I didn't know what to expect in Syria but got a warm welcome
'Welcome to Syria. Would you like a cup of tea?" Whatever the reception we had been expecting from the customs officer at Damascus International Airport, this certainly was not it.
The Arab hospitality is as legendary as our own Céad Míle Fáilte - but as we stood there at passport control, cosily chatting and drinking cups of sweet black tea from the man's own flask, the warmth of it floored us completely.
As two journalists arriving in a country under the iron grip of a dictatorship, we were aware of a strong possibility we could be turfed out as quickly as we had arrived, regardless of the innocent purpose of our holiday. But we had not considered the true weight of our trump cards - our two small children, a daughter of 11 months and todddler son - whose exotic fair heads would guarantee us near-familial status everywhere.