Wednesday, August 15, 2007

syria is great

welcome to damascus, an enigmatic metropolis which has been the centre of human civilization for 10 thousand years. every major asian and european empire has left its stamp on this city, layering islamic, christian and jewish religions over an arabic base with splashes of greek, roman and mediterranean colours. it is a dirty, vivacious, calamitous place with endless snaking alleyways, a labyrinth of wonderful markets, sensational food, good nightlife and friendly people.

this is not a dangerous city (except maybe if jaywalking). people here are too busy surviving, learning skills that are normally imported in other places, because of global boycotts and devalued currency. young boys with axle grease smeared across their cheeks sit watching their fathers reassemble engines or cobble shoes on the sidewalk or bake pita in ancient stone ovens. when i asked why the syrians don't ask the government to create recycling programs to clean up the streets or build on a potentially great tourism industry the answer i always received was, 'we are too busy to worry about anything more than making enough in a day to feed our families.'

aleppo is syria's second biggest city and maybe even older than damascus. the streets there are narrow cobblestone paths through time. there is a great old fort in the middle of the city, dry dusty souks and great cafes. i think i ate something that didn't agree with me though and was sick for at least 5 days after. i don't blame you though aleppo... i will always love you...

latakkia is something else. situated on the thin strip of beach along syria's mediterranean coastline, latakkia is aleppo's bohemian cousin. beautiful beaches, crazy drivers, great food and gorgeous sunsets.

there is too much to say about syria. i think everyone should go there and get over their fears of all this american-propagated anti-terror axis of evil horse shit. rove is gone, cheney is skeletor and bush can't be trusted to butter your toast properly. don't believe them... believe me. syrians are nice, syria is great and children don't throw bombs at you.

things of note:
  • number one ultimate disco cab ride in aleppo. all the cabbies decorate their cars and this guy could drive, narrowly missing children on bikes, donkeys, orthodox nuns crossing the street while blasting the hottest lebanese dance tracks.
  • flying cockroach hunting in latakkia.
  • crazy bus driver who smoked, talked on his phone, played with the vcr and chucked vhs cassettes out the window while driving max speed and never inside the lines.
  • hairy syrian men scrubbing me down in a thousand year-old bath house in old damascus.
  • a burgeoning nightlife in damascus. clubs are catching on.
  • three young soldiers having fun, wrestling with an AK-47 in the middle of the sidewalk while we walked by. i thought i was going to get shot!
  • sheesha everywhere at anytime for any occasion.
  • scrubbing diab's house in aleppo.
  • endless cliff face and night lights along the latakkian coast.
  • the last rays of a setting sun glinting on the silver crescents of mosque spires over a shadowy damascus.
here are pics.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


hello everyone. sorry i've been a bit slow to update this since i came to syria. the internet is mostly dial up and there are rolling blackouts everyday. I will upload the pics when i get back to the uae but i will give you some highlights now.

damascus is fantastic! i love this city. it is dirty and crowded but the city is vibrant and historic. on our first night here we went to a club (clubs are a very new concept her) and had a lot of fun. went to the souks (markets) in old damascus and it is a magical, historic area. you can't help but feel like you went back in time. the people drive like maniacs but it can be fun and dangerous. syrians, having been isolated by western and even middle eastern powers, have little access to imports and so are very resourceful. it is not strange to see a 1950 mercedes benz or big chevys driving around. the weather here is fantastic. very similar to toronto i think. cool evenings and hot in the sun (unlike the uae when i left which was 49 degrees). we took a day trip to this famous church (yes there are plenty of catholics in syria) near this large mountain with a huge fissure in it and then went for one of the top 5 best meals i've ever had on top of a mountain. the food is by far the best thing about this place. i've been trying to take pics of all the meals. i can't tell you the names of everything we ate but it is all so fresh and tasty.

just got back from aleppo yesterday, which is another large gorgeous city. the streets are all winding and the buildings are a thousand years old. we saw an old fort in the middle of the city and sat in nice cafes relaxing and watching people go by. we are going to latakkia tomorrow, which is on the mediterranean, and will do some sight seeing around there.

anyway, the moral of my post is that, people shouldn't believe what they hear in the news about a certain place. syria is not unsafe, it is very friendly, cheap, beautiful, modern and fun. so visit. j