Jorgo is a travel blogger who runs the Unusual Travel Blog and specializes in visiting destinations that are off the beaten track. He recently decided to visit war-torn Syria to see the state of the country with his own eyes. His experience there was not quite what you might expect – for instance, he said that he felt safer wandering around the Damascus, the Syrian capital, at night than he did in most European cities.
Getting into the country wasn’t easy. By his own admission, Jorgo had to hire a “fixer” to help him obtain a visa, as well as get him into the country. He landed at Beirut International Airport just before 2 am on July 25th, 2018, and crossed the border into Syria with his contact, Youssef, at around 5 am that same morning. Some three hours later, Jorgo arrived in Damascus. Needless to say that he and Youssef had to pass through a few military checkpoints in order to get into the city, but they soon made it to his hotel in Bab Touma, which is the city's Christian district.
1. The stamp on Jorgo's passport to get into Syria made him ineligible for the USA's ESTA program, making it very difficult for him to visit the USA in the future.
2. The much-inflated national currency in Syria is the Syrian pound. 1000 Syrian pounds are the equivalent of about $2.
3. This is the street leading to the Beit Al-Wali hotel, where Jorgo stayed during his visit.
4. The hotel's courtyard is truly beautiful.
5. Another shot of the hotel's stunning courtyard.
6. Lots of tea is the order of the day when in Damascus - Syrians drink it regardless of how hot it is outside.
7. The streets of Damascus are almost deserted on a summer afternoon. That's because everyone takes a nap!
8. Bashar al-Assad's presence looms large in the streets of the city.
9. One of Bab Touma's streets has the most beautiful flowers.
10. This is Bab Touma square. Note the military checkpoint on the left and the police station on the right.
11. The beautiful courtyard of Jorgo's hotel at night.
12. A church in a cave in Bab Touma.
13. Jorgo headed out on the road to the Krak Des Chevaliers, which is one of the world's most well-preserved medieval castles.
14. On the way out of the city, Jorgo passed Douma. The destruction from a very recent fight was "very depressing to see".
15. More of the devastation in Douma was visible as Jorgo made his way to the castle.
16. It's not difficult to see where the allegiances of the owner of this roadside stop near Homs lie.
17. The closer he got to the castle, the more destruction Jorgo saw.
18. Finally, the magnificent Krak des Chevaliers came into view.
19. Although it was shelled in 2012 and damaged in an airstrike during the Siege of Homs in 2013, it's still in very good condition.
20. Let's hope it doesn't suffer more damage in future.
21. On his return to Damascus, Jorgo visited the Umayyad mosque, which is considered to be the fourth-holiest place in Islam.
22. The violence that has plagued Syria hasn't deterred visitors to Damascus' largest souk.
23. This is the spice souk, where many practitioners of traditional medicine can be sought out.
24. This used to be the hammam in Damascus' Azm Palace, which dates back to the times of the Ottoman Empire.
BONUS - Here's a short montage of Jorgo's unique trip:
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