36 Hours in Damascus

This historically renown city dates back to biblical times and not only has Roman ruins and Islamic edifices, it also has lots of modern hotels, restaurants, and fashion districts, making Damascus a mix of ancient and cosmopolitan times. Read more in Seth Sherwood’s article, “36 Hours in Damascus” where he shares a mix of fun activities in Syria’s capital!

"The venerated eighth-century Umayyad Mosque." Photo by John Wreford for The New York Times.

“DAMASCUS loves to flaunt its age. It claims to be the world’s oldest inhabited city — replete with biblical and Koranic lore, Roman ruins, ancient Islamic edifices and Ottoman-era palaces. But that’s not to say the Syrian capital is stuck in time. Dozens of centuries-old mansions have been reborn as Mideast-chic hotels, and fashionable shops and restaurants have arisen in the ancient lanes of the Old City. Throw in a fledgling generation of bars and clubs, and the age-old metropolis has never looked so fresh.


5 p.m.

“Rise and go to the street called Straight.” That was God’s dictum to Ananias of Damascus, who cured Saul after he was famously blinded by the light, leading to his conversion and new identity as Paul. It’s still excellent advice. In recent years, the ancient edifices along Straight Street have welcomed design shops, Wi-Fi cafes and stylish hangouts like the Khan (Straight Street, Midhat Pasha Suq, Maktab Anbar district; 963-11-544-99340; thekhan-sy.com). The artsy mall opened this year in a 17th-century mansion and is filled with cool shops and galleries like Tajalliyat Art Gallery (which specializes in Syrian contemporary painters), Yabi & Yamo (modern updates of classic Syrian furniture) and Khanoum (Middle Eastern fashion designers).

8 p.m.

Also on Straight Street is Naranj (963-11-541-3600), a stylish new restaurant across from the Roman Arch. Under carved wood ceilings and soaring archways, a well-heeled international crowd smokes water pipes and chats animatedly as white-clad waiters serve excellent mezze including mekanek, tender sausages soaked in a light lemon broth. Also worthwhile are djaj mousakhan (a Levantine answer to the egg roll made from diced chicken that gets dusted in tangy sumac powder and deep fried in an oily-crisp bread shell) and burghal bi dfin (a slow-cooked leg of lamb served with mounds of fluffy steamed burghal). A large meal for two, without wine, runs about 2,000 lira (as Syrian pounds are commonly called), about $45 at 44.5 lira to the dollar.

10 p.m.

Cozy couches, bookshelves, local artworks and a decent bar have made Cham Mahal Art Café (Al Amin Street; 963-11-543-5349) into a de facto living room for the city’s creative set. On certain nights you’ll find jazz, guitar, flamenco or other groups giving concerts. The music sounds even better with a bottle of Lebanese Al Maza beer (100 lira) or a glass of Lebanese wine (175 lira) from Chateau Ksara.”

Read more on NYTimes Travel: 36 Hours in Damascus!