Anybody been to Syria?

I'm off to Syria for a few weeks in October. Have any Arrsers experienced the place, and does anyone have any recommendations regarding accommodation in Damascus (non international chain hotels, please)?

Have been in 2000, although only for 10 days. Great place if you like history, especially crusader castles. Really worth it.
I went north from Damascus on arrival and then on my return, went to an international hotel, so no tips re accomodation.
Bascially, as I had little time, I went up the coast and visited the Krak des Chevaliers near Homs, then Tartus (great fish restaurant in the fortress!), Latakia, Aleppo (go and sleep at the Barons hotel in Lawrence of Arabia's room - or beside it), Palmyra (there's a great hotel in the middle of Roman ruins) and Damascus. I didn't have time to go South which I regret, but there are loads of things to see there as well.
You can travel by bus, minibus or taxi. There apparently is a train from Damascus to Aleppo but I'm not sure of its reliability.
People are very friendly and I encountered no difficulties at all. The food is nice, too. At work now but can get more info (albeit a tad dated), when I get home.
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