HomeSelect Main CategoryDISCOVERING SYRIA


Syria???s truths???its authoritarian repression, its poverty and unemployment???belie its very freedoms, its refusal to succumb to clichés about the Arab world. Far from stereotypes of a nation suffering under the joint purdah of Islamic fundamentalism and Ba???athist socialism, I was overcome with Syria???s joie de vivre, its gregarious, frank generosity. And in defying clichés of an unforgiving ???terrorist state???, Syria leaves us grasping for them.Damascus, arguably the world???s oldest continuously inhabited city, is a series of confrontations with history. Its earth is a cacophony of a thousand crossed paths: the Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians, Ummayads, Mamlouks. Their footprints have taken earthly form in the cobblestones, and their cities are laid over and among each other till we see in the faces of the Syrians themselves the shifting handsomeness of much blood-mixing and -letting. Yet, history here is less a frenzy than a stillness, a bien dans sa peau, or comfort in the skin.301115161425-dam4The country both suffers and triumphs under a government that has little respect for the past, and yet by virtue of its retrograde policies keeps out both McDonalds and the tourists that seek to escape it. The regime promises timely buses, smooth roads, excellent inter-city transportation, and bans headscarves in schools. Despite all the efforts to instill a culture of fear, Syrians are almost defiantly unaggressive. The placidity of the streets might be as much a result of the regime as despite it and while tourism is seen as beneficial, there are few of the vulgarities of an advanced tourist infrastructure. None of the badgering rudeness or inability to trust.It is said that the Prophet Mohammad arrived at the gates of Damascus and refused to enter, knowing one may experience heaven but once. And Bilad-il-Cham, the ancient Syrian land that extended across the Levant was hoarse with the shouts of a thousand riches. The fertility of the region gave Damascus its name,



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