In Damascus I get yet another indication this part of the world is semi instable. I had thought about making a trip to Lebanon before I left home, but the situation in Lebanon were shaky at best. No I am told the roads are block and there is no way to get to Beirut or anywhere else in Lebanon. Hence my plans are changed after a quick stop in Damascus it is on to Jordan.
It is Friday back home it is the day to go out and get a couple of beers and has fun. It is also an ordinary working day. Not so in Damascus – it is the day of prayer for the Muslims.
I walk down the market the giant covered suq of Damascus – virtually every small shop is closed.
Instead of walking around the closed market we head for the main mosque even though there are some private prayers going on you can still go in and enjoy the magnificent interior of the building and walk around the courtyard – on bare feet on steaming hot stones.
Lunch is in a small restaurant in town pretty good food like always in Syria. Then out to explore the city again. Going back to the market – no it has come to live – the shops are still closed but in front of the small shops there are a lot of street sellers selling all there good – cloths shishas whatever you want. And cheap as well.
Walking down and suddenly a policeman comes along in his uniform.
All the stalls start to pack up quickly – something is going on – they are not allowed to sell stuff from the street. Is there a police raid going on? The possibility of getting caught in the middle of a Syria police raid on black market sellers is not a really appealing prospect. We need to get the hell out of here!! And fast. We get out of the market as fast as possible and get ready to leave the area fast. In the end it was not really a police raid just one uniform man going down the street grabbing some stuff from one of the stalls for his own use – so much for the protection by the police of private property – not an issue in Syria.
We walk along in Damascus and wonder into another part of town. Then everything changes. The shops are open and the women are not wearing headscarfs anymore. We have left the Muslim part of Damascus and are now in the Christian part of town.
The large Christian minority in Syria came as a surprise for me. I knew there was a large Christian community in Egypt and of course Lebanon – but the fact that Christians and Muslims had coexisted peacefully in Syria for centuries were new to me.
After a bit of sightseeing in the Christian parts of town it is time to head back. We get on a minibus and show the driver where we want to go. He says ok and we agree of a price of 50 cents each it is a shared minibus and there are a few other passengers in it – it has not got a printed route or anything like that but we assume he is going our direction since he seem to now the place we stayed.
Then we head of with the other passengers in the minibus – and we head the opposite direction of where we are going.
We start to go left and right and he picks up more passengers and puts other passengers of. We keep going further and further away from were we want to be. The drive sets of more passengers and pick up one new one. The minibus is getting empty – he stops and the last passenger leave.
We are now alone in the minibus – miles and miles away on the other side of town not knowing how to get back and without much cash. Desperation is about to kick in – are we getting kidnapped or will this end up with the driver raising the price to 10 times what we originally agreed upon. We start to think about how we get out of the minibus quickly and run for cover.
Then we drive along from were we dropped the last remaining passenger of and drive into the unknown then about 30 seconds later – there we are just were we asked to get – home sweet home. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say we were relieved.
This blog entry is originally written after a trip through Syria a decade ago. I reread it recently and remember the trip with joy. I decide to repost the blog entries with the hope peace will return to Syria and it will once again become the wonderful country it was during my visit.