Year Abroad in Syria – Day #1

29/08/08

Day 1

I am now in Damascus, my new home away from home! So far everything has gone very well and there have been no problems. In fact, I ran in to some luck at the airport when just by chance I overheard someone say they were going to the ‘Damascus Hostel’, where I am staying at the moment. It was a guy from Sweden, here to work at the Swedish embassy. So we shared a taxi to the city and then a room at the hostel, splitting the cost of both in the process.

The weather here has been really hot, which isn’t too surprising since I am in the Middle East! Today I think it was 40 degrees C and right now in the cool of the evening it is down to 36. I have been looking around for some sun cream as I think I will be needing a lot!

I took a walk down the Souk (market place) but there was hardly anything going on because it is a Friday. The same will be for tomorrow, then things will start up again on Sunday. Most of the shops that are open today are run by Christians.

This is only my first day and I have already started to make some friends. Making friends here is much like a snowball effect, because you meet one person and then they introduce you to another who introduces you to another …etc. One man, who I bought my phone from, called Majid, has agreed to help me find a family to stay with. I think I would prefer that, even though it restricts your independence a little, because it is supposed to be better for your Arabic and would also be a great way to learn more about how a typical family lives in Damascus.

In the meantime, I shall be staying for a week at the Damascus Hostel, which is the same place I stayed last time I was here over the Easter holidays. They are extremely friendly there and speak fluent English, which has helped in getting settled in without too much hassle. The room I am staying in this time is air-conditioned, which really makes a huge difference. They have made a lot of improvements since last I stayed there. The hostel is also in the Christian district, where I hope to find a place, so it is a good base of operations, so to speak, for finding a more permanent location to live.

Because it’s the weekend, I can’t get any kind of paperwork done with the University or British embassy, so the next couple of days I shall just be relaxing and enjoying the peaceful Damascene lifestyle. I sampled some more Syrian food today at a restaurant called ‘Narcissus Palace’.

Sign at the entrance to the restaurant "Narcissus Palace"

The most interesting experience I had there was when, all of sudden, two small pigeons flew onto my table and one of them decided to sit on my plate of mixed nuts and help himself to some!

A pigeon on my table!

The most remarkable thing was how this was taken for granted and none of the staff made any effort to get rid of the birds even though they kept coming back for more food!

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