The name Damascus just sounds cool and it just has an aura of ancient and interesting in the sound of the word. That is exactly how I feel about Damascus, it has proven to be one of the most vibrant and interesting cities I have been to and I have to say that my $8 dinner last night was one of the best I have ever had-anywhere! Global politics the way they are and the location of Syria have scared many people from visiting this ancient land but from what I have seen so far-those people are missing out.
Walking around the old city of Damascus is like walking through a time warp. The souq is a labyrinth of streets and a maze of your mind, it is impossible not to get lost several times and following the map from Lonely Planet-forget it, it’s not possible. But that’s the fun of it because you never know whats around every corner. However, you are sure to find ridciulously good food stalls selling the best middle eastern food you’ve ever had and some of the coolest hidden restaurants in the typical “Damascene Houses”. These houses are scattered throughout the old city and look very dilapidated and insignificant from the outside but once you enter the restaurant you are blown away by what you see inside. It is huge, bright and beautiful, filled with mosaics and fountains, high ceilings and plants everywhere. This is what I ate in last night.
It started with the usual flat breads and pitas and of course a few orange fantas (the nectar of the gods) and then went into a typical Syrian salad-reminiscient of Moroccan salad and then into the soup which was onion soup-my favorite. The meat portion was huge and there were several different types of meat, I barely knew what to do with myself because I was in heaven. Everything was sublime and the service and the people couldn’t have been better. The atmosphere of the restaurant (I don’t remember the name of it because it was written in Arabic but I am trying to find out from the front desk once the person who recommended it gets in today) was awesome and very relaxing with the fountains going and faint background noise of people enjoying their food.
The only problem I had was that in the Middle East much like in Eastern Europe and a lot of the developing world, everyone smokes. It drives me crazy. For me it’s very hard to enjoy a meal if there is cigarette smoke blowing at you. It’s not like you can sit in the non smoking section either or even ask them to not smoke. I tried that and the Syrian guys looked at me like I had 3 heads, it was actually kind of funny. So you make due with what you can and at least the food was so good that it made up for it and I enjoyed it so much I am going to go back there for dinner tonight after my long daytrip to Aleppo in the north of Syria. My only thought is that if France can ban smoking indoors and half of them smoke then maybe it’s possible that one day it will be banned everywhere—But I doubt it!
After dinner I came back to the hotel to unwind for a bit and watched a typical Middle Eastern belly dancer perform at the bar/restaurant at the hotel. I had seen belly dancers before in other places in the Middle East and each time I am thinking to myself-this really isn’t that great. I understand the “beauty” of the dance but I have to say it really isn’t that intertesting or exciting and I would never go out of my way to watch one. The best part for me seeing the show is watching all of the Arab men smoke their Houkahs and comment to each other about the dancers
Anyway, I am about to head out to Aleppo with my driver Assam who speaks excellent English and promises me that he will drive faster and safer than a Formula 1 driver and knows a great place for lunch in Aleppo…away we go and hopefully tonight I can find out the name of the restaurant in Damascus. I will try to get something up later today on Aleppo after I get back to Damascus if I get a chance.