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Another day arrived. In the morning, I headed to the hotel restaurant and enjoyed a delicious Syrian breakfast with crunchy hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, coffee, and a very tasty cheese omelette; everything was delightful. In the dining area, I met two girls from China who were also traveling as tourists. Interestingly, Chinese nationals are the only ones who can move freely in Syria without a tour guide, as they have the option of a business visa. You can see many constructions in Syria being carried out by Chinese companies. A lot in the country has been rebuilt by them.

Outside, our dear driver and guide for the past two days was waiting. He introduced us to our guide for the day, a wonderfully kind, cheerful, and interesting young woman from whom we learned so much during the day’s journey. We hopped into the car and then headed south to the city of Bosra. Just as we left Damascus, we encountered numerous military checkpoints along the road; sometimes it felt like there was one every 5 kilometers. They checked not only our documents but also those of the driver and our guide. After about two hours, we reached Bosra, located less than an hour from the Jordanian border. This city was the starting point of the protests back in 2011 that eventually led to the Syrian civil war, we witnessed the destruction left by the senseless war, with many houses reduced to rubble. The locals recounted how thousands fled, never to return. But at the same time, we saw the resilience of those who stayed and survived. Despite everything, they are gradually getting back on their feet, though it’s not easy. Very few travelers dare to visit the city, there are a few craft stalls and a small restaurant. The locals told us they do everything possible to ensure peace remains.

We didn’t just visit the town of Bosra but also explored the ancient ruins of the city. Though scarred by the war, they still exuded elegance, showcasing their centuries-old history. That day, we also visited the Roman theater of Bosra, an incredible structure of Roman architecture in impeccable condition. I never imagined how spectacular it would be to stand there, not only because of its well-preserved state but also due to its perfect acoustics. People would stand on what used to be the stage and, speaking in a normal tone, their voices could be heard all the way to the top of that enormous theater, which can hold up to 15,000 people.

Later, we had a huge meal and chilled a bit. During that time, we encountered another small group of tourists exploring Syria, so we were not alone. After another walk, we decided to head back to the city. Once in Damascus, we went to the Umayyad Mosque, one of the largest and most stunning mosques in the world. In the afternoon, we visited the Shrine of Damascus, located in an elevated part of the city offering a spectacular view. There, we interacted with many local families, some sitting in groups of friends, others with family, all enjoying the sunset over Damascus with traditional shisha or freshly made coffee. It was like a picnic on the hill while enjoying the sunset, a very special experience. After a light dinner at a local restaurant, we ended the night with an hour or maybe two at a hammam. I slept very well that night.

The next day, we took a few turns around Damascus before heading north to the city of Ma’loula, a gem of a city, truly beautiful. One of the unique aspects of Ma’loula is that it is one of the few places where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. It was the highlight of my short time in Syria. That day, we continued past the city of Homs. With Krak des Chevaliers castle behind us, I said goodbye to those who had been with me for the past three days. Then, with another driver, we headed towards Beirut, crossing the border north of Tripoli and then traveling along the Lebanese Mediterranean coast until reaching Beirut to spend one last night there.

There was a lot of traffic at the border while we were going through customs, but still the officer kept looking at my passport, surprised that someone from a country like mine would visit his country as a tourist. He stamped my passport, and the crossing a bridge over the Orontes River which divide both countries naturally, marked my departure. He thanked me wholeheartedly, telling me that he was happy I was visiting his country and hoped I had had a good experience. I left reluctantly, but I promised to return. I don’t know when, but I hope life gives me another opportunity to come back to such a hospitable region.

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.

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