For Easter Sunday I decided to visit the Christian quarter of the Old City, called Bab Touma, and join in the celebrations there. After all of the churches in the area had finished their ten o’clock services, they each joined together to form one long parade through the city streets. There were marching bands, flag bearers and little children dressed up as baby chicks! The drummers were drumming as loudly as they possibly could, as if they wanted the whole city to hear, and you could just about hear the brass music under the beats. They were carrying all kinds of flags, representing the various church groups and at the front was the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic. In the middle of each church group the youth were holding up and parading their own Easter scene, with giant paper-maché chicks and coloured eggs. I was somewhat surprised to find a lack of any real religious symbols being carried in the crowds.
After the celebrations, I met with a large group from the Protestant church I attend and we had a meal out at one of my favourite restaurants in the Old City, called Bab al-Hara. I love the food there because they have a great mix of both Eastern and Western-style meals available.
Being Sunday, it was still a working day for the rest of Damascus and so I still had to teach a class that evening. I didn’t mind, however, as I always really enjoy teaching and this time was no exception. This particular class was in Jaramana, where there is a large population of Druze, which is an off-shoot of Islam. My class, being mostly Druze, were very curious about Easter and so the lesson turned out to be an introduction to the whole Easter story, starting right from the very beginning with Adam and Eve, all the way to the resurrection of Christ. As they heard it for the first time, I could tell that each one had been touched very deeply by the story.
It also happened to be one of the students’ birthdays and so we finished the lesson with another celebration, singing happy birthday in Arabic then English, eating lots of Arab salad, called fatoush, and finally having lots of chocolate cake!
As I am sure you are aware, Easter is celebrated on different dates in various places of the world. So here in Syria it was actually celebrated twice, once on the Western date (April 12th) and again on the Eastern date, one week later – so over here you can have Easter two times a year! It wasn’t until the second time round that I finally managed to eat a chocolate egg – even if it was just a small “Kinder Surprise”- sized one. It’s pretty much impossible to find any Easter eggs where I live, outside of the Christian quarter.
So all in all, I feel I had a really great Easter all the way over here in Damascus, close to where it all originally happened!