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Syria is, like most of the countries in the middle east, full of history and antiquity. Many civilisations have flourished in this region over thousands of years. Syria today is a fascinating place to visit, full of dark Roman ruins and busy markets.

We visited Syria in October 1998, staying with family friends in an apartment in Damascus. Our friends' driver was very helpful during our stay and drove us around most of the country. However, like most Syrians his driving was a little below par, as demonstrated when he drove up the down sliproad onto a motorway, and then straight over the central reservation to get to the other carriageway.

Old Damascus

This is what some of Damascus was like, quite similar to the old medinas in Morocco and Tunisia, but most of the city was more modernised and built up. The main roads in Damascus have six lanes of traffic each way, but the industrious drivers squeeze nine cars side by side as they charge along to a ten lane unregulated roundabout.

Here is the Umayyad Great Mosque, the largest and most important that we visited in Damascus. Inside the huge hall were hundreds of Persian rugs all woven together to create a wall-to-wall moster carpet masterpiece. The little grim reaper next to me is my sister, who had to keep in line with Muslim dress for women.

Central Mosque

Iranian Mosque

Another Mosque we visited was an Iranian one, which this picture unfortunately doesn't do justice to. Each vault in the roof was encrusted in little pieces of mirrored glass which all reflected and sparkled off each other. It was like looking up into a giant glitterball.

Krak des Chevaliers is a fine example of Crusader architecture, a superb fortress full of tunnels to be explored. Whilst driving up here the road (which was very busy and not unlike the M8 in Glasgow) seemed to disappear. The traffic seemed unphased, and we just kept on trukkin' over the hard packed desert sand, with lorryloads of soldiers heading for Turkey passing by, until the road reappeared after a few miles. Weird.

Krak des Chevaliers

Palmira Temple

This is part of the largest temple in Palmira, an ancient and once important trading post right in the middle of the Syrian desert. The temple has been brought down gradually by attacks and earthquakes since it was built around the 2nd century AD.

This shot gives a clue as to why Palmira was so important - it was the only water source for many miles, a positively lush oasis in the middle of the baking desert.

You're my wonderwall...

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2002