Lively Lattakia is not a typical Syrian town. A busy port since Roman times, it is less inward-looking than the rest of the country. The odd sign in Greek, and many more in Russian, point to the town’s openness to the sea and its traffic with outsiders, while the results of this foreign exchange can be seen in wide, tree-lined boulevards and vibrant cafés (as opposed to the more traditional Arabic coffeehouses).
Lattakia is one of the wealthiest and least conservative cities in the country, due to its many families with expatriate relatives working overseas, and the influx of money that came its way when local boy Hafez al-Assad ruled the roost. As a result Lattakia has some excellent restaurants and almost as many chic bar-cafés as the capital. Its inhabitants have always been snappy dressers – here the headscarf gives way to tight jeans and low-cut tops.
A stretch of coast has also been earmarked for massive redevelopment, with Gulf money being invested to establish luxurious five-star resorts, shopping centres and marina developments.
Its comparative liberalism and wealth aside, Lattakia has no real attractions, however it is a great place to spend a couple of days and makes a comfortable base for visits to the ruins of Ugarit and Qala’at Salah ad-Din.