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The Road to Damascus Experience

Phespirit reports - March 2004

It is a well known fact that anyone found to have any kind of Israeli stamp in their passport will be refused entry to Syria. However, it is less well known that if a passport contains any evidence of a visit to Israel it will immediately disqualify the holder from obtaining a Syrian visa and invalidate any visa that has already been obtained, with only one result - no entry. And what this means in practice is that the presence of an Egyptian stamp from the border crossings at Rafah or Taba or a Jordanian stamp from the Allenby bridge will indicate a visit to Israel and will certainly be spotted by some hawk-eyed passport control official, and will be the beginning of a major headache for the unwary traveller fresh off the plane .....

This is exactly what Phespirit witnessed at Damascus airport. A British couple arrived at passport control oblivious to the implications of the husband's Egyptian Taba stamp in his passport. After a lot of fuss and delay it was determined that he would not be allowed into Syria but that his wife could proceed since she had no Taba stamp. Understandably she chose not to, so the pair of them were taken away to spend the night in a hotel room at the airport. The following day they appealed to the British Embassy, but embassy officials advised them that there was nothing they could do as this was a matter of Syrian law and the law must be respected. The result: no entry, and the couple were put on the first flight back to London at their own expense. Ouch.

It's a stupid bloody rule, but an important one to be aware of .....

In 2004, the U.K. Government's Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued the following advice on entry requirements for Syria:

"You require a visa for Syria. Whether or not you have a visa you should be aware that if your passport contains an Israeli stamp or stamps from other countries' border crossing points with Israel, you will be refused entry to Syria."

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