Damascus claims to be the oldest continuously inhabitated city in the World and I tend to agree with that statement. Today, modern Damascus is spread out in all directions, but the Old City has witnessed human civilization since 3rd millennium BC. It still retains it’s attraction; popular among the locals as well as the tourist. Which was where we spent the whole 3 nights and days we were there.
The Old City lays to the lower to the south east of the modern city. It is defined by an encircling wall with 13 gates in and out of the Old City. The city wall was first erected by the Romans and since then has been flattened and rebuilt several times over the last 2000 years or more.
The most popular gate to go through is the Souq al Hamadiyya, or another popular entrance is through Bab (gate) Al-Jabiye, where the famous Straight Street is – it is the street that is mentioned in the Bible. However, inside the Old City there are inner gates that divide it into Christian, Jewish and Islamic quarters. These inner gates are now gone, but one can still feel the difference.
We were there on a Friday evening with our local friends who showed us around and entering the Old City through Bab al-Farag, behind the Citadel we came straight to Umayyad Mosque (this is supposed to be the Islamic quarters), everything was closed. All the maze like alleyways were quiet. We then walked all the way to the other end of the Old City, to the opposite gate, Bab Touma (Thomas Gate), where the place was full of people out and about, young people partying with very loud music, shops and local cafe shops still open; totally the opposite from the gate where we came in first time.
“This is the Christian quarter,” explained our friend, “people are still alive on Friday evening, however, this will be different on Sunday; everything is quiet, and all the action is on the other end of the Old City.”
However, inside the Old City of Damascus, we found a lot of historical monuments, from churches, mosques, baths, as well as a simple “Straight Street” which was mentioned in the Bible.