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The magic of Sham

November 10th, 2007 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I haven’t even left yet and I’m already missing this place. So, again, please forgive the sentimental tone of this post.
 
And the second thing is, while this is a very positive post, I don’t mean deny the very many problems that aren’t mentioned here.
 
I was trying to get to Muhajireen but it was 2pm, and everyone elese in the city also wanted to get somewhere.
 
The serveeces were full, taxis didn’t want to go in my direction. It was a seller’s market.
 
Finally, there was an empty taxi. I waved furiously and he pulled over. As I got in he said something excitedly, but I wans’t paying attention because I was worried about how late I already was for my appointment.
 
Then some words caught my attention. He took me and a friend from Soumaria bus station to Saroujah two days ago.
 
How – in a city of five million – can a driver remember a single passenger. (Ok, so I have funny hair).
 
But that’s Damascus.
 
I don’t worry about being lazy in arranging to meet long lost friends. Because I know in a city like Sham, they won’t stay long lost.
 
In the past week I have bumped into three people. And none of us express too much surprise.
 
I went into a fruit juice shop which I haven’t visited for four years – and the man working there remembered me.
 
What other magic can the city conjure up.
 
Our ability to stare.
 
Where else in the world is it normal – or acceptable – for a crowd to gather in front of two people who are having a very public argument. But it’s not just the exciting that gets people’s attention. The roadworks in Bab Sharqi/Medhat Pasha are a particular source of interest. Groups of men stop and stare into a hole.
 
Bab Al Hara (the Entrance of the Alleyway) has taken Damascus by storm. It’s not just a television programme, but has found its way into vocabulary.
 
This might just be my particular obsession with the programme, but people seem to be calling more and more streets ‘hara’. I had an argument with a taxi driver who told me a road I’d directed him towards was actually an alleyway, and not a street.
 
The Alf Lail wa Laila restaurant in the Old City has opportunistically changed its name to Bab Al Hara. Shame it hasn’t changed the food.
 
And the show’s terrible music is everywhere.
 
And exhibit number four – the city’s trustworthiness. I left a cafe to go an look for a friend. I had been sitting on my own, and I hadn’t paid. But they trusted me to walk out, safe in the knowledge that I would return.
 
Damascus may not be magic. But it is special.

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