The Sultan Hotel
the Hijaz Station
P.O. Box: 221
Tel: 2225768; 2216910
There may be alternatives, but this location and the incredibly supportive staff was all I could possibly want. I didn't even bother to check anywhere else. Getting there: I arrived at Beramke via bus from Amman, Jordan. A service taxi from Amman would have taken me to the same place. Little did I know that it was a mere 8 to 10-minute walk to the hotel. Instead I ended up taking a cab and in the crowded Damascus streets this was a total waste of time and money. The rooms of the Sultan Hotel and the bathrooms are clean and comfortable.Breakfast is acceptable and included in the price. The hotel is older, but in good repair, and that adds to its charm. Internet is always available in the lobby. This is a no-bull place. They tell it as it is. They are Syrians, with the expected biases, but the staff is very experienced, very knowledgable, and very nice. They stop anything anytime to help a guest. I was totally impressed with the caliber of personnel, all of whom speak excellent English. The charming common area is always open and tea or coffee can be had anytime inexpensively. Also, when smokers get in there, you are always free to open a window and clear the area. I frequently did. From the Sultan Hotel you can go left and around the first corner, where you will find a bank with ATM. All of this is in the square in front of the historic Hijaz Railroad Station. Again, stepping out of the door, going left, and continuing in that direction for about 10 leisurely minutes will take you to the old city and the bazaar. Some street crossing are underground, some are pedestrian bridges. There is no TV in the rooms, but satellite TV is available in the lobby. There is a good fast food store right across the street at the corner, where they also sell the typical and delicious fruit smoothies. Next to there, toward the hotel, you can get into the crowd of Syrians and order the little bread-based spicy, pizza-like, or spinach-filled goods. They run around 10-20 cents each.
Reserve, since the hotel is frequently filled.
Bliss (Hamra) - Beirut
Tel: + 961-1-365391
Hama, the delightful small city in northern Syria. Took a bus from Damascus to get there. The bus drops you off outside of town and you take a cab from there to the Riad (a guide-book favorite as well). I absolutely love that place. I understand that the two neighboring hotels are equally nice, but this was so good that I never even bothered to look around further. Abdullah is the 'heart and soul' of the hotel, although the rest of the staff is just as friendly and accommodating. Reserve early, or you might not be able to get a room. Breakfast is included. TV is in the rooms. Internet and laundry service are also available at reasonable cost. The staff all speak English well and are most helpful to get you to the local or regional sights. They have some fine drivers on hand and none of the shennannigans as you can expect from Egyptian driver exist here. Also, the cars are late models.
The price is right, and the town and hotel really shine at the time of the Spring Festival around the 20th of April. Check the calendar. Not only is that time of the year relatively cool and comfortable, but being off-season, travel is easier at that time. The location is excellent as well. There is the city square with the clock tower, where the celebrations take place. To the left you will go toward the market. Stores abound. ATMs are in the city square. If you go right and around the corner, cross the street and walk down the first street to the left, there, on the right side of that street, you will find a photo studio where they cheerfully burn CDs or DVDs from your photo flash cards. Ask anyone for the phto studio and they will point you in the right direction. Wonderful service there.