|What I will miss
|29 jun 2009
|(Deze column is in het Engels geschreven, speciaal voor haar collega's in Damascus).
Observations of a temporary national: Time to say farewell.
There it is.
Almost time to go.
Time has passed to fast.
Was it a dream?
Twoandahalf years ago Damascus added another typical forward, impatient, grouchy-before-coffee, rules-aholic, easily-irritated European to its inhabitants.
But she changed gradually. In the end she knows she will miss even the Emir Allah-mentality of some of the people she came across…
I slowly open the heavy office-door and the heat embraces me so tightly that I have to take a moment before taking my next step.
I step out of the office and deeply inhale the mixture of exhaust fumes and dust whilst I slowly descend from the stairs upon the sidewalk.
The guards that sit next to the fence have cranked up the volume of the Arabic music and are humming audibly while they use their Kalashnikov as guitars. They look at me disappointed and interrogatively as if they want to ask me where I left the jeep.
Oh well, I guess they will have to bend straight their Kalash elsewhere now…
Every day, I realize just al little bit more that I am getting closer and closer to my departure and it saddens me.
All of my irritations have changed into charms and I already miss the scent of cardamom which I would have ordinarily characterized as being terrible.
My mind drifts off to the Old City and the road you take to reach it.
It is one of contradictions.
You pass Damascus Boulevard with its bright coloured shop-windows that offer Cavalli, Ferré and numerous other designers we know and love in the West.
A few 100 meters further, these colours fade into the dust and desertsand-coloured buildings that seem to have been left from a somber Communist era. But even their rooftops harbour an evident paradox, as they advertise large and vivid bill boards of Pepsi Cola or such.
I cannot imagine another street-scene full of contradictions that melts together so easily.
A church on one side of the street; a mosque on the other.
A veiled girl sitting in a café with her uncovered friend enjoying their argile; and old Syrian man who explains to me in fluent English what to see in Damascus during my stay.
Not to mention the traffic; in which people seem to have said goodbye to their loved ones before getting in their cars; as the manner in which they drive is not one that can guarantee a safe return.
Yet that aggressiveness totally disappears when you witness the occasional fender-bender: the offender and its victim usually close-off their discussion with a kind ‘mafi muskile habibi’ (no problem my dear).
I must conclude Damascus to be exceptional in so many ways.
It is the city where history begun, and the city where my personal family history begun.
The place where my daughter Talia was welcomed into the world by yet another extraordinary person on my Damascus-list: My doctor who gave me the feeling to be a daughter more than of being yet another patient.
I will miss the beautiful women that walk the streets and are all glamour all the time; how I envied them when arriving to the office another bad hair day without make up.
I will miss the man on his horse and carriage that defies Umayyad Square and the overload of cars but manages to cross over safely every time; I think I will even miss the Tweety-lingerie in the Souk Hamidiyeh that made me smile for so many times as I was imagining who in God’s name would wear such feathers in everyday life.
For twoandahalf years I have been waiting in vain for the true face of the Ashes of Evil. The evil face I was warned about was in fact one of interest, kindness, helpfulness en sincere hospitality. Ten times ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’ when entering a restaurant, shop or office vs. the cool ‘welcome’ , if any, one hears when setting foot in any random establishment in Europe.
So until we meet again, fair Damascus, stay as unparalleled as you are and continue to convince visiting know-it-alls (such as myself) of the simple and true fact: When in Damascus try not to teach, but merely to learn.