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Aleppo and Damascus in Syria claim to be two of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world; Aleppo has a sweet, authentic-feeling souk and a pretty Christian quarter, and the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus is an alluring blend of the Islamic with Pagan roots.

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Krak de Chevaliers is the most finely preserved medieval castle in the world, the ancient ruins of the caravan route at Palmyra – an oasis in the middle of the desert – bleed pink at sunrise and sunset, and the Cities of the Dead are a spooky reminder of the temporal nature of man’s creations.

And the food: delicate mezze and fruity kebabs, washed down with arak and a bubbling water pipe, will make you wonder how you ever managed to rush a meal in your life.

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