Update 21-November-2015: This post has been getting a lot of daily traffic recently and I’m not sure why! (Please enlighten me in the comments if you’re feeling particularly helpful.) I spent a week in Syria in May of 2010 and never could have imagined what has since occurred. I can only say that every Syrian I met was helpful, friendly and polite and I had no fears for my safety or security during my time in the country. (OK, except for the creepy kids at my hotel in Palmyra but that’s another story. I don’t think they saw many Western women.) I’ve written three posts about my time in Syria in case you are interested.
I am not a filmographer. I am not a director or anyone good at these film things. But I was running through some old video files and I saw this and the “oh wow” moment in the last few moments and so here we are. (Rewind, pause, stop during the last four seconds. Please.)
Because Krak de Chevaliers in Syria is one of the most beautiful of places. People come from all over the world to study its architecture. There’s a hotel — the hotel I stayed in — right across the valley from the fortress. The hotel buys its cheese from the guys down the road, along with the chicken they roast to perfection every night and everything else they need. It is a simple hotel, but I was dumb for not taking more photos. I remember trying to connect to the Internet there. “You will not connect here,” they said. “Only email sometimes. When the wind is blowing.”
If I were better at the film stuff, I would do something all pause-y-like at the end of the video I made. Also, I would spend less time filming the loo.
WHAT? Long-time readers will know that in 2010, I decided to visit Petra. And, well, as long as you’re in Jordan, why not visit Syria? It’s just right across the border. I spent a week in Syria and I had an amazing time. Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, PALMYRA. Everyone was so lovely to me. I worried about how I should dress and how I should act but what I found during my time in Damascus is that no one really cared. They were just happy to see me and happy to have me visiting their country. What I thought about their roast chicken and their falafel seemed to be of primary concern. Oh, and would I consider selling my iPhone because there are no Apple products in Syria.
Key interactions…I decided we needed some wine in Damascus one evening. I was directed to a wine shop in the Christian quarter. It was May in Damascus so I asked for some Syrian rose…The very perfectly-speaking-English proprietor looked at me funny. “But why??? Why would you want to buy Syrian wine?? Why when the Lebanese wine is so nice??” I bought some Lebanese rose and left. Later, we had some deeply lovely Syrian rose at the delicious Naranj in Damascus, while the UN SUVs idled outside.
Then…there was that moment on the bus ride back from Palmyra to Damascus. I got sick. Bad sick. I was staying in a backpackers’ hotel. But I was so sick, so very very sick. I couldn’t eat or drink or anything. What I decided then is that if you are going to be sick in Syria, you should stay in a nice hotel. So I moved into the Four Seasons Damascus and it was so lovely and beautiful and the staff was the most wonderful of the wonderful in the world. And this is what I wonder about all these years later…I wonder if a company like Four Seasons transferred their beautiful staff and their families out of a place of disorder. I wonder.
BUT….I have skipped the important point. The point where I asked the backpackers’ hotel what I should do…that I was so sick…that everything was coming out of all the places…and they sent me to this pharmacy where the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen who spoke the most perfect English I’ve ever heard gave me some pills and some instructions on fluids and all was right with the world. Thank you, lovely pharmacist in the Damascus pharmacy, for helping me. I will not forget you. I hope you and your family are all together and all safe. I will never forget you.
Sometimes we forget that there are real people living in real places, don’t we?