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Aleppo is Syria's largest city, a prosperous community with a lengthy and assorted history. The traditions here are vastly different from what is commonly practiced in the United States. As in any Muslim country, a call to prayer is announced five times a day. At midday, around 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Syrians take a siesta, during which most shops and restaurants close.  
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During many of these calls to prayer, Muslims enter the Great Mosque of Aleppo, or Umayyad mosque. Positioned in the heart of the Old City, the courtyard is its most recognized feature—black and white stones form geometric patterns encircling two water fountains. Keep in mind when visiting that all footwear has to be removed, dress should be conservative, and all women are required to cover their heads.  
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Aleppo's souk is perhaps its star attraction. A labyrinth of stalls, shops, and cobblestone streets, the souk is one of the longest in the Middle East, reaching nearly 20 miles. Donkeys are still used as the preferred method of travel throughout.  
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Selling everything from souvenirs to meat to clothing, the souk is usually quite crowded during the day. Here, beans and spices are sold in woven baskets.  
Credit: yeowatzup/Flickr 
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On the road from Aleppo to the town of Damascus, a worthy resting point is the Krak des Chevaliers, one of the world's oldest medieval military castles, built in 1031. The castle, which switched owners several times throughout the Crusades, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006.  
Credit: edbrambley/Flickr 
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Damascus is the capital city of Syria, with a population of nearly two million people within its city limits, 85 percent of whom are Sunni Muslims. The sprawling metropolis houses close to 2,000 mosques among a wealth of historical sites.  
Credit: Marc Veraart/Flickr 
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The streets of Damascus, and their inhabitants, still showcase the vibrant colors and exotic lifestyle of the Orient. Back-alley bazaars and street-cart vendors line the maze of narrow streets.  
Credit: Marc Veraart/Flickr 
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The Souk al-Hamidiyya is Damascus's main market, an intricate weave of covered passages leading into the heart of the Old City. Literally everything one needs in life can be found within these walls, from toys and spices to clothes and copper goods.  
Credit: stevendamron/Flickr 
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The Old City of Damascus is a well-preserved area of town, with the surrounding high walls still visible and intact today. Located on the banks of the Barada River, the Old City at one point was home to a flourishing craft industry famous for its sword and lace production.  
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In southern Syria is the historical town of Bosra. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient city is chock-full of archeological ruins from Roman and Byzantine times. One of its most fascinating features is how elements of different periods in history have come together as one.  
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Bosra's Roman theater is a spectacular sight; it is the largest Roman theater in all of the Middle East. Built in the second century, it is also the best-preserved theater today. During the height of its grandeur, the theater could seat more than 6,000 people, with standing room for 3,000 more.  
Credit: (Ergo)/Flickr 
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In central Syria, north of Damascus, is the city of Hama. The majority of its inhabitants make their living from farming, with nearly one-third of the surrounding land under cultivation. Flowing through the center of the city is the Orontes River, its banks lined with beautiful trees and gardens. Perhaps one of the most famous sights in Hama is the city's collection of wooden waterwheels (or norias) churning the river. Historically used for irrigation, they are now just eye-pleasing features throughout town.  
Credit: Effi Schweizer/Wikipedia 
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Northeast of Damascus is the ancient city of Palmyra, a historical playground of stone ruins. A new town of the same name has grown up around the remains, with a population of more than 40,000 people who make a living from agriculture, trade, and tourism.  
Credit: DAJ/Getty 
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Camels are a popular and authentic way to tour the ruins. If you visit around October or November, you could witness the annual Camel Race, where jockeys bound for the finish line compete for bragging rights.  
Credit: yeowatzup/Flickr 
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Covering 125 acres, the ruins of Palmyra are frequently expanded upon by modern-day renovations and discoveries. In 2005, an excavating team from Poland unearthed a statue of Nike, a goddess in Greek mythology who personified victory.  
Credit: DAJ/Getty 
 
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