I was in Damascus last week for a long weekend of shopping, and the trip gave me the chance to talk to some Syrians about the political situation in Lebanon. Not a single person I spoke to believed that Syria was responsible for killing Hariri. They all thought it was a plot hatched by Israel and the US in order to kick the Syrians out and use Lebanon as knife in Damascus’s heart. Many Syrians asked why the Lebanese hated them and seemed generally supportive of Syrian policies overall. Of course during such a short trip it’s hard to truly judge Syrian opinion, since although things have gotten better since Hafez died, the average Syrian is still somewhat hesitant to criticize the government to a stranger in public.
Another thing that I noticed this time, was that Damascus is like an oriental Prague: a beautiful and impressively old city in the center surrounded by the hideously drab and gray monstrosities that only the people’s architecture is capable of constructing.
Otherwise, Damascus is full of Iraqis, and the rise in prices is noticeable, even in comparison to just a year ago. The Syrian capital now has an Aishti in addition to the United Colors of Benetton stores that are sprinkled throughout the city. Overall, there’s been a lot of progress since the last time I was in the Arab Republic a year ago.
I love Syria, but it’s got a long way to go, and as the taxi crossed the border back into Lebanon, I remember sighing a breath of relief and feeling glad to be back home.