Here is a little information as to the crossing of the Syrian Border. The official statement is that countries with Syrian representation (the US being one of them) are not allowed to get Visas at the border. But unofficially you can get visas at the border, the only issue being that for most nationalities it takes about 15-20 minutes (Russians take about 5) but for Americans there is a wait of between2-8 hours. You just don’t know. Unless you have an Israeli stamp you are basically guaranteed entrance, you just have to wait. Part of it is that they say that they have to send your info to Damascus and receive approval back, and part of it is because I believe they just want to make you wait. Luckily, and I believe thanks to the residency permit from Jordan in my Passport as well as my University of Jordan ID, I was allowed through in 2 and a half hours.
I know I already wrote a little on Damascus, but just to add to that here is a little more. The old city of Damascus, is a beautifully old and cramped labrynth of pathways and alleys all with porches and roofs leaning in over your head. Stores everywhere poking out of the walls, single chair hair salons and hidden Turkish baths. The souqs are amazingly grand paths filled with colorful spices and soaps, clothes and old jewelry. All together giving a shopper an infinite number of choices of any product. The ability to get lost in the old city is easily acquired although once you have a map in your head it is possible to travel between the souqs and the Christian quarter and the mosque. The Omayyad mosque is a gigantic and beautiful mosque. It is one of the largest and oldest in the Muslim world, with a courtyard half the size of a football field, shining floors intricate decorations. Some of the religious sites that I visited were the head of John the Baptist, which was in the Mosque, the house of Ananias and the place where Paul was lowered over the city wall in Damascus. The city is full of a mixture of Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Syrian Catholic and any other kind of church, along with mosques, and previously synagogues. You can spend days (as I did) walking around and just staring at the history, almost everything in the city being significantly older than my country (even some of the houses.) We would joke about someone asking how old Damascus was, with the response being “Well when did they start counting, yea that’s how old.”
In Damascus I stayed in a hostel that had a beautiful inner courtyard, typical of Damascene houses and visible also in the restaurants or hotels that opened up off of the small alleys of the old city into these grand areas filled with fountains and flowing vine gardens. They were old houses that have been converted in many ways but still have a look that reminds me of a New Orleans French style architecture.