Thursday, October 21, 2010

Syria : Where We Slept

In Aleppo I told myself that I should go check out this Baron Hotel even though we did not stay there.

After not finding it on the night we arrived, the second morning I walked around again and located it - just one block away from where we stopped looking. Duh.

Why the 'fascination'? Well, apparently it's some kind of institution in Syria/Aleppo, being the first proper hotel in the country in the early 1900s. Before that travellers had to make do with caravanserais; lodging houses or rumah tumpangan.

And, according to Wikipedia famous people who have stayed here include :

Lawrence of Arabia who slept in room 202; King Faisal who declared Syria's independence from the balcony in room 215; Agatha Christie who wrote the first part of "Murder on the Orient Express" in room 203.

The Presidential Suite was occupied in turn by King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, Syria's former President Hafez Al Assad, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (the founder of the United Arab Emirates), and the American billionaire David Rockefeller. Other notable guests include Dame Freya Stark, Julie Christie, Mr and Mrs Theodore Roosevelt, Kemal Attaturk, Lady Louise Mountbatten, Charles Lindbergh and Yuri Gagarin.

Alas, the hotel has succumbed to the ravages of time and the lack of maintenance. Whatever grandeur it had before is gone. It looks creepy really, and would be a perfect location for a slasher-horror movie and murder-who-dunnits.

The facade looks .... urm, grubby? Or maybe it's meant to be like that. After all, almost all other buildings were sandy brown. I think it needs some good old scrubbing and hosing down.

The main floor is above road level. One can easily miss this building because it looks so insignificant.

The gate, which is again, does not stand out. Maybe it did during the early years.

The original name carved onto the main entrance - Baron's Hotel, 1911.

Affiliations with European clubs and associations adorn the sides of its entrance.

A big thermometer on the outside wall. I am not sure if it was still working.

I did go inside and saw an old fashioned reception and concierge counters. They also had a reading and smoking room, decorated in the style of the 20s. Old maps hung in the lobby were very interesting. Did not take any pics though. This picture of the bar I took from the outside through the huge open window.

While on the subject of hotels, for the first night in Damascus we stayed in Al-Mahata Hotel for 1300SYP for a double/ac/ensuite, inclusive of breakfast. And it's always good to find a place where the manager/owner speaks English. It can be extremely frustrating you know.

It is funny that the only hotel picture I have of Al-Mahata is of the lift?? I remember I snapped a few. *scratches head* Well, the lift was uber cool cos it did not have an inner door, so basically you are in a 'dumb-waiter' kind of lift. Oh dang, I do not know how to explain it.

Then we moved on to Al-Kindi Hotel, for 800SYP/dbl/fan/ensuite. Supposedly a one star hotel, even a half-star it is not. We continued to stay at Al-Kindi throughout - location-wise it was good, too lazy to move out and also it it is within our budget. The room is not pretty, it is basic, small and old - definitely not for everyone. But it did have 400+ satellite Arab channels :P! One thing we were kind of pissed with was they charged us an extra 100SYP for storing our big bags when we travelled light to Aleppo.

Ugly signboard for Al-Kindi Hotel. We also checked out another hotel nearby which offered the same rate - and that one had a gangster-looking guy at the entrance. Maybe he's the bouncer. There was one at the door every time we passed by.

Please lower your expectations two levels, and then by one more. Their star rating is not like ours. Again, I did not take any pictures of the cubicle room.

Room No. 8. Why I have a picture of the key and not the room is weird.

In Aleppo we stayed at Hotel Radouan - a most spacious double room, with a balcony! - located right next to the Clock Tower and the Library. We were offered a rate of 800SYP. We went to check out the nearby Al-Gawaher first (LP recommended), however it was more expensive.

The location is in Bab Al-Faraj area. Yes, it is spelt that way, don't snicker.

Ask for Room No. 18 to get ...

... this view. The Clock Tower during the day - pic from the balcony.

Night time. I can see this from my bed.

The good thing at Hotel Radouan? Syrian hospitality from the owner, Ammar, who had two gorgeous kids doing what kids do best .. creating havoc, haha (okay, I exaggerated). He offered us tea, drinks, nuts, nibbles, huge salads etc ... and even cooked our Indomie for us! (Because we were cheap and fed up with the bread).

Taken before we left Aleppo - with the Ammar family.

So that's our short lodging story in Syria. Don't worry if you arrive without any booking, it is certainly possible to get a room even during the peak season, just that you have to walk around a bit to look for one that fits your budget.


  1. Baron Hotel does have a list of uber famous people who stayed there before! No wonder lah you so bersemangat to look for the hotel :-)

  2. wow. Agatha Christie stayed at Baron Hotel. And the 1-star hotel, even cheap hotels in Keningau look better. But of course the interior could be better. :-D

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  4. Julie : I wanted to see where/how Agatha Christie got her inspiration :) Ngamlah, creepy place.

    Jipp : Happening hotel, kan? Oh believe me the interior is 'an acquired taste'. To get a 2 star quality, you probably need to go to a 3-4 star hotel there. The ratings are just so different. But you are adventurous, why go for the ordinary? If you go in summer, you should try the rooftop beds at Al-Rabie Hotel :)