« Mo | Main | 2 - Miner »

My Week: More Of Damascus

...the rather large shop keeper extracted an apricot sweet from the shelf, unwrapped it and lunged towards me. I tried to take it with my hand but he insisted on depositing it in my mouth. This performance was repeated with two more sweets. After that he filled up a glass with mineral water and poured that
into my mouth too. Yuk!...

Ruth Kaye escapes from the usual tourist scene in Damascus, Syria. To read more of Ruth's entertaining accounts of her Middle Eastern travels click on My Week in the menu on this page.

Hello again,

I am writing firstly to let you know that I am safely back in Egypt and
secondly to finish my travel journal where I left off last time.

Actually, I've just realised that I hadn't quite finished my Damascus
account when I last wrote.

SALIHIYYA, DAMASCUS.

On the last day of my final day in Damascus, I walked up the streets behind
my hotel, to the village of Salihiyya: more mosques, narrow streets with old
houses, old churches, Lipton kiosks selling everything but tea etc.

I felt at home in Salihiyya as I found one old street between the most
picturesque mosques (according to The Lonely Planet, but all mosques look
the same to me) which reminded me of the street begind my apartment in
Cairo. The souq (market) had exactly the same vibe; friendly and bustling
with local people doing their grocery shopping. The produce available
differed slightly; a green vegetable resembling the leaves of a flower
instead of rocket, and many baskets of baked chickpeas and soya beans. I
have brought a few bags of these back to Cairo with me as we cannot get them
here and they make a great snack if you are waiting for delayed transport or
people being slow with their admin duties (therefore I ate most of them on
my journey home!)

What I liked most about this area of Damascus was that I had the chance to
escape from the tourist scene. The Lonely Planet had recommended several
cafes but as my sense of direction is appauling I could find none of them
and ended up in 'The Journalist's Club', (they didn't check that I had a
journalist's ID) drinking tea by a window which looked on to a pretty
garden. There were also some nostalgic watercolour portraits on the walls
of people I suppose must be famous. I was moved from a table set for six
people to one set for two. I wondered if it was really necessary as there
was no one there but me. It also took them 30 minutes and two reminders to
make my tea.

WARNING: beware of the dodgy chocolatier

On the Friday morning of the few days I was there, I went for a walk
through the old part of the city by myself. As Friday is the Holy Day of the
week, I was one of the rare people wondering around and all the shops were
shut apart from a small scattering.

One of these was a chocolate shop, which, incidentally, had a mention in the
Lonely Planet book (no doubt cashing in on their fame.) As I needed
something to look at other than metal shutters over shop doors, I went in
for a nosey and hopefully a free sample.. Upon my arrival, the rather large
shop keeper extracted an apricot sweet from the shelf, unwrapped it and
lunged towards me. I tried to take it with my hand but he insisted on
depositing it in my mouth. This performance was repeated with two more
sweets. After that he filled up a glass with mineral water and poured that
into my mouth too. Yuk!

Some how I felt it was a shameful punishment in retribution for my greedy
longing for a free sample. In any case I felt very uncomfortable and scared
of what he might do next and as there was nobody around to hear my shouts
if I needed them I decided to run away while I was still safe.

OK, that's the end of my first visit to Damascus. I won't write any more
today as I know you won't want to read too much. I'll break the rest of my
trip into cities and send you diary entries city by city.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.