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One of the most fascinating cities in the Middle East lies beneath headlines of conflict and strife. The National Museum, among others, has emptied display cases to keep valuable items safe. Layers of history are thick in the ancient walls of what claims to be one of the longest continually occupied cities in the world. On the Silk Road, it has always been busy, looking after travellers in impressive Ottoman khans. Syria’s capital was also traditionally the last stopping place before Mecca, and it has one of Islam’s most hallowed mosques. The Ottomans ruled for some 400 years from 1516, and its warren of alleys and labyrinthine soukhs are matched by some splendid buildings endowed by local craftsmen renowned for carving and craft skills that produced damask patterned cloth. The great courtyard houses particularly impressed Brigid Keenan, who was “utterly overwhelmed” by the magnificence of the architecture when she was researching Damascus: Hidden Treasures of the Old City, which was featured with many fine pictures by Tim Beddow in Cornucopia 21, one of the four issues of the magazine on special offer.
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