Thursday 8 January – Damascus

More poking around the Old City of Damascus. The Souq Al-Hamidiyya, which is the main drag, so to speak, of the Old City, is a covered bazaar arrangement. The roof of the bazaar and the buildings in this part of Damascus date from the 19th century. A bit of 20th century history – if you look up at the roof you can see the bullet holes from machine guns of French planes fired during the Arab rebellion of 1925 against the French. I walked through it, past people in shops and stalls thinking up ways of separating me from my money.

In Syria live Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and the Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Christian community is represented by the Maronite Church, the Greek, Armenian and Syrian Orthodox Churches, and Greek, Syrian and Roman Catholics, and they are all found in the Christian quarter of Damascus.There is also a Jewish quarter that I didn’t get to today. Too many distractions in other parts of the Old City.

Some minor victories today – the first is that I finally found a cafe that serves cappuccinos as we commonly understand them, and as soon as I got hold of one I proceeded to inject it straight up my veins. The second is that I FINALLY seem to be getting some idea of how to bargain. So unfair – I have been at it for just about five minutes and I am up against people who have been at it for thousands of years, so of course they are much better at it than I am.

6.00pm – A bit of excitement – got back to the hotel and was advised by a Swiss traveller there that there had been a demonstration of about 10,000 people in front of the Hejaz Train Station, earlier today, complete with riot police and tear gas, provoked by the Gaza conflict. (The Hejaz is really only a few metres away from my hotel). Sure enough, it was all over the Al-Jazeera news that night.

I knew something was afoot earlier that morning – there were crowds converging on the train station, which was draped in banners, and loudspeakers were blaring. I was down in the Souq (market area of the Old City) all day so I completely missed it.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website has the following advice on its Syria country home page: ‘Political developments in the region may prompt large demonstrations across the region, including in Syria. You should avoid all large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent.’

Well, all I can say is thank GOD for DFAT, if it wasn’t for that advice I would have leapt right in there, probably laid down on the ground and invited people to trample on me….look let’s face it, who hasn’t wanted to be sprayed with tear gas once or twice in their life. Lucky I’ve got DFAT warning me off it!!

I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh on DAFT…sorry, slip of the tongue, I meant DFAT, I’m sure they try their hardest. It’s just that I think that their travel advice for Syria should be amended from something which is obviously aimed at people who are seriously deficient in common sense, to the following handy tips:

PLEASE NOTE: SYRIAN DRIVERS ARE HOMICIDAL MANIACS. DO NOT, REPEAT, DO NOT SEEK TO EMULATE LOCAL PRACTICE OF LEAPING ACROSS ROAD IN HAPHAZARD AND RANDOM MANNER.

DO NOT REQUEST MILK WITH TEA. THIS CONCEPT IS LARGELY UNKNOWN IN THE REGION. WARNING: AFTER TURNING HOTEL UPSIDE DOWN IN SEARCH OF MILK,  THE WAITER WILL HAVE TO BE RESTRAINED FROM GOING OUT IN THE STREET IN SEARCH OF SOME FOR YOU.

PEOPLE WHO LOATHE CATS SHOULD SERIOUSLY RECONSIDER THEIR TRAVEL PLANS TO SYRIA.

 

 

 

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~ by margoforte12 on January 9, 2009.

One Response to “Thursday 8 January – Damascus”

  1. Ok! Dont\’ worry about the comments – am still learning how to use your site. Am very excited for you! sally

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