For me - as in the topic title, Damascus International Airport has to take the cake! Pulling up in between Saudi Arabian and Iraqi Airways felt very strange, as did "next departure for Baghdad" over the tannoy!
On arrival, Immigration didn't believe New Zealand existed, they saw my visa was issued in Canberra and insisted I should be travelling on an Australian passport. They implied NZ
had illegally separated from Australia and had no right to issue its own passports!!! An hour later they came back tails between legs after obviously telephoning HQ
in town... throughout all this they were very polite and looked after me well.
Approach to DAM was down over the Anti Lebanon Range - I love that name! - with a large bank to the left out over the brown flat stony Syrian Desert - it felt like we were flying over Mars! Then another bank, lining up for finals, with a smooth touchdown.
The terminal is long and low, two storied, with about ten gates with airbridges, and several remote gates. Security is tight, very tight, and unfortunately I could not get any photographs. The photographers who took shots at Damascus were braver than I was.
The vast majority of aeroplanes were Syrianair, but there were a fair sprinkling of Arab carriers - aforementioned Saudi Arabian and Iraqi Airways, Egyptian Airlines, Iran Air, and others expected later that day. Austrian, KLM, Air France, and British Mediterranean service DAM from Europe.
Going out was worse than coming in - three passport checks before immigration - should I say emigration - clearance to leave Syria! And DAM is a first world airport until you see the toilets - the stench carries right down the corridor...!!!
I was also amused at the small library at the airport... "The Syrian Arab Government Society For The Publication Of Printed Matter".
Must reccommend the cheapest duty free shop I have ever seen though, and the stock looked good quality.
They chop bits out of the Time Magazine that they don't like, the one English language paper there is a total hoot - all sorts of dire hints about what our enemies are up to without saying what, and they call President Bush "the man of limited faculties in Washington" which is probably the one statement in that paper that a lot of people would agree with!!!
Syria has a terrible reputation abroad, but most people in the "rogue state" are busy paying the rent, buying food, and trying to bring up their children, as are their counterparts in the West. As long as religion and politics are not discussed, and you cover yourself well (men included), there is little to fear, and the people are some of the kindest, most helpful, and friendly lot that I have ever met. And the amount of food they feed you...!!! for US$6 I got a plate of mixed appetisers, which came with free raw vegetables and chillies and gherkins, arab bread, a beer handle sized fruit smoothie, 4 arab pastries with clotted cream and pistachio nuts, and three cups of tea... and this in a restaurant dripping with crystal, gold fountains, and pink silk hung on the walls!