In Syria there were virtually no tourist, even the locals were surprised when they found out we were from America and were driving on our own not in a group. We flew into Istanbul last night, Friday night and it was crowed with tourists. The drive to hotel took an hour and a half normally a less than half hour.
This Friday which the demonstrators in Syria had designated "The great Friday" was a tense day. As it was our last few hours in Damascus we decided to walk to old town for one last time. Our hotel is next to the Iranian Cultural Building which is on the Square of the Martyrs, the square was filled with buses of security forces dressed in civilian clothes and carry clubs. When we got to old town the shops were all closed including an artist that had told us he would be open every day. The square by the great mosque was filled with men in civilian clothes looking very menacing. We decided to go back to the hotel and at the square walked through crowds of men carrying clubs and some in full armor with large plexi shields. Would have liked to get some photos but had already been stopped from photographing a cop in uniform and with only a few hours to flight time couldn't risk being detained.
The driver that took us to airport, the hotel owner, was surprised at the places we had driven to and said we couldn't do it now as all roads were closed, glad we came back to Damascus on Thursday. We really had a great time in Syria and everybody was very hospitable, even the military checkpoints were no problem.We never had any problems with demonstrations and avoided going to any of the cities that the military had closed off. Even learned to have fun driving, sort of like being in a racing video game where you had to go as fast as you can while avoiding all obstacles thrown in your path while the bad guys try to get you from all directions. Was glad to have rental insurance.
Today we found how bad it went for the Syrians yesterday. They have more people killed than were killed in Libya.