Syria is home to some of the best historical sites in the world. The country is an absolute treasure trove for those interested in ancient history, archaeology, medieval urban planning and architecture, or the culture of the Middle East. And with a government and public eager to welcome both independent and group travelers, Syria is constantly improving its infrastructure and amenities. In major tourist areas, small, clean hotels are opening alongside luxury establishments. Transportation is well organized and comfortable, and good food and service have become fairly commonplace.

The problem is that politics sometimes get in the way. When a bomb explodes in Jerusalem or the political tensions escalate in Iraq, Syria's tourism may suffer—perhaps unfairly, because the events don't really affect the safety of travelers there. In spite of decades of regional tensions, violence toward tourists is practically unheard of in Syria.

Political and security concerns aside, traditional and modern life in Syria have blended: Clubs, bars and cafes have sprouted near historic sites in Damascus and Aleppo. It's very common to see wizened old men in traditional kaffiyehs talking with young men in T-shirts or to spot older women in chadors mingling with young women in short skirts. The odd juxtapositions actually add to the country's allure.

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