We asked the Concierge team at the Four Seasons Hotel Damascus to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions they could find—not just their own, but also those of other local connoisseurs, including some they work with every day at the Hotel. Enjoy the mystery and allure of what is believed to be the world’s oldest city, with its traditional souks, Middle Eastern foods, art and architecture.
There is arguably no better place to absorb the city’s intellectual flavour than Rawda on Abed Street in the heart of downtown. Coffee, tea, apple-tobacco (shisha) smoked in water pipes and backgammon are secondary to the non-stop animated dialogue, fuelled by a superbly diverse crowd. For those who cannot live without excellent espresso and high-speed Internet, try the trendy Segafredo or Moka & More on Damascus Boulevard.
Shopping in the Souks
The three covered bazaars of Damascus cover all bases for finding quality gifts and souvenirs. Souk al-Bzouriyeh runs from Azem Palace to Souk Midhat Pasha, and is known for its spice and soap shops. Souk al-Hamidiyeh is the place to find gold and silver jewellery, copper cookware and ornate brass trays, particularly at Hamsho’s, a treasure chest of a shop. Souk al-Harir is filled with silk and pashmina shawls and colourful dresses. Modern venues: At Damasquino and Cham City Centre Mall, designer names abound.
Into the Past
Collections at the National Museum recall a Syria that occupied a unique niche at the apex of the ancient world, embracing a multiculturalism that spawned diverse art. There are works from the Bronze Age sites of Ugarit and Mari and the Roman Empire, a broad array of Islamic art, and the world’s first alphabet. Toss a short architectural tour into the mix by crossing the street and exploring the black-and-white stone mosque built in 1590 by Sinan Pasha, the Ottoman-appointed governor of Damascus.