Amman and Damascus—two different animals

     I took a Jordanian service taxi to Syria, which is a regular car that leaves when it has four passengers. It costs a little bit more, but sometimes The Dromomaniac is worth it. At the border, between the checkpoints, our driver got dinged $50 by a Syrian guard for not wearing a seatbelt. Not wearing a seatbelt! Normally there are cobwebs on the seatbelts. He was livid. I would be livid. He shot out of the car and loudly protested, but that was that. A fellow passenger surmised that this was retribution over Jordan’s 2-1 victory over Syria in yesterday’s Asian Cup soccer match, but I thought that was a stretch.
     At Syrian immigration they checked every single page of my passport twice, presumably looking for evidence of a visit to Israel. Syria won’t allow anyone in that has been there; it’s one of the questions on the visa application. In Amman I met a young American who got his visa despite having an Egyptian exit stamp to Israel that everyone knows, but I think he’s in for a rude awakening when he actually tries to enter Syria.
Welcome to Syria!
     Last time I was here there was King Hussein of Jordan and President Hafez Assad of Syria, but now there are their sons, King Abdullah and Bashar Assad. In Jordan there are plenty of posters and billboards honoring the leaders, but in Syria they take the hagiography up a notch with monuments and concrete monoliths every few km on highway. It’s amazing to see.
     Amman feels like a quaint village compared to Damascus, which is better in that they honk their horns less than here. I say you can quickly and easily measure the level of a society’s civility by how much they honk their horns, but in any case this is very exciting. There is an amazing energy here. I am just on the edge of the enormous old town and bustling doesn’t begin to describe it.

Syrian menu

     You can't make me choose between sheep's testicles, freekeh with meat, and Jew's mallow.

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Amman and Damascus—two different animals — 2 Comments

  1. I am heading to Damascus towards the end of March…which hotel/hostel did you stay in and what were the prices? I am looking at budget places, and I have read that the prices are a lot higher than stated in the guide books!

  2. Yes, it’s true, prices are higher. For example, Ghazal Hotel in Damascus is 500 pounds without breakfast (46 pounds = $1) the Cairo Hotel here in Hama is 400, entrance to all of Palmyra is now 500, etc.

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