Art collectors should head for the prestigious Ayyam Gallery in the centre of the city, or Al-Khoury Arts Hall on Straight Street. You can also take an art tour through Al-Amin Street, in the former Jewish quarter, and meet top Syrian artists like Mustafa Ali. Don’t leave the quarter without seeing the restoration of Beit Farhi, the palace of Raphael Farhi, financial adviser to the Ottoman sultanate, with its Hebrew inscriptions in the reception hall and orange trees in the courtyard.
After a day touring ancient mosques, pamper yourself with a healing process once reserved for Palmyrian royalty. The Balloran Spa offers the Zanobia massage, in which warm poultices infused with aromatic oils soothe tired muscles. Or opt for the Orient blend massage based on the theory of energy meridians, using acupressure to invigorate and energise. Or simply stretch out in the steam room and let the peace, quiet and heat work their magic.
The colours and patterns, and the sensations that these Persian rugs evoke, will send you flying, figuratively if not literally. The rugs are said to be the most exotic collection outside of Persia itself. Look for kilims from the Kurdish area of Ifrin in northern Syria, which can be something of a specialty in Damascus, in terms of unique designs and quality. Try Yasser near Nofara, or Samir & Khaldoun.