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Syria's main drawcard for leg-stretching types is hiking. There are no organised facilities for hikers, but there's plenty of appealing terrain. Possibilities include walking between Syria's Crusader castles or hiking the mountainous strip of land between Lebanon and Turkey. Unfortunately, there are no maps available, so you're obliged to follow roads.

If you've never had a Turkish bath, Syria is a good place to start. There are several good public baths in Aleppo and Damascus, and the full wash, steam bath and massage package does wonders for the body. Bathing is usually done in segregated sex groups.


Not surprisingly, Syrian holidays and festivals are mostly Islamic. The big one is Ramadan, a month (the date changes every year) when everyone fasts between sunup and sunset to conform to the fourth pillar of Islam. If you're in Syria at this time, be sensitive to the fact that most of the people around you are very, very hungry. Ramadan ends with a huge feast, Eid al-Fitr, where everyone prays together, visits friends, gives presents and stuffs themselves. Eid al-Adah, another moveable event, is the other big feast of the year, and marks the time when Muslims should make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Non-religious holidays include the enticingly named Evacuation Day, on 17 April, and Correctionist Movement Day, on 16 November.

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