I was in Damascus for just over a week, and in a taxi with Athar and Rana on our way to the old city. First for a stroll in the Souq Al-Hamidiyah and then onto Beit Jabri for a juice and maybe lunch.
It’s September 2019. Life has its burdens for the locals, no doubt, but they can still smile. Music helps! As does female companionship.
For anyone wondering why people who have visited Syria are so enchanted by the country and its people, I would recommend you read Syria: Through Writers’ Eyes, written and edited by Marius Kociejowski (2006, 2010). Below is a short extract.
Lady Damascus, by Brigid Keenan
I lived in Damascus for nearly six years and it was there that I learned how Arab women enjoy each other’s company. Really enjoy it, I mean, and not just while they are waiting for the men to arrive – for at the women’s parties thrown to celebrate weddings and other joyful family occasions (occasionally in a hammam or bath house where everyone ends up wrapped in towels and smoking hubble-bubble pipes) the men never will arrive. They are not invited. The women are happy together, eating, gossiping, singing karaoke, dancing sexily with and for each other, and generally letting their hair down, like girls on some sort of unlikely non-alcoholic hen night. There is camaraderie and fun and bonding among these women that I have never come across outside the Arab world.
(I’d taken Athar away from her work for a couple of hours; hence, her need to be on the phone in the taxi.)