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If ever a road was nargileh pipe-filled with eastern promise, it’s the original Road to Damascus from Jerusalem. Elite Tour Club could join you here, at Kawkab’s Greek Orthodox Church. This tiny ‘Abbey of St Paul the Messenger’ marks the rock-strewn site of 1st and 2nd-century ruins; the original monuments to Paul’s conversion to Christianity.

Around 35 AD, a couple of years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Saul rode within sight of Damascus when he was blinded by light and the vision of Jesus making a sudden comeback. In native Aramaic, Jesus demanded acceptance as the Messiah. He converted Saul, called him ‘Paul’ and bestowed on him a fabulously new ‘Apostle’ job-description. Hours later Paul’s eyesight was miraculously restored by Ananias. Ever since, ‘The Road to Damascus’ has symbolised ‘a sudden or radical change of mind about something’. And no wonder!

Nostalgically called ‘the city of Jasmine’, today Damascus is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. Back in the 2nd millennium BC, early settlers chose its 680m-high plateau to be the capital of the then Umayyad Caliphate. Its first foundations were laid beside the Ghouta oasis by Greeks and Aramaeans. Later, Romans upstaged them with seven-gated city ramparts. Today the eastern gate of Bab Sharqi remains, while most of Roman Damascus lies buried 3-to-5m beneath sand and sandstone.

It is said that there are more than 2,000 mosques in Damascus, and the 715 AD Umayyad Mosque is thought to be the oldest place of continuous prayer since the rise of Islam. It is certainly one of the largest. Here St John the Baptist and the great Arab warrior Saladin are interned. Nearby, intoxicatingly crowded Medhat Pasha Souk is a market to glory in, situated on what’s left of the main Roman thoroughfare, The Street Called Straight.

Syria’s medieval heritage is epitomised by Crak des Chevaliers, rising high on the peaks of Jebel Ansariya in north-west Syria. Originally built in 1031 AD, it was destined for prominence in many Crusades — from the first in 1099 until 1291’s ninth and final Crusade when the city of Acre fell, heralding the end of Latin Crusader kingdoms.

Syria is a wondrously exciting land of ancient empires. With Elite Tour Club you’ll visit the port cities of Ugarit and Latakia, then Roman Apamea; and at the closing stages of the Silk Road, Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. We’ll also travel eastwards along the Euphrates to Mesopotamian sites of extraordinary significance. And then there’s Palmyra, the city of palms and oases that travellers and merchants have long anticipated as ‘the Bride of the Desert’; a fitting epithet for Syria herself.

Ask our travel consultants or browse our suggested itineraries for Elite Tour Club's Syria tours.


Ancient and Biblical Damascus

Syria Tour Highlights

Ancient and Biblical Damascus; Theatre City of Bosra; as the 16th century dawned, Palmyra lay buried and abandoned…..