Postcard from Damascus

Syria's economic boom provides the luxuries it has long desired, but the country still wrestles with its old demons. The new culture of an ancient city

Louai Beshara / AFP / Getty

Syria's thriving capital boasts the Damascus Gate, the world's largest restaurant.

On any given Thursday night--the start of the weekend in Syria--Z Bar, the rooftop nightclub at the Omayad Hotel, is packed. An instant hit with Damascus' rich and restless when it opened last summer, Z Bar provides not only a place to dance on tables Beirut-style but also a commanding view of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. "Top of Z Town" is its Pepé Le Pew--esque slogan, but everyone knows who's really on top in this town. From a hill above Z Bar, the glass façade of Bashar Assad's presidential palace looks down at his capital like an...

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