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May 7, 2002

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From Jordan we crossed into Syria without problem, an easy border hop and journey to Damascus. Syria's international image as hard-line Islamists has prepared us to see stringent religious conservatism. A quick Damascus walk shows us that this city is more liberal than we expected. Jill doesn't need her veil or long sleeves. Most people dress in a Western style. They smile and help foreigners, however, our first cab driver cheated us by giving incorrect change; learn to read Arabic coinage quickly when dealing with cabbies.
Damascus's Ummayyad mosque - the holiest mosque outside of Mecca and Medina and also the best preserved jewel of ancient Muslim architecture.
Relaxed atmosphere in the mosque, parents let children run free, people nap and snore loudly inside, and this man enjoys his sandwich after mid-afternoon prayer.
The 'Vegas' mosque, Sayyida Ruqqaya Mosque, the garish mirror, gold, and blue tile decoration is done in a Persian style.
Damascus is more liberal than we expected, but they still post no-kissing signs in the bar.