In Old City of Damascus, the markets were closed at about 8 pm but some shops might open until 9 pm, so when I went out out the hotel in the evening, nearby I could not find anything but only some small kiosks. It was dark and I was reluctant to go by myself farther considering the area reputation. While I was hanging out I saw Basil came from the opposite side. He just finished shopping and bought some food. Later he told me that while he was walking in the area, a girl tried to seduce him. I could also tell that as the night was getting darker, the visitors came to the area more varied. I was not surprised at all.
The next day, we decided to visit Al Hamidiyah Souq, the most famous and oldest market in Damascus. Al Hamidiyah Souq was built in 1780 by Umayyad ruler, Sultan Abdul Hamid, from which the name of this market was adopted. It was a walkway from Al Thawra Street to Umayyad Mosque. In 1884, the walkway was covered with ornate iron. Even though it was covered, the long roof was ventilated so shoppers will get both natural lighting during the day as well as air.
Al Hamidiyah Souq borders between Damascus Citadel (city wall) and the outside. The Old Damascus used to be a fortified city. The citadel was first built during the ruling of Roman Empire in the 2nd century but it was disappeared, later in early 10th century Seljuq Empire fortified the city but it was disappeared because of the earthquake. In 18th century Ottoman Empire rebuilt it.
Al Hamidiyah Souq is basically very long shop houses as the vendors live upstairs and downstairs serve for business. What I like a long this cobble-stoned walkway, I could find anything from antique, textiles, jewelry, spices, sweets, to Syrian handicrafts, you name it.
Some shops have fixed prices, the others have open prices. This is where your bargaining skill is tested, which I am not good at. I was amused with how the shoppers and vendors bargained in Arabic. It was like a heated debate. “Foreigners usually get higher prices,” Basil told me.
It was busy from the late morning to the afternoon. When it was busy, I walked elbow to elbow with other visitors and some vendors of drink. They wore traditional outfit carrying the container on the back.
While Al Hamidiyah Souq is the main market. The market is now expanded to the whole area inside the Citadel. Anywhere I went, I found shops.
The main walkway of Al Hamidiyah Souq branches into smaller walkways which also have many shops. The other day I allowed myself to get lost in this area just to have more sense of an ancient market.