Just beyond the Roman Arch on Qeimarieh Street in Damascus's Old City is the tiny Summers Gallery, which showcases and sells signed photographs by British freelance journalist John Wreford. Wreford's outsider's take on the Middle East and especially Syria (where he lives) is totally original, free of cliche and often humorous. Check out his pictures of Damascus's pigeon fanciers.
Summers Gallery, near the Roman Arch (just south of Nofara cafe), Old City Damascus. Call John Wreford's mobile if you can't find it 00963 944 361 947. www.johnwreford.com
With your back to the south entrance of the Umayyad Mosque, walk down the small souk facing you. It's the old Gold Souk, aka souk Al Sagha. Look for a sign to "Papa Joseph's", an antique knick-knack shop on the right-hand side above a perfume shop, and follow the narrow stairs all the way up to the shop. From outside the shop, you can look over the lane into partly-excavated Roman baths not seen from street level. The shop keepers keep their generators in the enclave, but it is still easy to see how the Romans built beautiful baths for the brief time the Umayyad Mosque was a church.
Souq Assagha, just off Souq Al Hamidiyeh
Google map: bit.ly/a8cLU1
Even if it's a Friday and the souks - in whichever country - are closed, it's worth wandering around them to appreciate their architecture. The bustle of shoppers and shopkeepers often means that it's hard to see interesting details. In Damascus, where the souks are not closed off when the shops are shut on Fridays, walkers can glimpse fragments of tiles, amazing ceilings, and shop signs not easy to spot on other days.
Google map: bit.ly/a8cLU1
One family still weaves goat hair Bedouin tents in Damascus, in the heart of the souk where the Bedouin come in from the desert to buy them. You will find them as you go through Bab Al Faraj, one of the Old City's seven gates. Bear left, and look out for the workshop at number 65 on the left-hand side. If Mohammed is there he will gladly show you upstairs how he teases the coarse hair into balls of wool by walking backwards down the length of the room.
Also in Damascus, don't miss the atmospheric saddle souk (Souk Srijeh), where horse and camel saddles and talismanic paraphernalia are still made and sold. To enter it, stand outside the Damascus citadel (facing it) and take the first souk to your left after the little bridge over the river.
Once you have walked through the saddle souk, turn right on to the main road, Malek Al Faisal Street, where you will see, on the left-hand side, the copper souk (Souk Nahassin), consisting of two, dark covered alleys. Inside you will see men making mosque spires and Christian baptismal fonts, door handles, hot water tanks and re-tinning cooking utensils. Fascinating to watch!
Souq al Hamidiyeh
Google map: bit.ly/9FNAil
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