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Photo: loufi

Trips co-editor Hal Amen publicizes one of his many travel longings and calls out the online content responsible for it.
1. No more travel advisory

The U.S. State Department issues travel advisories that many, including myself, feel are too conservative (the issue is discussed by JoAnna Haugen in depth in Should You Listen To Travel Warnings About Honduras?).

So if they’re willing to lift the advisory on Syria, that goes far to assuaging any safety concerns I may have had.

The NYT article linked above states that Syria is “crucial to peace in the region.” Time to get out the passport, meet the people, and promote world peace.

2. The Dead Cities

In northern Syria, not too far north of the little pocket where the last communities of Aramaic speakers live, lie Syria’s mysterious Dead Cities, “780 abandoned settlements dating back to between the fifth and eighth centuries.”

There are also remnants of an Iron Age temple from around 1200 BC.

Several of the Dead Cities have been dug by archaeologists and are laid out for visitors with useful signs and information; others lie within modern villages: strange stone towers sprouting from gardens, fragments of carved lintels lying under the pistachio trees.

There’s so much history in Syria — Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, the Silk Road, the Crusades. But this region — probably the entire country — is seriously under-touristed. Seeing these lesser-known ruins would certainly be on my itinerary.

3. Aleppo’s rise

The Dead Cities are an easy drive south of Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world and a great place to see the synthesis of all the cultures mentioned above. Plus the souks, hammams, and other attractions familiar to Middle East travelers.

As The New York Times reports, the city’s tourism industry is growing. They quote Karam Artin, a 20-year-old interior design student:

In a few years, this city will be swarming with tourists, and, hopefully, even more American visitors.

Now is the time to go.

4. Reading Matador Network content

As a Matador editor, it’s my pleasure to read (or, on a bad day, at the very least skim) every article published across the Network. I could plan an entire trip based on this content.

Matador Abroad has my back with Useful Arabic Phrases For Travelers. I’d of course check in with dwb, our destination expert for Syria.

And Matador’s other regional experts could help me out if I decided to scope 6 Under-the-Radar Destinations In The Middle East.

Where are you dying to travel to RIGHT NOW, and which online content inspired you to go? Share your stoke in the comments.

Community Connection

If you’ve traveled to Syria and blogged the experience, I’d love to read your work. Leave a link in the comments. Or better yet, post a Matador blog about it.

Culture + Religion


About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • Nancy

    I’m convinced. Adding Syria to my list of places to travel right now. Other destinations on the list: Russia, Jordan, Turkey, India.

  • Tim Patterson

    Me too!

    Dragons is running our first program in the Middle East this summer, and Damascus is on the itinerary. I think a field visit might be in the cards for this summer…

    Check it out here: east

  • Heather Carreiro

    Syria’s been on my wish list for a while, although I was really bummed last year when the Syrian government closed the long-standing American Community School in Damascus. I had literally just sent my resume and cover letter to the school for an open English position with the gov shut it down – a response to US bombing into Syrian territory.

  • Anya

    Inspiring! As for me, I always travel for history and literature, so Syria in my imagination is that land of crusades and other medieval stuff I study :)

    My next destination is Nepal and Tibet: have been dreaming about it since forever.

  • dan

    is that TIna Fey in the picture at the top?

  • clareawasw

    Thank you!! I’ve been trying to convince my American husband (I am British) that we should go to Syria next year and he looked at me like I was mad. Maybe this article will convince him.

  • Nick

    Guys – Syria is amazing, go there NOW! Friendly, but not in-your-face people, great food, amazing cities and some cool sites. Cheap, too ; )

    For what it’s worth, I think Krak de Chevalier is the best castle in the world (not that I’ve seen all of them, mind!). Lawrence of Arabia agreed…

    And the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus is possibly the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen. Interesting history, too: a whole succession of religions had their chief temple there, and successive belief systems just took over the site.

  • Bethany

    I’ve been wanting to go to Syria or Lebanon for quite awhile. Do you guys know if there are any decent paying English teaching jobs to be found in either of these places? Or do you guys have other ideas for finding work and staying there for a little while? Thanks:)

  • lara dunston

    Because of the American travel advisories, a lot of Americans have avoided Syria for a long time, which is very sad, because it has been a popular travel destination for Europeans (especially, the French, Germans and Italians) and Middle-Easterners for a *very* long time (after Lebanon, it’s the most popular summer holiday spot for Gulf Arabs – far cooler than Dubai and Doha!).

    I’ve actually been writing about Syria for 12 years and travelling there frequently and while tourism has always been one of the country’s main sources of incomes, there has been an absolute boom there over the last few summers. NOW *is* the time to go!

  • KB

    Right there with you! Or, I wish I were there.

    Syria’s been at the top of my travel list since I last touched down on home soil – I’m just dying to get there! Thanks for fanning the flames…

  • Sarah Irving

    Yeah, Syria was right up top of my list too… unfortunately the Syrians didn’t like the look of me (too much pro-Palestinian activity, ironically). They denied me a visa and kept my passport for EIGHT (count ‘em) months. If you’re not going with an organised tour group, don’t make plans until you have that visa stamp in your passport…

    • Hal Amen

      That’s terrible! Did they take it at the border, or were you applying at an embassy?

  • Francoise

    I second what Nick and Lara say! I’ve been twice (2001 and 2009) and can attest that the country is changing fast.

    Anyone with any interest in the Middle East is sorely missing out if they’re avoiding Syria. It is also very affordable if you’re on a budget.

    The country has some of the finest Roman ruins outside of Italy as well (Palmyra, Apamea, to name just two).

  • Hana

    I have been to syria 4 times now (1999, 2002, 2005 & 2009) Syria is deifinitely the place to go! It has the best Markets (if you know how to bargain), the best food and Icecream! and for those who love their history as Francoise wrote ” The country has some of the finest Roman ruins”. If it’s your first time in the country a tour guide would be a good option.

  • Abdulmoeen

    We welcome you to your arrival to Syria
    Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic, and I appreciate your attitude of my beautiful
    If I wanted to come to Syria next time I hope to have had the honor take you to archaeological sites in Aleppo, Homs and Hamaha and other
    Bddoumi lit Syrian Arab Republic

  • Kezia

    Syria is definitely a cool place to visit….I actually moved here 6 months ago from Boston. I’m blogging about the experience at If anyone has specific question about visiting the country feel free to shoot me an email.

    Syria is most definitely off the beaten path so it’s a lot more challenging as a toursits than Mexico (for example). Still the country is super safe, relatively cheap, and one of the least westernized countries I’ve been to.

    Worth a visit!!!

  • Pingback: Five Minutes of Syria

  • Bobby Linton

    go to syria at your own peril… you will end up on a video sitting in front of mask men, getting ready to BEHEAD you…i am staying in america.

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