I arrived in Damascus last night at around 10 after spending almost 6 hours at the border. Officially, Americans have to get their visa in Washignton, but it’s usually possible to get it at the Lebanese border, provied that you’re willing to wait a while.
The only other time I’ve ever been here was on my way out of Lebanon to Jordan during the war this summer. The city seemed lively and teeming with energy, and I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to look around. (I spent the night in a UNRWA Palestinian training camp then left the next morning for Amman.)
Damascus reminds me of a cross between Cairo and Beirut, which is a very good combination. These are the last days of Ramadan, so everyone is pretty lethargic during the day. I’m looking forward to celebrating Eid, although it would be nice to do it in a family setting rather than as a tourist. I’ve spent most of the day in the Souks looking at Iranian manuscripts, which may or may not be fakes, and key chains for my collection.
The last time I was in Syria, I was struck by Assad’s cult of personality, with portraits of him all over the place, including in people’s car windows. This time though, I’ve seen more pictures of Nasrallah than anyone else. The support for Hizbollah seems ubiquitous. There are posters, banners, glass etchings, t-shirts, and yes, key chains.
I’m going to try to get permission to take the Syrian tour of a village in the Golan Heights that was abandoned after the Israeli occupation. It should be interesting to see the place that could be the key to enflaming or defusing current tensions in the region.
I’ll take pictures, but I won’t be able to upload any until I get back to Beirut.