From the Dead Sea to Damascus

October 12, 2008by Brenda Pierce

Ahhh, Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world! Unless of course you are in Aleppo! Ahhhh, Aleppo, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world! OK, so why do they both claim the title? Well both cities have evidence of continuous human habitation dating back longer than any other cities in the world, but I heard today the Damascus gets the official title because it is and has been a capitol city throughout much of its existance.

OK, but before we get to Damascus, I must tell you about the Dead Sea. We had a morning to spend a few hours soaking the Dead Sea, or just relaxing. I opted for the swim in the Dead Sea since I have studied a bit about Dead Sea salt and all its benefits so I could not pass this opportunity up to soak in the real deal. The water is like bath water. You wade in and when you get up to your hips you can just sit back and start floating. And let me tell you, float on your back! Don’t try to float on your stomach – it doesn’t work very well. You are so bouyant that your legs will not want to go back down to stand up. This creates a dilema when you want to get out! I tried and tried to get my legs under me but no way! I was thrashing around but it just wasn’t happening – everytime I would try I would roll over or tilt and not get my feet down. I finally ended up having to go into the very shallow water and then I could get my knees under me and stand up! Glad no one had a video camera.

Next was the mud treatment. Soft, silty mud can be found along the shore of the Dead Sea and it is loaded with minerals. You just reach down and scoop some up and start smearing it all over yourself for more youthful looking skin and to help with sking conditions and to draw out impurities. Once covered in the mud, you just stand or sit and let it dry in the sun for a bit, then wither rinse off in the Dead Sea or shower it off at one of the beach showers. One other thing is a must – completely rinse yourself after soaking the Dead Sea or you will experience chaffing and itching like you wouldn’t believe – I heard about that before from someone who apparently decided to skip the rinse and just got dressed strait from their soak. Big mistake, they discovered!

So after the Dead Sea we went to Amman for overnight, then the next day we departed for Syria with a stop in Jerash before the border, and then at Bosra after crossing into Syria. Both sights are very impressive and I highly recommend visiting both – the theater at Bosra is amazingly well preserved and the black basalt stone it is constructed with is unusual – most of the Roman cities we think of are white with the limestone and other lighter colored stones used in their construction.

Finally we made it to Damascus – yeah!! Damascus has a history dating back even further than the pyramids of Egypt. It figures prominently in Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic history and has remnants of almost all of its history still visible. The Ommayyad Mosque, for example, started out as a pagan temple, then bacame a Roman temple, then a Christian church and is now a mosque. All of its past can still be seen in the architecture – from the columns, minarets, mosaics, and arches. St. Paul was converted to Christianity in Damascus.

I won’t go into the complete history of Damascus here- it is far beyond my scope and I certainly don’t have the amount of time necessary on my free interent access at the hotel to do it justice! But to really start to see and understand the importance of Damascus, you really must walk the Street Called Strait and visit St. Hannaniya’s church, and walk the marbel floor of the Ommayyad Mosque to just scratch the surface.

One more thing not to be missed- the ice cream at one of the oldest shops in Damascus – the ice creamery in the Hamadiya Souk! YUM!!!

Tomorrow it is on to Palmyra, so more to come then!


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