like any smart traveller - for business or pleasure - it's only natural to indulge yourself in the culture, food and people of the country you're in, or else you're just wasting God's heaven on earth!
that's exactly what mr. khairul did. in between his business visits, he went around to check out damascus, and why it's dubbed 'the jewel of the arabic world'.
damascus is the capital of syria; one of its 14 states. it's widely known as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world - rich in culture, religion and history that dates back to thousands of years.
ready to go back in time?
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one such example of a really old place is the ummayad mosque - one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. located in one of the holiest sites in the old city of damascus, it's also the site of makam nabi yahya.
wah. ape perasaannya melawat makam seorang nabi, ye? mr. khairul diam. tenang.
for more than 3000 years it had always been a sacred place - begining with a grand temple during the roman empire, then a church and was turned into a mosque by kalifah khalid ibn al-walid.
when mr. khairul went, he got the chance to witness the imam besar of damascus having a meeting with 'orang-orang masjid' kot!
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i like this story the best! fluffy white mountainous blobs on a table, surrounded by little bowls already filled, with chopped pistachios sprinkled on top - what is it?
it's the arab ice-cream!
'bakdash' is a well-known ice cream parlor in damascus. the shop was established around 1885 in al-hamidiyah souq in the old city of Damascus.
it is famous for its pistachio-covered 'booza', a pounded ice cream with an elastic texture made of mastic and sahlab. it is famous around the arab world and has become a popular touristic attraction.
lawak kan aiskrim tu pelepuk je kat atas meja tu! too bad ice-cream melts. if not would've asked mr. khairul to bring home some. hihi.
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"damascus makan best tak?" i asked mr. khairul. and he told me.
this restaurant is said to be so famous in damascus, that even our ex-prime minister tun mahathir once ate here. there's even a picture of him framed on the wall.
the al-khawali restaurant serves the best syrian cuisine - marinated chicken or lamb on skewers - the works. however, mr khairul said to be honest, he has had better arab cuisine elsewhere!
the interior is undeniably mid eastern - with arabesque plaster, carved wooden windows and high ceiling complete with gorgeous chandelier. traditional seatings surround the restaurant.
it's actually a restored damascus courtyard house, preserving the unique, traditional look of a mid-eastern interior.
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fancy a sauna time at a fancy spa in a posh golf resort?
or hey, how about relaxing yourself at a sauna in the oldest bath in damascus - the noor al deen al shaheed, said to be hundreds of year old!
mr. khairul went here with his schoolmate who's working in damascus, along with a few malaysian students.
"it's mostly restored, tapi jubin-jubin ni beratus tahun ni!" mr. khairul pointed out as we clicked through the pictures.
* * *speaking of pictures, looking at mr. khairul's tons of photographs, i can imagine damascus having its own unique character - in terms of its mid east architecture, especially - old, still maintaining its traditional look, classic and everlasting.
...because dubai is so freakin ultra-modern with shiny skyscrapers racing to reach the skies that you wouldn't know you're in an arab country!