When you enter an old souk (bazaar) in Syria, you will realize that history is something alive and tangible, something you can see, touch and smell.
In Damascus, if you walk down a street called Midhat Pasha, you might feel like you are walking alongside Saul of Tarsus, suddenly transformed into St Paul on seeing the light of faith, the light on "the road to Damascus".
A journey through a Syrian town is a journey into both the past and the present at the same time. You might happen on a Roman arch, built centuries before Christ, under which you might find a shop selling the latest electronic gadgets. Or you may pass on Ottoman caravanserai, bustling under its evocative Arabesque designs with present-day commercial activity.
Damascus, the world's oldest inhabited city, contains Greek ruins built over Aramean temples, and minarets rising over Crusader remains. The Omayyad mosque, a great edifice of Islamic civilization, became a prototype of Islamic architecture, from Spain to Samarkhand.
In Aleppo, a grand fortress rises before you, on the very mount where, in the year 2,000 BC, Abraham is said to have milked his cow, giving the site of the city its name, Halab (in Arabic "to milk"). The long, winding stone bazaar of Aleppo is one of the most beautiful in the East, replete with locally-famous coloured silk scarves, perfumes, and soaps still made to ancient recipes.
On the northern coast, your imagination can wander back unhindered by the modern ships you see- to those early sailors who set forth from this very shore, taking their coloured glass, their cloth of gold, their carved wood, and their alphabet to the far-flung regions of the known world.
The villages of Syria, whether they nestle in mountain valleys, or cluster along the coast, or border a great desert, are unique in their traditions and in the native costumes of their inhabitants. Maaloula, a village not far from Damascus where the houses are carved out of the mountain stone, still speaks Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ