Sunday 4 January (Damascus)

I’m borrowing heavily from the information in the ‘Lonely Planet’ guidebook here, but to give some idea of how amazing Damascus is, hieroglyphic tablets found in Mari(which was once an ancient city in North and Egypt make reference to ‘Dimashqa’ from 2500BC. The site of the Umayyad Mosque represents an unbroken tradition of worship dating from the 9th century BC when the Arameans built a temple to their god Hadad (mentioned in the Book of Kings in the Old Testament). The Romans also built a temple to Jupiter on the site. A basilica to John the Baptist was later built there. When the Muslims entered Damascus in AD 636 they converted part of the basilica into a mosque which was later greatly expanded to the current building today.
Today I walked along Souq Medhat Pasha (Straight Street) and got some great photos of the shops. Straight street is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as being where Paul fetched up after he was struck blind en route to Damascus ‘Arise, and go into the street which is called straight…’ (Acts 9:11). I also visited Azem Palace which was built in between 1749 and 1752 as the private residence for the governer of Damascus, As’ad Pasha al-Azem. Tomorrow I am off to Palmyra for a couple of nights, then back to Damascus again.

6.15pm I have been watching Al-Jazeera TV (Arabic satellite TV news service) at the hotel, and it’s absolutely fabulous, better than the BBC and definitely better than CNN which often seems to be a bunch of people with big hair taking themselves too seriously. Al Jazeera is funded from a variety of sources, including funding from the Emir of Qatar, whoever he is, some advertising, and sales of broadcasting to other networks. Its willingness to broadcast dissenting and conflicting views has differentiated it from other world broadcasters. It’s covering the Gaza conflict, and really well too, with the sort of analysis that someone in my situation needs, that is, with an eye out for my own security. The broadcasts showed the pro-Palestinian protest all over the world including Australia, and covered the views of American people (i.e. 41 per cent support the Israeli attacks, but 41 per cent don’t). It has featured interviews from doctors working in Palestine and people working in the humanitarian sector who have plainly and flatly contradicted Israeli attempts to trivialise the extent of the tragedy, but it has also featured interviews from pro-Israeli commentators.

Regards Margaret

~ by margoforte12 on January 5, 2009.

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