Skip to main content

The Day has arrived

The moment arrived precisely on time as a car pulled up to collect me from the hotel entrance. I felt no nerves, only a sense of eager anticipation. I left with just a small backpack containing the essentials, my suitcase stayed at the hotel, knowing and also hoping I would return to Beirut for one final night. “Eduardo”? the driver asked, and with a nod, I confirmed my identity. With a courteous gesture, he opened the car door, and I stepped inside, ready for the adventure. We made a brief stop to pick up the other traveler before setting off on the road. Leaving Beirut behind, we soon found ourselves on a narrow road leading to a car workshop. Here, we switched to another car with Syrian registration plates, and minutes later, we resumed our journey toward Damascus. The road was in good condition, but the sight of refugee camps along the way remined me of the region’s problems, not easy to witness that. As we neared the Lebanese border, military personnel began to appear along the roadside. Then finally, we arrived at the border checkpoint, where we had to disembark and proceed to an office with our driver. After a quick passport check, we received our exit stamps, officially marking our departure from Lebanon.

Continuing our journey, the road went through desolate yet stunning rocky mountains, their sandy tones painted a picturesque landscape. Sparse trees dotted the terrain, resembling tiny islands in a vast ocean of sand. The view was truly captivating, evoking memories of the mountains I saw when visiting Cyprus some years ago. In the distance, a road sign welcomed us to Syria, we got off the car and took quick some photos next to the sign, I know, such a touristy thing to do, but we could not help but to do it. As we approached, we noticed armed military personnel stationed nearby, signaling our arrival at the Syrian border checkpoint.

Exiting the car, we made our way towards this beige-colored building on the right side of the road, which housed the immigration counters. Inside, a group of elderly ladies with their head covered by their hijabs were going through the entry procedures ahead of us. We waited patiently, maintaining a cautious distance as our driver stood by with our passports. After a few minutes, it was our turn. Our driver handed over our travel documents with the visa letter to the border police, who meticulously checked them. While waiting, I glimpsed an officer casually strolling inside the building, smoking a cigarette. However, our attention quickly returned to the task at hand as we received our passports back, now stamped and that was all, we were officially welcomed into Syria. Returning to our car, we resumed our journey, and approximately 40 minutes later, we arrived in Damascus.

Damascus – The City

As we journeyed toward the city, there wasn’t much to catch our eye at first. Slowly, buildings and more cars came into view. There are few visible signs of war damage as Damascus was fortunate enough to escape the destruction faced by other cities. After reaching our accommodations, we finally met our fixer after all these months, who organized everything for us. After some greetings, we wasted no time in delving into the narrow streets of the old town with our fixer and now tour guide. Our first stop was at a wood artisan’s workshop, a family-run establishment with decades of history. After visiting the National Museum of Damascus, we wandered for hours althrough the bustling main market, reminiscent of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Amidst the maze of stalls and boutiques, families enjoyed simple pleasures like ice cream, while the youngsters captured moments with their mobile cameras. Social media is also popular there. The warm welcome from the locals added to the charm of our visit, making it unforgettable. We didn’t rush; we took our time to have little chats with the locals, telling them from where we were coming from, as they were curious about us, all while soaking in the sights and sounds, allowing us to fully absorb the lively energy of Damascus.

To conclude our day, we dined at a traditional Syrian restaurant. Each dish, from the freshly baked potatoes with basil, the refreshing fatouche salad adorned with pomegranate seeds to the velvety hummus served with warm bread, man, that dinner left us craving for more. We went for another walk into the old town, it was not weekend yet but it was full of people, and we ended it up on one of the main streets, stoaked with bars and restaurants. This place could be any old town in the world but with an arabian touch. I was impressed to see this “western look” in such a city, guys driving sports luxury cars and girls on high heels and mini-skirts. We ended up in a tiny cozy bar, where we were offered Syrian beer and just chilled there until it got very late; it was already midnight and we had to sleep. The next morning, we would travel to the very south of Syria, close to the Jordanian border, to explore the City of Daraa, the city where the protest started, that later unfolded in this senseless war.

See you next week with the next part.

Eduardo Ríos Lasso

Eduardo Rios Lasso emerged as a writer alongside his doctor's development. Born and raised in Panama City, Panama, his journey has taken him around the globe to dozens of countries. Along the way, he found a passion for inquisitive travel writing – storytelling designed to explore and seek out positive life experiences while also sharing the common interests and challenges that bring different cultures together.

Leave a Reply