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Foreigners in Damascus

March 18th, 2008 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

We used to play a game. It's called spot the foreigner. You get extra points if they're speaking Arabic, if they don't have a backpack, if they're walking fast.
It worked because foreigners were a rare species in Damascus.
Now, there is a flood. No doubt, it's because Syria is in the news. Five years ago, most people I talked to would need an explanation of where Syria is (between Iraq and Palestine is my favourite!).
So bravo to the foreigners who sought out Damascus a decade ago. Those who were here had clearly done their research. They knew what they were here for, they had a passion for this little known place. And they loved it.
Fast forward to 2008, and the types of tourists are very different. I'll hesitate to call them war-tourists (because they're not all that bad, and because there is no war!). But instead of coming here out of love, they're coming here as voyeurs. It seems they have a checklist of negative assumptions, and they're hnting for scraps of evidence to support their CNN-view of Syria.
But at least I guess infamy can be good for business.


8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Wassim // Mar 18, 2008 at 6.45 pm

    Infamy Infamy!! They’ve all got it infamy!!

  • 2 SPDL // Mar 19, 2008 at 2.28 pm

    Au contraire!

    I first went to Syria as a tourist three years ago after going to Morrocco, and enjoying it thoroughly. I heard that Syria was a little like Morrocco, but even better… so I went, and loved it completely. In fact, it’s probably my favourite country that I’ve ever been to: friendliest people I’ve ever come across anywhere in the world, fantastic food, fascinating history, rich cultural history, etc etc…

    I’ve never seen much evidence of western tourists there trying to confirm a ‘CNN-view’ of Syria… I always thought that the majority of westerners who went to Syria went there precisely because they *didn’t* have a CNN view of the world…

  • 3 annie // Mar 19, 2008 at 5.21 pm

    I totally agree with spdl. All the people who came even those with prejudices against Syria (why did they come then ? Because I told them so) went away totally seduced by the friendliness of the Syrians, the beauty of the land, the magic of Damascus.

  • 4 mark // Mar 22, 2008 at 1.29 am

    I regret the person who posted this. This shows a lack of knowledge. The dominant people that come and visit Damascus at that time and still do do not even get CNN broadcasted on their TV. Maybe before you say something you might want to think about it before you post it ;)…cheers.

  • 5 annie // Mar 22, 2008 at 10.39 am

    Sassa, you did misfire. Your post is unfriendly towards foreigners. They come here in spite of all the warnings they are given. The Americans come in defiance of their government and often as a show of solidarity with Syria. Your attitude does not represent that of the people I have known in your country.
    War tourism ? Ma bidek ? Who wants to visit a country at war ? As soon as there is saber rattling tourism just vanishes.

  • 6 LAT // Apr 22, 2008 at 9.39 am,0,2750596.story

  • 7 Charles Roffey and Fred O // May 9, 2008 at 8.21 pm

    Yes, not such a brilliant post. I was in Syria last week for aholiday, less than three years after touring the country for the full two weeks allotted to us by the authorities. On neithr visit did we come across such people, although it has to be said that most people were pleasantly surprise dby the friendliess and hospitality of the Syrian people, not because they had bad expectations, moer because it erally si exceptional.

    And I’d much rather visit Syria than Moroccao any day…

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