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Before I visited Syria I was a bit apprehensive about the country, I did not really know what to expect. Soon after arriving I realised how welcoming and hospitable the Syrian people are and knew I had nothing to worry about.

My tour started in Damascus and we had the most knowledgeable guide “Mr Adbullah” who has written many books on Syrian History. We felt honoured to have Abdullah guiding us and quickly learnt he was something of a celebrity as people stopped him on his way for his autograph and photos!

The highlight of the trip for me was Aleppo with its most amazing hotels. In the old town the alleys are like a maze but deep inside them are the most amazing little hotels, some only have 8 rooms. The beautiful Islamic courtyard houses exhibit the splendors of Ottoman architecture which flourished in the seventeenth century. Distinctive of the Aleppine courtyard house, the courtyard is the center of the residence with the private residential quarters, the Iwan, covered patios, and the halls, that were designed and lavishly decorated to entertain guests, all face the courtyard. The courtyard, Iwan and halls have mostly now been converted into restaurants and resting areas and the private residential quarters have been converted into bedrooms. The hotels used on tour were full of character, quaint, extremely comfortable and very clean. The food was varied and plentiful throughout the tour.

A visit to Bosra with its well preserved amphitheatre is a must when visiting Syria. Our guide was excellent and made history come alive, it was like he had lived through these different centuries. He was always on hand even at night time to answer our many many questions. The visit to Palmyra was another amazing experience. With its ancient paved streets and the colonnaded streets, monumental arches, Temple of Baal and Valley of the Tombs. We also got to see Crac des Chevaliers which, is the most impressive Crusader Castle I have ever seen. Be sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes with you and for the ladies a scarf to cover your head and shoulders when entering Mosques and Churches, which can also double up as a good Sun shade too in the summer sun. Please note most days you will set off on tours at about 8 or 8:30am but this will allow you to get the most out of each tour as you will have some time to yourself to wander around these magnificent sites.

The souks offer plenty of opportunities to purchase a variety of local crafted gifts and souvenirs. Whether you are visiting the covered markets in Aleppo or Damascus, you will generally find the same things for sale. Popular items for tourists include silk scarves, backgammon games, carpets and water pipes. All can be bought for much less than they would be in Turkey. If you are looking for shoes, deals can be found.

I look forward to my next visit to Syria to explore such sights as St Simeon which I did not have time to see, next time though, I will remember to bring my walking shoes!

– Jill, Sales Manager