Damascus: possibly the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

Below are images of (1) nearby, the ancient city of Ma'loula (where probably the world's oldest churches -- founded by St. Paul -- are located and Aramaic is still spoken), (2) the new Damascus Opera House, (3) the spice market of Old Damascus, (4) the magnificent Umayyad Mosque, a sacred site which enshrines Hussayn (grandson of Mohammed) and unique relics that even include "John the Baptist's head", and (5) a meal with Syrian Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Nahel Al Halabi and concert pianist Dr. Chaden Yafi (leading young classical musicians affiliated with the opera and conservatory).

I taught a workshop today for trumpeters at the conservatory, following a meeting with the Director of the opera house, and then had a marvelous meal and visited various sites in Old Damascus. The architecture, design, spices and calligraphy were all certainly memorable, but the ecstatic singing and tearful prayers at these sacred sites were especially impressive.

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