You can buy some interesting-looking Iranian carpets along the main drag of Hammadiya. Forget about the antiquities near the Umayyad Mosque. Most of them are junk or fakes imported from Iran. Some nice knick-knacks and trinkets to be had, but you’ll certainly pay much more than they’re actually worth (about zilch).
Hiking in the countryside around Maaloula/Saidnaya (micro-buses from Zablatani cost approximately 25SL/.25 pence for a 30km journey). It’s possible to stay at the convent at Maaloula for a nominal sum, but be sure to get there early. Also, don’t miss the last buses back to Damascus (about 8 pm, but check on this).
Deir Mar Mousa, near Nabak, 100 kms from Damascus. Hike there from Nabak through some astonishing valleys and landscape (but beware of the local shepherds’ guard dogs). The monastery is presided over by the Italian Father Paulo. He loves an audience. You can stay there but all donations are happily accepted.
Also, walking the disused railway line from the Hijaz railway station out into the Damascus countryside as far as Bloudan (about 6-8 hours of moderate walking) is a great way to get an idea of Damascus’ modern and ancient character. As you get to Wadi Souq al-Barada, after Tel El-‘Awaameedh, you can see carvings on the cliff walls dating back to the beginning of the Christian era, when this area was known as the Tetrarchy of Abilene).
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