iExplore Syria

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  • Privately Guided
  • Starting Price: $1,859
  • Length: 8 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
    Destinations: Middle East, Syria
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Tour Description

Syria's friendliness, beauty and history will astound you as we explore dramatic crusader castles, citadels, monasteries, ruins, souks and a stunning desert city.

Itinerary

Day 1: Damscaus

Arrive at the Damascus Airport and transfer to your Hotel. Alternately we can arrange for you to be picked up at your hotel in Amman, Jordan and be driven to the Syria/Jordan border where you will be met and driven to Damascus. You will have the opportunity to stop and have lunch at Bosra. Then continue your drive to Damascus (By Jordanian transportation).

Talisman Al-Ameen Hotel “1”

Day 2: Damscaus

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then head out for sightseeing of Damascus National museum, Umayyad mosque, straight street, Hanania church, St Paul, Salah din tomb. Have lunch at a local restaurant and continue to visit the covered bazaar.

A full day of activities have been arranged for you. See Omayyad Mosque from 636 when the Muslims entered Damascus. The history of the site goes back about 3,000 years to the 9th century BC. It has changed hands from the Aramaens to the Romans and to the Christians, before the Muslims converted it into a mosque after taking over the city. After the fire of 1893, only three minarets date back to the original construction. The minaret located on the southeastern corner, is the reputed site where Jesus will appear on Judgment Day, aptly named the Minaret of Jesus.

Continue on to the Azem Palace. Built in 1749, this charming palace with its lush gardens and intricate interior decoration also displays exhibits of the Museum of the Arts and Popular Traditions of Syria. Visit the chapel of St. Ananea, located in the cellar of one of Christianity’s first disciples and St. Paul’s Chapel, where the disciples lowered St. Paul out the window to flee from persecuted Jews. The National Museum contains written cylinders some from Ugarit, which use the first known alphabet (14th century BC). Also exhibited are various marble and terra cotta statues, frescoes, ancient tools, glassware and jewelry.

Damascus is known for its popular markets and you will visit three of the most interesting. Al-Hamidieh Souq is one of the most famous because of its outstanding display of traditional arts. Madhat Basha Souq brings to mind the Biblical story of St. Paul, St. Hananya and the Straight road. Al-Buzurieh Souq is well-known for vast selection of eastern spices and local confectionaries. No tour of Damascus is complete without a visit to the Hand Craft Market.

At the end of your sightseeing you will drive to Mont Kassioun for a panoramic view overlooking Damascus.

Talisman Al-Ameen Hotel “1” (B)

Day 3: Damascus - Lattakia

After breakfast, drive to visit Sednaya- Maaloula- Qoudash and Um El Znar church. You will have lunch at a local restaurant and then continue on to visit Khaled bi waled mosque and crack des chevaliers.

Maaloula is one of the most scenic villages in Syria and is the only place in the world where Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ, is still used as a living language. The word Maaloula means entrance in Aramaic. Crac des Chevaliers is the most famous medieval citadel in the world. The citadel covers an area of 3000 square meters and has 13 huge towers, in addition to many stores, tanks, corridors, bridges and stables. It was the headquarters of the Hospitaliers, a fighting monastic order. Its history begins in ancient times, through Islamic capture and through the Crusades, and is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Afamia Rotana Resort (B)

Day 4: Lattakia - Aleppo

After breakfast drive to visit Ugarit, Salah din castle, and have lunch at a local restaurant. Continue on to your next stop at Aphamia.

Ugarit’s location was forgotten until 1928 when an Alawite peasant accidentally opened an old tomb while plowing a field. He had stumbled upon the Necropolis of Ugarit. The subsequent excavations have revealed an important city that takes its place alongside Ur and Eridu as a cradle of urban culture. Most excavations of Ugarit were undertaken under dangerous political conditions by archaeologist Claude Schaeffer from the Prehistoric and Gallo-Roman Museum of Strasbourg.

Ugarit was at its height from c. 1450 BC to 1200 BC, but was inhabited by 6,000 BC or even earlier. The first written evidence mentioning the city comes from the nearby city of Ebla c. 1800 BC. Ugarit passed into the sphere of influence of Egypt, which deeply influenced its art. The earliest Ugaritic contact (and the first exact dating of Ugaritic civilization) comes from a carnelian bead identified with the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Sesostris I, 1971 BC-1926 BC. A stela and a statuette from the Egyptian pharaohs Sesostris II and Amenemhet III have also been found.

Later Ugarit fell under the control of new tribes related to the Hyksos, who mutilated the Egyptian-style monuments. During its high culture, from the 16th to the 13th century BC, Ugarit remained in constant touch with Egypt and Cyprus. The last Bronze Age king of Ugarit, Amurapi, was a contemporary of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma II. The exact dates of his reign are unknown. A cuneiform tablet found in 1986 shows that Ugarit was destroyed after the death of Merneptah probably in 1195 BC. Whether Ugarit was destroyed before or after Hattusa, the Hittite capital, is debated.

Scribes in Ugarit appear to have originated the Ugaritic alphabet around 1400 BC. Thirty letters corresponding to sounds were adapted from cuneiform characters and inscribed on clay tablets. There is ongoing debate as to whether the Phoenician or Ugaritic alphabet is the oldest. It was the Phoenician alphabet that spread through the Aegean and on Phoenician trade routes throughout the Mediterranean. Compared with the difficulty of writing Akkadian in cuneiform—such as the Amarna Letters, from ca. 1350 BC— the flexibility of an alphabet opened a horizon of literacy to many more kinds of people In addition to royal correspondence with neighboring Bronze Age monarchs, Ugaritic literature from tablets found in the libraries include mythological texts written in a narrative poetry, letters, legal documents such as land transfers, a few international treaties, and a number of administrative lists. Fragments of several poetic works have been identified: the “Legend of Kirtu,” and the “Legend of Dan-el,” the Ba’al tales that detail Baal-Hadad’s conflicts with Yam and Mot. The most important piece of literature recovered from Ugarit is arguably the Baal cycle, describing the basis for the religion and cult of the Canaanite Baal.

The discovery of the Ugaritic archives has been of great significance to biblical scholarship, as these archives for the first time provided a detailed description of Canaanite religious beliefs during the period directly preceding the Israelite settlement. These texts show significant parallels to Biblical literature, particularly in the areas of divine imagery and poetic form. Ugaritic has many elements later found in Hebrew poetry: parallelisms, meters, and rhythms. The discoveries at Ugarit have led to a new appraisal of the Old Testament as literature.

Saleh el-Din is often considered one of the most prestigious castles of the medieval period, especially the most romantic. It is situated at the top of a very difficult route up the mountains, and its strategic position goes back in history to the Phoenicians who controlled this site in the 1st Millennium BC, and were still holding it when Alexander the Great arrived in 333 BC. One of the most magnificent features of this fortress is the 28m deep ditch, which was cut into living rock probably by the Byzantines.

Martini Hotel (Dar Zamaria) (B)

Day 5: Aleppo

Enjoy breakfast, sightseeing the Aleppo Great mosque, and a covered bazzar. Have lunch at a local restaurant along the drive to visit St Simeon.

Today is a full day in Aleppo. Visit the old town’s vast bustling souks built beneath limestone arches, alive with the colors and aromas of the Levant. Tour the Grand Mosque located on the northern edge of the souks. The freestanding minaret was built around 1090, but the origins of the mosque dates back to early Islamic times. Much of what remains today is from the Marmluk period. Inside the Mosque Behand carved wooden pulpit is supposed to be the head of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. The Islamic Citadel sits strikingly at the eastern end of the souks. The site where the citadel stands has been in use since the 10th century BC. Most of the citadel was built in the 12th century, including the massive gate and fortified main entrance. You will find the outside to be finely decorated and inside you will visit the armory, the Byzantine Hall, the small 12th century mosque and the bigger 13th century mosque, and the Royal Palace with its lavishly restored throne room.

Martini Hotel (Dar Zamaria) (B)

Day 6: Aleppo - Palmyra

After breakfast, drive to Ebla, Hama Noria, and lunch at a local restaurant. 54 km away from Aleppo, lies the excavation site that used to be the capital of an ancient kingdom. Ebla the ancient city found at Tell Mardikh is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Syria.

In 1964 an Italian excavation team began to dig here and discovered this Bronze Age city. Ebla has been mentioned as one of the cities conquered in 2250 BC by the Akkadians from Mesopotamia under Naram Sin. It has been proved that Ebla was an important powerful kingdom in the third and second millennia BC. Ebla has been considered something resembling a missing link, which now provides information on a kingdom that had important trading contacts with the Akkadians and Sumerians in Iraq, and north into Anatolia.

Not much is known about the people of this kingdom, although it is thought that the founders are of Amorite descent. Their language is known as Eblaic, and it was recorded on clay tablets in the Akkadian cuneiform. Ebla flourished greatly between 2400 and 2250 BC as a trading city with a sophisticated economic and social system. It was destroyed by the Akkadians under Naram Sin in 2250 BC, and in 2000 BC was annexed into the Aleppo kingdom of Yamkhad. In 1600 BC it was conquered and heavily damaged by the Hittites. In 1450 BC it is recorded at Karnak by the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III as a city that the Egyptians went through on their way to the Euphrates.

An Aramean fortress dating back to the 9th and 8th centuries BC, other remains from the Persian and Byzantine show that it was still used, although it had lost its fame and was for the most part an abandoned city.

The city was circular and surrounded by a 20 to 30 meter thick wall and had a citadel or acropolis in the center of it. At four points round the city, the wall was perforated by gateways guarded by bastions with towers. One of these gateways is still evident on the southwest side of the city walls. The citadel at the center includes two palaces, the main one the royal palace on the west side that consists of the royal quarters and an administrative area. There are also three caves below this where some of the royals were buried. The palace archives were found in the southern part. North of the tell are the remains of an Amorite fortress, which was found under a villa dating back to the Persian and Hellenistic periods. Most of the artifacts and archives can be found at the Idlib museum.

Dedeman Palmyra Hotel (B)

Day 7: Palmyra - Damascus

Enjoy breakfast, sightseeing at Palmyra Colonnade, the theater, tombs, and lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to visit Temple Bel.

Known to the locals as Tadmor (its ancient Semitic name), Palmyra is mentioned in tablets as early as the 19th century BC. It became an important staging post for caravans traveling from the Mediterranean to the countries of the Gulf. It was also an important link on the old Silk Route from China and India to Europe and the city prospered greatly by levying heavy tolls on the caravans. As the Romans pushed the frontier of their empire further east during the first and early second centuries A.D., Palmyra’s importance as a buffer between the Persians and the Romans grew. The Romans dubbed the city Palmyra (the City of Palms), but the locals retained the old name of Tadmore (the City of Dates). It also appears that in spite of Rome’s growing influence, the city retained considerable independence from the Petra-based Nabataen Empire by Rome.

The city eventually prospered into a colony but its downfall in 266 A.D. was the end of Palmyra’s glory. The city fell to the Muslims in 634 and was finally and completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1089. In 1678, it was rediscovered by two English merchants living in Aleppo, and the tales of Odenathus and Zenobia fascinated Europe, mainly because nobody had any idea that this once-important city had ever existed. Tempting though it may be to think of Palmyra as simply another Roman city, it is in fact anything but. Its layout does not follow classical Roman town planning at all, although Roman and Greek influences are obvious. Despite the power of its neighbors, Palmyra retained a distinct culture and expression in its own language, a dialect of Aramaic.

Your sightseeing includes a visit of the Temple of Bel, from where the Great Colonnade formed the main artery of the town. Nearby Nabo Temple, dating from the first century BC was dedicated to the God Nabo. The Agora was the equivalent of a Roman forum and was used for public discussions and as a market. Drive back to Damascus and overnight.

Talisman Al-Ameen Hotel “1”

Day 8: Damascus

After breakfast drive to Damascus International airport for departure.

Departures

Depart any day! Contact us for details.

Pricing Information

Number of Passengers Rate Single Supplement
Single occupancy, one room $4,099
Double occupancy, one room $2,489 $595
Triple occupancy, one room $2,079 $595
Double occupancy, 2 rooms $1,859 $595

Inclusions

  • Meet and assist upon arrival and departure
  • Transportations in vehicle modern, air conditioned with driver (Except Day 1)
  • Accommodation for 7 nights at hotels as specified OR SIMILAR on HB LUNCH basis
  • Accompanied English-speaking guide
  • Entrance fees to the site as mentioned on the program
  • Tips at hotels and restaurant
  • Visa to Syria (if you provide the passport list one week before client’s arrival)

Exclusions

  • Departure tax from Airports / Borders is not included
  • All extra and personal expenses
  • Meals other than mentioned and drinks
  • Tips for guide and driver
  • Visa to Syria if we did not receive the passport list
  • Anything not mentioned above.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

  • The Byzantine section of the national museum is closed for renovation until further notice.
  • Tkeiheh sulamnieh mosque can be seen from outside only.
  • Please make sure that all passports have NO Israeli stamps.