I started this blog to paint a picture of life from the streets. But I get too easily distracted by big politics and international arguments.
So right now, I’m going to change that.
Things here are changing. And changing fast. Changing too fast for some people. It’s affecting some people too much, others not enough.
But the outlook is positive. If you thought the shutters were being pulled down in preparation for war – by the officials, or by the people – think again.
Private banks are everywhere. French, Saudi, Lebanese, Syrian. And there are cash machines on every street corner. Ok, it’s no Lebanon. But people do have access to their money. Society is not relying on cash as much as it used too. But every second coin or note I’m given is a shiny new one.
Talking of new, Pepsi and Coke are here. Pepsi cans even proclaim ‘Now in Syria’. The Americanisation doesn’t stop there. KFC in Shaalan is doing well.
The open air Z-Bar on top of the Omayaed Palace Hotel decorated with painfully trendy black furniture with views towards Jebl Qasioun wouldn’t feel out of place in Beirut or London.
But that’s all superficial and affects so few people.
The rich are getting richer. Travel to Saida Zeinab and meet some of the newly arrived Iraqi refugees and it will bring tears to your eyes. But more on that in a few days.
And talking of visitors to Syria, the tourist industry has exploded. I have never seen so many foreigners in Damascus. Germans are everywhere. Every hotel is full. And the taxi drivers are rubbing their hands with glee.
New restaurants and hotels have opened up across the Old City. A couple of years ago there were just two or three.
There are real attempts to clean things up. Baramke bus station has closed. And about time too. It has always been the place I hate in Damascus. Dirty, dusty, busy, polluted and filled with the worst type of people.
It has been replaced by a brand new one outside of Mezzeh.
Jisr bus station has also been closed.
Outside the city people seem more happy than ever before. Syrians seem to realise they have something no-one else in the region has – peace. And there seems to be an awareness the worst is over.
So while officials put up posters ever so subtly reminding us of the threat from outside (‘Syria doesn’t bow to anyone except God’) – the people are a lost more content.
Strangers are talking politics like never before. People who know nothing about politics are willing to thrust their opinion on people they don’t know. In the street, in cafes, in taxis. The streets are buzzing with politics.
And so will this blog.
(Technical note – forgive me for any errors – I’m sending this from my phone so it might come out a bit strange.)
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