It’s the weekend, so it must be time for the travel features to be wheeled out. And as usual, when one Syria piece comes out, the rest follow.
This time Britain’s Daily Mail and the New Zealand Herald are the hosts. Surprisingly, the DM does the better job. I say surprisingly because it’s one of the UK’s most right-wing newspapers. But it does the job – a creative title, and an inspired (if somewhat stuck-in-the-past) piece by Petronella Wyatt. The NZ Herald, on the other hand, has entitled its article: On the Road to Damascus. Oh good god.
So let’s start with the good: Bedouins and Breakfast (brilliant! although I’m not sure how many Bedouins there are in ‘ancient Damascus’). It offers something a bit different to the usual travel trash (friendly people, good food, old streets, blah blah, snooooooze).
“The Hon Jane Digby, a Regency belle, left her husband Lord Ellenborough to marry a Bedouin sheik, becoming reputedly the first European woman to wed a Muslim. (They honeymooned at Palmyra.)”
She visits Jane Digby’s house (I didn’t know that you could). But unfortunately tends to conflate the desert with the city, reinforcing the Orientalist camel cliches (come on, it is the Daily Mail). She also utters the sentence “‘Will you kidnap me?” to a Syrian.
Unlike Wyatt, the NZ Herald’s Trevor Richards isn’t on a package tour. The independent traveller starts his piece with a trip in a Syrian taxi, but then seems to offer little more than the Lonely Planet guide book:
“Walking is easy in Damascus. You should allow at least one full day – more is much more sensible – for exploring the Old City (it is 5km in circumference). Here the pace is relaxed, people appear unhurried, and there is always much to look at.”