The Arab World’s Oldest New City
Damascus is the oldest inhabited city in the world. It is a living landmark that’s survived over the centuries weathering successive civilizations, invaders and travellers from Egypt, Greece and Rome, Crusaders, Mongols, Ottomans, and the French. As Mark Twain, a lover of the city wrote of its longevity, "To Damascus years are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality."
Part of Damascus’s ancient and present-day charm is its incredible hospitality. The Telegraph's journalist Tim Jepson described Damascus as a "ravishing city, with an extraordinary history, extraordinary sights and extraordinary people – kind, cultured, tolerant, hospitable, courteous and well-educated." It's not just writers like Twain and Jepson, who’ve taken a take a shine to Damascus. Cultural institutions like UNESCO selected Damascus as the "Arab Capital of Culture" in 2008.
As it stands today, Damascus is thriving and modern Arab city. The New York Times’s Seth Sherwood described how Damascus has put a modern spin on its ancient landmarks. Sherwood writes, "Dozens of centuries-old mansions have been reborn as Mideast-chic hotels, and fashionable shops and restaurants have arisen in the ancient lanes of the Old City. Throw in a fledgling generation of bars and clubs, and the age-old metropolis has never looked so fresh."
Four Seasons Hotel Damascus is located right in the epicenter of the old and new city. Just around the iconic hotel building's corner, you'll find souk markets from the 15th century and the National Museum of Damascus, which is famous for artifacts, like a tablet from Ugarit, an ancient city. The tablet is inscribed in one of the world's first recorded alphabets.
In addition to the cultural art centers and museums, there are plenty of festivities and special events to enjoy. Recently, Britpop star Damon Albarn recorded a live album with the National Orchestra for Arab Music in Syria at the Damascus Citadel, a 1,000-year-old walled palace in the northwest corner of the city. The lineup included: Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde, Paul Simon, Mick Jones of The Clash, and Shaun Ryder of The Happy Mondays. Once you've checked out the old sites and new offerings, take a morning or afternoon trip to Lebanon or Jordan–or both! Damascus is only a two-hour drive from Beirut and three-hour ride to Amman, where you can continue experiencing the old Middle East, and soaking up the flavor of all that is new.