damascus

12/2/04

damascus is a huge city where around every corner you find the contrasts of the arab world mixing w/ the modern west. though not as modern as for instance istanbul, you can tell that this city is by far the most modernized in syria. looking up, you’ll find mosques and billboards both crowding the sky while on the streets men in business attire walk alongside others wearing robes and headscarves. the shops sell fancy watches and nike outfits next to arabic glimmering waterpipes. the city is very busy, and the streets are a crazy snarl of traffic and taxis, all of them honking their horns at once. if there was a soundtrack for the city, the resounding echoes of the call to prayer would be scattered throught the blares of constant honking. crossing the street, you take your life into yor hands as traffic hardly lets up to let you squeeze on through. it’s a shame that we had so little time to see the city.. it’s so big that we only got to see a tiny chunk.

the most interesting part of town is the walled old city. it encompasses many many shops and souqs. the main street leading into the covered city is pretty modern and almost loos like a covered shopping mall.. but as you venture farther into the old city, you slowly go back throug time, and soon you’re walking on cobbled streets among old buildings, mosques, and churches. the highlight of all of this is the Umayad mosque. it is one of the most famous mosques in the world and was built shortly after the start of islam on the site of an old byzantine church. if you’re a girl, you need to cover up upon entering so caryn had to wear this dorky ewok robe, heh.


walking around inside the mosque was really cool. it is basically 4 huge halls surrounding a gigantic open courtyard in the middle. you could definitely see why this mosque was world famous as the courtyard was very beautifuly decorated. another interesting thing about this mosque, is that several extremely famous people are buried here. john the baptist is one of them, and the other is one of the descendants of mohammed… Al hussein who is extremely important in the shiite religion. it was crazy to watch people go into the room where his tomb is. people totally crowded around it and everyone was trying desperately to touch the glass walls outside the tombs and then touch their own face afterwards w/ the hand that touched the glass. one man even blessed his baby by touching the glass and then his babies face.

we spent the rest of the day wandering around the old city, and also perusing hookahs. we planned to get up early the next day and finally buy some… but we woke up the next day and realized that it was friday. every friday pretty much everything closes here in syria. crap. no hookah stores were open. i guess we’ll have to wait until jordan to buy some. oh, one interesting thing that happened. i walked into a place to buy a diet coke and the guy at the couter started asking me where i’m from etc. when i said america i got the usual “ahhh, america!! good very good! welcome!!” etc.. and then he just gave me the drink and told me not to pay! wow!

around 3 today we got on a bus to jordan. in 4 short hours we got to amman after a very painless border crossing…

*v

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