Thursday, December 06, 2007

Four Days in Damascus, Syria

G'day, Having been to Damascus during the National Day holidays in the UAE, I thought I'd best give a report. It was a busy weekend with a flight out of Dubai early Friday morning and arrival at Damascus early morning. We settled into our hotel and after a short break hit the pavement. Needless to say, we went to the souks (markets) which are huge and extend for miles. You can buy almost anything from needle and thread to food and canvas goods. You want it, they've got it.

Much of the stuff they have is available in the UAE, but Syria is much cheaper as their currency is worth almost nothing. Damascus is in a bad state of repair reflecting the difference between the oil abundant UAE and their dirt poor Arabian cousins. I never saw an Indian or Asian person while there (unlike the UAE whose population is mainly Indian and Asian) until we got to the departure line at the airport. White Caucasians like us and our travelling companions were also scarce which meant that everyone had a good look, even small kids, who had probably never seen whites before. Interestingly, jews, Christians and muslims all live together in Syria and do so apparently harmoniously sharing religious icons, churches, mosques and so on. It's an example that could perhaps be helpful in other less tolerant places.

We did a day trip to a place 60 kms away called Maalola and visited the Marsarkis Monestry built in the fourth century AD and naimed after Saint Sergius (Sarkis) whoever he was. We also toured The Monastery of Saint Takla which is set amid sandstone cliffs and while we were there, churchgoers were singing and the sound was broadcast around the neighbourhood.

During our stay we contributed to the gross domestic product of Syria while attending several lovely restaurants, most notable of which was yet another Golden Dragon (I've been to dozens of these!). The food was lovely and of course, our six companions were lovely to be with too.

Despite arriving back at Al Ain around 1:30 am the morning I had to front for work, it was a wonderful experience and made me yet again aware of how lucky we are that we can hop on a jet anytime and return to our beautiful country. We don't have to beg for a permanent visa or citizenship. Australians really do live in a Lucky Country and we should all visit overseas occasionally to remind us of that.

Double click on the photographic strip to make them larger.



PS: I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains ....

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