Sunday, 9 September 2012

Syria: Its Beautiful People

With the goings on in Syria and Damascus these past few months, I can’t help but wonder if the families and children that I have had the pleasure of meeting and having a conversation with during my two trips to Damascus back in 2010 are safe or even still alive.  You see, throughout my travels these past few years, I probably haven’t met anyone more kind and friendly that the Syrians, it's easy to feel attached to them even though we are totally strangers to each other.

If you ever happen to be in beautiful Damascus, do go and sit in the courtyard of Masjid Omayyad (Omawi Mosque) to take a breather and people watch after discovering the back alleys of the walled old city.  The courtyard is such a bustling place, filled with locals and tourists alike - kids playing and running around, families having a "picnic", tourists taking photos - you are forgiven if you somehow forget that it's actually a masjid.  Just sit in the courtyard and it wouldn't be long before you would have curious kids coming over and try to have a conversation with you.  It would probably start with a halting and shy hello.  Say hello and marhaba (hello) back to them, and their face would lit up with a smile.  Say a few more Arabic words, and the smile would turn into a big grin if not a laugh.

And the conversation would then start.  They would practise their English while you practise your (almost non-existent) Arabic.  They would ask where you’re from.  How long did it take you to fly to Damascus.  Where have you been to in Syria.  What do you like most in Damascus and if you like Damascus at all.  I have always answered that last question with “I LOVE Damascus!” for I truly love the city and am totally drawn to it, particularly the walled old city.  Tell them you find Damascus jameel (beautiful) and they would be beaming with pride, smiling from ear to ear.

Those moments are just priceless.  And I really treasure them.

But it's not just the kids.  The adults are friendly too.  After a few minutes of possibly the simplest conversation, you might even get invited to their house for tea or a meal.  Have had some awkward moments when I had to decline a few invitations due to time constraint for every time I was in town, it was just for a short weekend.  I’m not sure if it’s customary or if they feel obligated to do so – there was one time when one father out of a sudden appeared embarrassed and apologised for not being able to invite me back to their home because it was already quite late at night - but you can feel that such an invitation is genuine and comes from the heart.

I also met in the old city one guy who once lived in Kuala Lumpur for a few months to study English.  We got into talking and he invited me for dinner at a quite fancy restaurant.  The next day he texted me and asked what time is my flight because he wanted to pick me up at the hotel and then drop me off at the airport.  Mind you the airport is not exactly near to the old city.

Would you not feel touched by such friendliness?  Would you not be drawn and feel at home with such hospitality?  Syria’s tourism tagline by the way is “Welcome to Syria. Your Second Home”.  That, I couldn’t agree more.  A fellow traveller friend even argued that it didn’t feel like a second home simply because she just felt right at home in Damascus.  It therefore saddens me that I would not be able to go “home” again anytime soon due to what’s happening now.  It breaks my heart even more to think about what’s happening in Syria and to its beautiful people, especially those who have touched my heart even after just a few minutes of encounter.

I pray for their welfare and safety, and I sincerely hope you could join me in my prayer too.


Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. Hi, actually 1st time drop comment kat sini:-)

    sayang sangat beautiful country and people tapi dirosakkan oleh pemerintah yang kejam/ketidakstabilan politik

    of course,I'll pray for them too

    1. Hi, dzuchan! Thanks for dropping by and for following too :-) Memang sayangkan? And it's really saddening too :-(

  2. Those kids are super adorable and looks so photogenic. So sad to hear what's happening to their country. Pray them all the best.

    1. Yup, they are. They're also bright and funny, I really enjoyed talking with them. I would smile everytime I look at the above photos, remembering their laugh and reaction when I attempted to say a few words in Arabic. I hope they and their families are okay, and that everything would soon be back to normal again in Syria.

  3. Yes, let's pray for Syria and for these beautiful people, may one of the cute boys (above) will be my future son in law..ehehehehe (hmm sungguh bermotif)

    1. Chawanna, motif tak diterima. Mana nak letak Adam dgn I? (jawapan yg bermotif juga)

  4. hi Raw,
    such a bunch of handsome Syrian boys, what about the girls? did u manage to capture their photos? =)

    i think seeking solution through war is just too ridiculous since both party can sit down & discuss. hope for a change, not only in Syria but the whole world in general.

    1. The girls are beautiful too but they tend to be shyer and giggles only from afar. I did not take any photo of them due to cultural (and perhaps to a certain extend religious?) reasons. I probably should have just asked some of the parents for their permission though.

      Anyways, yes, I totally agree with you on the war issue but then unfortunately not everybody thinks the same. Else the world would have been a peaceful place a long time ago.

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