Monday, August 09, 2004

SYRIA PART III : DAMASCUS

There are lots of places to visit in Syria, and I won’t go over them all and I have not been to all of them either. The sites that are a must in Damascus are Souq Hamidiye, the Citadel, Nur al-Din Hospital and Museum, Madrasat Zahiriye and Adiliye, the Tomb of Salah al-Din and the Omayyad Mosque which has an interesting feature to Christians namely the South-East minaret called Madhanat Issa, or the Tower of Jesus. According to Muslim tradition Jesus will descend to earth via this tower to fight the Antichrist before the Day of Judgment. Also the Azem Palace museum and Souq Assagha (the gold market). Do not miss a visit to the Hammam al-Malik al-Zaher (Turkish style steam room, massage room, and bath). Dating from the 11th or 12th century the baths have been completely restored and modernized.

Souk Midhat Pasha, is an important trading center situated inside the wall of old Damascus. No historian could trace its origins, which means it is very old. It extends along the western street between Bab al Jabiya and Souk al Bouzouriya paralleling Souk al Hamidiya in the west with many small bazaars branching from it on both sides. Each souk specializes in some items, fabrics, clothes, rugs, herbs, cleaning material, spices, perfumes, kitchen ware etc.. It was Hussein Nazem Pasha who covered the souk with a roof in 1911 with corrugated tin and iron boards to protect it from fire, you can still see the bullet and shell holes made by the French troops who shelled the Alhariqa area in 1925.


At the top of the Qassiun Mountain, towering over Damascus and the Rukn al Din area is the Shrine of the 40 Warriors built over a cave as old as humanity itself, called the Cave of Blood, with reference to it being the spot of the first crime: where Cain killed his brother Abel. Historians say that it also became the place of a temple which was transformed into a convent then to a mosque in 635 AC. It is not known exactly when the shrine was built in the cave but it was first mentioned by the historian Asaker ibn Dimasq in 1175 AC. Its most popular name is the 40 men, because of the bodies of the 40 holy warriors buried in the mosque. These 40 men are famous martyrs ( Shuhada’)who when they were buried legend has it that all raised their right legs out of the tomb in unison to show that the body of a martyr ( Shahid) never rots. My mother swears that when she visited the shrine as a child she actually saw the 40 legs and they looked full of life, and the smell coming out from the earth was beautiful centuries after these men had died. Nowadays you are not allowed to touch the bodies of these warriors and the legs have been covered not to be abused by crowds. So this place is important in 2 ways, Abel died there, and it is the last repose of some heroic men.

3 comments:

Donald said...

I served in the US Navy during the early 80's and was off the coast of Beirut while our Marines were on the beach. Since that time I have always wanted to visit Beirut and Damascus. Unfortunately, the situation in that area has not permited me to visit. I am always thankful to be able to read reports about those two cities and the description of the important historical, especially Christian, structures. I do hope to visit in my life time. Thank you so much for your comments.

Donald said...

So much for my spelling......

Highlander said...

You are welcome Donald I'll posting my photos as well as soon as possible. Glad you enjoyed the posts