One of the more modern Arab Middle Eastern countries, Syria enjoys a scenic location along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Among many other countries, it also shares borders with Palestine and Israel to the southwest. This border, the Golan Heights, is the main source of dispute between Syria and Israel. Syria has an ancient history and the historic sites here rival those of its Middle Eastern neighbors. Additionally, it features the oldest continuously occupied city in the region – Damascus.
Syria’s largest city and capital is Damascus, situated around the Barada River and Ghouta Oasis, both of which provide vital water sources in an otherwise uninhabitable landscape. Settlement in the area is thought to have begun as long ago as 5000 BC. This intriguing city engulfs visitors in the warm and exotic flavors of its oriental bazaars and serves up some of Islam’s greatest monuments. The centre of the city is Martyrs’ Square (Saahat ash-Shohada) and most of the restaurants and hotels are in the vicinity. Bosra, 140kms south of Damascus, is made almost entirely from black basalt and also has one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world.
Aleppo (also known as Halab) is the second largest city. Here, you’ll find a delightful mix of souqs (markets), along with an interest citadel and museum. The citadel is encircled by a moat and you can cross over the bridge to the 12th century fortified gate. The only surviving buildings from the original citadel are a little 12th century mosque and the 13th century great mosque. The main attractions around Aleppo are the so-called Dead Cities, namely Jerada, Ruweiha, Serjilla and Al-Bara.
North of Aleppo and suitable for a half-day trip is Qala’at Samaan, one of the most important of the many archaeological sites that are scattered throughout the countryside in this area. The remains of the basilica are perched high on a rocky outcrop and are remarkably well preserved.