Day 9 Damascus
I skipped breakfast to meet up with Ahmed to go shopping in the handicraft souk based in an old Koranic school. I managed to buy some obsidian necklaces, intricate mosaic boxes and some stunning hand woven silk brocade scarves. Afterwards I bought some more mosaic boxes in the hotel gift shop which had been made by one of the craftsman who makes furniture for Assad.
At the airport – chaos. The plane was full of Indians returning from Mecca and several arguments were started by men who objected to their womenfolk being seated next to unrelated men. The flight was delayed for 30 minutes while the aircrew struggled to sort out the disorder, aided by security guards who had to board to keep the peace.
Last impressions of Syria:
• Beautiful, friendly children with large almond shaped eyes and thick eyelashes.
• Straight translations into English that were often badly spelt (“pants” instead of “paints”) on museum and site information boards.
• A tiny, bedraggled kitten abandoned in the Damascus souk, crying for its mum.
• Ahmed’s terrible jokes and even more terrible racism.
• Joke one: “A Jordanian rich man was irritated that his poor neighbour wasted so much time and water washing down his car every day. The poor man invited him for a drive and after two minutes driving he tapped the dashboard and a genie appeared. The genie asked the poor man what his heart desired and the poor man asked for two cups of coffee. The rich man was overwhelmed and begged to buy the car. Eventually the poor man agreed and sold it for many thousands of pounds. The rich man couldn’t wait to try it out for himself, so he drove the car 3 yards, tapped on the dashboard and the genie appeared to ask what his heart desired. The rich man asked for riches, a good accountant, a dozen Mercedes and a beautiful villa. The genie frowned and said that it all sounded wonderful but unfortunately he was only a coffee genie.” Ahmed said that this joke can only be told against Jordanians because they always want an easy life and try not to work hard!
• Joke 2: “The President of Algeria declared a Democracy Day and called a press conference. A reporter asked him what had happened to former President X (Someone who was removed from power and disappeared). The President frowned and asked for half an hour and then he’d answer the question. For the next 30 minutes he answered press questions until another reporter raised his hand and asked “what happened to that man who asked a question 30 minutes ago” ”.