We crossed the border from Jordan to Syria in a cab, our driver humming along to various Islamopop songs on the radio and zig-zagging through traffic. There were five or maybe six checkpoints, all of them involving giving up my passport and being squinted at by men in army suits. The Syrian border customs, when we finally arrived, disliked my visa and changed it from multiple entry to single entry, and to only last a week. I was happy not to have any more hassle than that; I’ve known people who were stopped at that dusty border for days.
We got into Damascus in the late afternoon and headed for the center of the city, a twisty maze of hodge-podge mudbrick and stone buildings. I took lots of photos of the mudbrick and plaster and tiny lanes full of people in a hurry. After a very circuitous wander and some of the best mezze of my life, we ventured down the dark alleys of the Christian quarter. Turning around one corner, we ran into a procession of Christians singing with lit candles, taking over the entire street. We looked at one another, shrugged, and joined at the tail. The lights flickering on the walls and the faces of the people was achingly beautiful.
The next day (if I’m remembering–it seems like ages ago now!) we went to the museum and then to the souk for some serious wandering around. Melissa and I waded through a large protest, with a person speaking into a microphone in obvious distress and flags and Palestinian scarves were everywhere. It was only later that we figured out that it was a protest over the IDF tragedy. Before that day, when we told people that we were American they’d smile and nod, and sometimes say, ‘OBAMA!’ After that, it was: ‘well, we can’t all be perfect’ or a just a slight grimace and nod. Still, the protest was entirely peaceful and people are beyond friendly.
After Damascus we went to an incredible coastal site and Krak des Chevaliers, but my time is running out on the internet. Tomorrow: Palmyra.