Souq al-Hamidiyya

Souq al-Hamidiyya information

Damascus , Syria
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Just to the south of the citadel, Souq al-Hamidiyya is the long, covered market that leads into the heart of the Old City. A cross between a Parisian passage, a department store and a Middle Eastern bazaar, its main thoroughfare is lined with clothes emporiums and handicrafts shops, while its narrow side streets are crowded with stalls selling everything from cheap shoes to kids' toys.

A vault of corrugated-iron roofing blocks all but a few torch-beam-like shafts of sunlight, admitted through bullet holes punctured by the machine-gun fire of French planes during the nationalist rebellion of 1925.

Although the street dates back to Roman times, its present form is a product of the late 19th century: the two-storey shops, the roof and the generously wide street are all due to a bit of civic smartening up that was carried out in honour of the visiting Ottoman sultan, Hamid II (hence the name, Al-Hamidiyya). In 2002 the street was extensively renovated, stripping away decades of messy signage and random shop-front accretions, to restore the souq to something like its original 19th-century appearance.