The Old City is a maze of souks, or markets. We walked along narrow streets, through the old, delightfully untouristy Sūq al-Hamīdiyya, and into the Sūq al-Buzūriyya, the medicinal-herb market, a collection of dank, dark, dusty holes-in-the-wall, their shelves lined to the ceilings with cans of dried plants, herbs, and powders of all kinds. Emerging from the shadows, we passed the luminous 1,290-year-old Ummayad Mosque, Damascus's most awe-inspiring example of early Islamic architecture. The mosque, made of cool white stone, seems to radiate magnificence and serenity amid the grayness of the city. We descended Shāri' Bāb Sharqī, referred to as the "Street Called Straight" in the Bible, and circled around to pass the 13th-century Madrasa al-Zāhiriyya, an impressive building that houses the Mausoleum of Baibars. We continued, passing various goldsmiths' shops, mosques, and the 18th-century Azim Palace (built for an Ottoman governor of Damascus, and now a museum of arts and customs), until we reached the al-Az restaurant, an emporium of traditional Damascene cuisine, tucked away in a cramped alley overlooking the minarets of the Ummayad Mosque.