morning conversation with a Sunni Damascene woman

the lovely, but empty of tourists, hotel I'm staying in, in the old city of Damascus

the lovely, but empty of tourists, hotel I’m staying in, in the old city of Damascus

We’re sitting in the cafe of the ancient home-hotel I’m staying in for a ridiculously cheap price. I’m surround by arches, wooden beams, wrought iron decor, vast ceilings and windows, daylight and call-to-prayer and church bells filtering in.  Fairouz graces the space, her lilting voice a morning ritual.

If it weren’t for the sordid reality of the various attacks on areas throughout Syria by so-called “rebels”…. pause, another round of mortar attacks just now…it would be paradise.  As it is, the people I’ve been meeting the last ten days have been as lovely and gracious as the Palestinians I’ve met over the years in occupied Palestine.  And similarly, they are living under a siege… sanctions on the state which are one of the reasons life has gotten so expensive here (other reasons being “rebels” taking over factories, particularly in the north, I’m told, taking over petrol stations, taking over medicine factories…), but in spite of the higher cost of living for these people whose salaries don’t now suffice (despite free education and health care here), they are generous, as the Palestinians under occupation.

DSCN3450 (480x640)

I’m talking with Qamar (which means moon) Oudabachi, a Sunni woman who lives in the Mezze area of Damascus but works at the hotel.  She is stylish, confident, not oppressed in the least. She speaks a bit of English, but we’re conversing in Arabic.  The accent is different than my Gazaowi-accustomed ears can handle, so I have to ask her to repeat, slow down, many times, to make sure that I understand her anecdotes. At one point I jokingly ask her if anyone in the Syrian government has put a gun to her head, to force her to speak as she is speaking, to which she laughs and replies definitely not.

CONTINUE READING

some news bites and a little inspiration, from Gaza

THE UGLY

Rafah crossing closed for 81 days in 2014

Israeli forces injure 4 Palestinians in shootings near Gaza border

“We leave without expecting to return” – meeting the firefighters of Gaza

80% of Gaza factories not working

Gaza runner denied entry to West Bank for marathon

– Palestinians mourn woman who died after inhaling tear gas

**There is a lot more ugly imposed on the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, but I have limited time to seek this out at present.  In terms of news on Palestine, this site has frequent updates from a variety of sources.

 

THE GOOD

“Happy From Gaza”: the ever-wonderful Gangnam Gaza Style group has a new, uplifting (despite it all.  Gaza IS suffering, but these young Palestinians are trying to share the resilient, patient, and quirky nature of Palestinians, and do so very convincingly)

POST CONTINUES

children injured by “rebel” shelling of Manar school, Damascus

On the morning of April 15, “rebels” in Jobar district east of Damascus shelled a Damascus elementary school, killing one child and injuring at least 62 more, some of whom are critically-injured, some of whom lost limbs. A second school–a kindergarten–was also shelled the same morning, in the same densely-inhabited Christian area of Damascus, injuring 3 more children.

 

see also:  two schools shelled in Damascus, killing one child and injuring 65 more

two schools shelled in Damascus, killing one child and injuring 65 more

This morning, “rebels” shelled a Damascus elementary school, killing one child and injuring at least 62 more, some of whom are critically-injured, some of whom lost limbs.  A second school–a kindergarten–was also shelled the same morning, in the same densely-inhabited Christian area of Damascus, injuring 3 more children.

Below is an interview with Mother Agnes, on the shelling of the school and the situation in Syria in general.

Old Damascus city scenes

Scenes from old Damascus, including the Umayyad mosque

Culture and history overdose in a short space of time. Definitely an area that begs repeated visits.

Wandering around the mosque, I met a variety of women, children, men. Some women picnicking in the mosque’s courtyard asked me to join them; two kids, Majed and Ghelia (“expensive”) befriended me and accompanied me around, also gave me a short interview.

The scene was tranquility, cooing pigeons, gorgeous light, gorgeous flowers and scents.  It’s important to keep in mind that Syrians are struggling to live life as normal during this manufactured chaos.

The souk (market) was bustling with the usual scenes in Arab markets: spice vendors, freshly pressed juice vendors, Gold jewelry shops, odds and ends. I got my jasmin essence fix at the first perfumery I came across, and my zataar fix at the first spice vendor in my path.

Despite the aforementioned tranquility, the fascinating alleys and very pleasant people I met, one is also always aware that somewhere in the vicinity battles are being waged between the Syrian army and the seemingly endless variety of largely-foreign mercenaries.  The ancient Christian town, Maaloula (from which I’m told most of the Christian inhabitants have fled after, as in other Christian areas, being repeatedly attacked by mercenaries) is said to have been re-gained by the Syrian army (see here and here also).
CONTINUE READING

scenery from Syria

Scenes from Syrian countryside and cities, because it is important to understand (at the most basic level) a bit about the  layout, the rich and diverse culture, and what is “normal”…three years of attacks aside. And there is, actually, contrary to media in my own country, support for the president here. I remain open to meeting with and hearing from Syrians (not foreign mercenaries) who disagree with the current president, flat out hate him, or anywhere in between. Until now, however, having been in Damascus, Latakia, and Homs, I’ve met supporters only, and unabashed ones at that. Please keep in mind, this in not me championing him or his government; I am reporting what Syrians have said to me. And when I hear otherwise, I’ll report that too.

Upcoming posts will include:

-the recent “rebel” car-bombings (plural) in Homs, targeting civilian areas

-interviews with the displaced from the greater Aleppo/Idlib area

-interviews with average Syrians and with participants of the peace delegation I’m on

-the words of Syria’s grand Mufti, whose son was killed by “rebels” and who yet preaches forgiveness

-a meeting with opposition members, supportive of elections and of the current president Assad

CONTINUE READING