Hama is famous for its Norias or ancient wooden water wheels.
Two excellent budget hotels and the possibility for day trips by taxi to sights like Apamea and Crac des Chevaliers also attract many travellers. For the cyclist, Hama is a good chance to rest up and get a hot shower between Aleppo and Damascus. You can also get your visa renewed here but it takes three working days.
Sleeping: Hama has two wonderful budget hotel options, the Riad and the Cairo. They’re next door to each other on the central al-Quwatli street. A double room with en suite bathroom goes for 500 SP. Both are equally good and organise tours by car to sights in the region.
We enjoyed the balcony at the Cairo, overlooking the city, and the friendly service. They walked us to a local hairdresser for Friedel (women’s hair salons are often behind closed doors and impossible for the foreigner to spot in Syria), helped us call a doctor quickly when Andrew was sick and even negotiated down the rate on our behalf for a private visit. Visitors to the Riad praise its common salon where travellers can gather and chat.
Self-catering: A covered food market branches off the same street the Riad and Cairo hotels are on.
Eating out: Ali Babas near the Cairo and Riad hotels is famous for its falafels. They also have a more extensive menu in English.
Al-Baroudi restaurant just off Shoukri al-Quwatli is written up in the Lonely Planet for its barbequed chicken. The food was indeed good but be careful what you order. If you are not precise, they will bring a huge meal of half a chicken each plus three or four dips, bread, salad and a large plate of rice. While all the food is excellent, and perhaps just the ticket if you are starving, the cost was 225 SP per person in November 2007, a small fortune in Syrian terms. More modest meals are available for a proportionally more modest cost.
If you would like a quiet place to sit and have a tea, walk along al-Buhturi street and there you will find a couple European-style cafes selling pastries, ice cream and a wide selection of bread as well as serving all kinds of hot and cold drinks. They are quite popular with women.
What to see:
- Hama is famous for its Norias or water wheels. They still run if the water level is high enough. If the water is low or stagnant the smell from the river can be quite pungent.
- Azem Palace is not as big as its counterpart in Damascus but still very much worth a visit. It was under renovation in November 2007 so not all of the palace was open but it should be magnificent when finished.
Staying connected: Several internet cafes have sprung up around Hama and the going rate for high-speed service is 75 SP an hour. Happy Net is just one option near the Cairo and Riad hotels. The Cairo hotel also offers internet access to its guests on a computer in the lobby. The cost is the same as the internet cafes and the speed is quite good, despite the dial-up connection. Maybe not great for uploading large images but perfectly adequate for checking emails and very convenient.