministries of tourism, media,  culture, education, and economy to set instructive program to preserve historic sites from the ongoing events in the country. As well as other activities, like civil communities that could be listed under the title “Refreshing tourism is everyone’s responsibility” making that logo an integrated part of the Syrian culture.  Forming a society that respects tourists and puts all available capabilities to be Syria’s voice and image for all visiting countries.

Our imperative objective as Syrians is to reflect our true image as a warm, generous, deeply-rooted people. Then leaving tourists to tell what their conscience and morals dictate them to say, when returning homeland.

In Syria, we all know that history trace, cuisine aroma, people warm scent can be mapped out to thousands of kilometers.  A location that cannot be missed, or striped from its advantage and ability to spread all over the world despite all conspiracy attempts. 

Haifaa Mafalani     

Alleys & Houses of Damascus

when you mention the name of Damascus the time cycle takes you on a journey through the many civilizations that passed by Damascus when someone stands at the gates of this wonderful city wondering in any age will go in every neighborhood and every alleyway tells tales of history when you stand in front of one of the old houses puzzled any story will live during some time takes your time to the past but this past is still going on splendor in the design and good cohabiting population customs and traditions still maintain their heritage and values every house and every corner testifies to the glorious past and the continuous present.

Alleys of Damascus:

The streets and markets long time ago were paved with stones and have sidewalk and itinerant tourists in markets attract them the neighborhoods and alleys and authentic scenes make them stop which are still maintained by the city among the most neighborhoods the first to draw attention is a wide door of the district which had been shutting down and they used a small door for passage in the middle of the big door which called (khokha) And see the houses of the neighborhoods has emerged with kiosks converged to each other and withheld the sun on narrow  alley and gave it an attractive shadow and stillness we find at the corner of the alley a water faucet which bystanders use it to drink and increases the attractiveness of the residential environment the quite golden colors of the walls which were built from wood and coated with mud mixed with straw. If we go in the neighborhood we see will twist and is divided into small alleys which leads to the doors of dozens of private homes.

There are too many alleys in Damascus and every alley leads to other every alley takes a unique name (Abu Habel) alley this name came from the family name used to live in this alley the tower alley in the medan area comes directly after the intersection of southern circular bridge with the district of Aljzmateha and so called because the presence of an old church there which was built by residents of this neighborhood when they came from Horan in the early nineteenth century The Gin Alley - south west of Hejaz station there are There is a possibility for the origin of this name is a large cemetery in the region from the reign of the mamluks and was been the in place of this alley and known as ahumairia cemetery and it had been removed in the beginning of the century per-haps the existence of this cemetery gave a reason to spread fear and terror in the hearts of some of the common people and has spread fake stories about the emergence of the jinn and demons today this alley turned to stores selling car parts and industrial equipment and some other workshops There are many other alleys each tells a story such as leprosy alley and is a tortuous and located between the al-hamidiyeh market and al-Nouri bimaristan bulgur alley inside Al-jabeha  gate  between the cotton market and Badawi street Albaltjeha alley in the eastern end of Canals alley and Mulberry well Alley off central shura sorties towards the east in the neighborhood of Alfoakhir Altgalbha alley at the top of sal-hiya erea hamraoui alley next to the Alazem palace from the north pomegranates alley in the alhekeba locality and the rock alley there are two alleys under this name the first one in Ki-wan and the second one between the processing school and the hospitality palace and wisdom alley.

H. Mafalani