•Syrian Arab Republic••Syrian Arab Republic •


Syria... at the crossroad of the Near Eastern civilizations and at their heart. It was an amazing experience for me to come back to Syria after over 25 years to see how much she has changed. In spite of the Middle East being in turmoil, Syria has been maintaining peace within her borders and, in contrary to popular belief, she appears to be quite safe to travel through. Of course, one must always remember to follow her laws and don't do such irresponsible things as crossing the border illegally or visit the Palestinian quarter in Damascus.

This was a fabulous trip but also a crazy one. Within more or less four weeks I visited and photographed over 50 different sites. I shot over 3000 pictures (may the person who invented digital photography be punished in hell with processing all pictures she/he inspired for eternity). The wealth of data I have amassed will keep me busy for years so this website might be my longest website under construction. I hope that with the help of other scholars and all those interested in Syria I can slowly create a database of all the sites I visited. Thus, please email me links to the interesting and informative articles/websites dealing with specific places so I can include them here for all fascinated with Syria and her past. All comments are welcomed too at Mruczek@AOL.com.


The above pictures has been taken by Safwan Oaity who genereously shared with me not only his pictures of Damascus but also the old ones that have never been published. Damascus as you have never seen it before!

Ewa Wasilewska

Map of Syria

Basic information about the country

Ewa's Funny Story:


My three trips to Syria resulted in plenty of funny stories. Thus, it is really difficult to select one. I finally narrowed them down to the stories of the Syrian Mukhabarat (not-so-secret-police) following me everywhere for my own safety and to my pet-donkey from 1981. Everyone can be followed by the secret police but only a few people can become a legend in their own time. And it appears that I am one of them -- my perceived (by others) "stupidity" earned me the honor of being remembered as a "'mazmazelle' (mademoiselle) who washed a donkey."

The pictures are of the donkey I washed. Why? Picture it... hot desert in 1981. I was working with the Polish expedition on archaeological excavations in Palmyra: three guys and a young lady (me). Once the work was done the two young guys were basically dead waiting for dinner cooked by me (nothing I am higly skilled at but everyone survived) when my professor, the one and only with the brain of a genius and social skills of Jackie O, Michal Gawlikowski, was ready for more explorations. So, he, with his freshly broken leg, and I, with more energy than a litter of kittens, explored robbed Roman tombs. As a financially challenged expedition we could not afford a car so donkeys were our best bet. While Professor Gawlikowski didn't develop any emotional attachment for his donkey, I treated mine as a pet. But he (the donkey, not Gawlikowski) suffered from the pain of being owned by local people with no regard for his well-being. He was dirty. Extremely dirty. The flies and whatever other creatures are attracted to dirt were eating my donkey alive. He was not a happy donkey. So one day I decided to wash him. Yes, I used my share of water (priceless in the desert at the time) and an expensive German soap (somehow there were no shampoos for animals available in Syria at the time) to clean my donkey's body. The whole village of Tadmor ran to see this event. While everyone thought I was crazy (I praised the Sumerian gods for not understanding Arabic well enough), the donkey loved his bath. We got our "relationship" to a new level. He cried when I was not around and followed me the minute he saw me. Unfortunately, we parted but at least I know he died as a donkey with happy memories.


Twenty years later or so, my great friend, Professor David I. Owen, went to Palmyra. He came back laughing like hiena -- while "collecting' stories about archaeology of Palmyra he was informed about this Polish "mazmazelle who washed a donkey." So I was prepared... When in Palmyra in 2009 I stayed in the same hotel (much upgraded from 1970sand 1980s). The owner looked at me and said: "You look familiar." I explained my "history' with Palmyra. He looked at me again. "Mashallah, you are the one who washed a donkey!"


My exploration started with Damascus, the largest city and capital of Syria. I landed in Damascus on September 27, 2008, just a few hours after Al Qaida, presumably, detonated a car with over 200 kg of explosives killing 17 people and injuring another 14 -- all civilians. This took place on a busy road from the airport to my hotel. The target was supposedly the Intelligence Office but... as usual, the innocent people ended up being the true victims. Such attacks are very rare in Syria which manages to preserve her sanity in spite of numerous attempts, mainly from outside of her borders as claimed by the locals, to destabilize this beautiful country.


Robert Worth, New York Times



The Hotel Sultan (above) was my destination to where my new friends, Safwan and Bassam (friends of my former student's cousin), drove me. This Hotel does not need much advertisement because it is almost always booked. It is a modest hotel, moderately priced, clean, and in a perfect location near the Old Town. Its main charm is in the people who run it (always very, very helpful) and those who stay there, mostly archaeologists. Staying there is much more interesting and informative than attending any conferences on archaeology of Syria. Not only that the first person I met in this Hotel was an archaeologist but Professor Piotr Bielinski was one of my mentors over twenty years ago when I studied the ME archaeology at the University of Warsaw in Poland! To make it even funnier, I have tried to reach him for months via email without any luck and, on top of everything, we realized that I had also hired his long-time friend and driver,Kalid (below with his beautiful wife), to take me around Syrian archaeological sites! Khalid came highly recommeded by yet another archaeologist, Stefano Valentini. Needless to say, Khalid was the best driver, guide, and friend I have ever experienced in my travels. He "collected" me at Deir El Zor and never complained about my craziness begging to slow down. He was simply perfect!

If you want to know more about Damascus go to my website on Damascus in history and pictures...


Designed and maintained by Dr. Ewa Wasilewska. June 2009.

All rights reserved by Dr. Ewa Wasilewska. Salt Lake City. 2009.



Let's go to:













Trips to take