Friday, June 22, 2007

fumigated turkey sandwich

The menu's really should be collected in Syria and the Middle East in general and be made into a book, every meal includes ten minutes of laughing at the english mistakes on the menu. One of my recent favorites was a "fumigated turkey sandwich", "rough beef", and "salted cock".

Other than attending classes studying late into the night I haven't been up to that much recently. Of course I am the type of person who always has to be doing something if I think there is something out there worth doing. So at the expense of my sleep I grab an hour or two whenever I can and explore the city from end to end and try to visit everything listed in every one of the three existing guidebooks to Syria. I've pretty much worn out every street of the old city and have cataloged every restaurant with a rooftop patio, cool mosque or church, traditional arab house, bath house, or interesting shop that I want to come back to. Speaking of bath houses, I think a visit to a bath house is a cultural experience worth describing.

I just got back from a trip to the traditional syrian bath house and am feeling fresh as a lime. First you enter the main courtyard that has a bubbling fountain in the center, and is surrounded by benches along the wall for people to rest on after their bath. You put all of your valuables in a lock box, and are given a towel to put on while you change out of your clothes - all of your clothes. Then you traditionally get a shave, if needed, or go straight back into the main steam room, with a long slab of heated marble in the middle, and steam coming out of small pipes all around the room.

You can sit on the marble slab if you are brave and look up at the large domed ceiling covered with small glass lightholes that stream in sunlight and give an unearthly feel to the room. There are marble tubs around the room that have faucets running cold water, and you are provided with a little plastic bucket to occasionally throw over yourself to cool down. Once all of your pores have opened and you are ready to die of heat exhaustion, you go out into an antechamber and call for the guy to help you, usually his name is Abdu. He sits you on the floor and takes out a glove that is a mixture of course wool and some sort of rough sticks that he proceeds to rub you down with, which at first feels quite pleasant, but then turns excruciatingly painful as he ruthlessly tears away at your skin. Tears were in my eyes, but I dared not cry in front of the Arab. He rubs down your whole body - yes, the whole body, and then washes you down with soap that stings your skin as it enters the abrasions. When he turned me over, he showed me piles of my dead grey skin, rolled into little worm-like strands littered on the floor. Then he calls another guy, usually named Ali, who lays you down on a big stone slap and proceeds to give you a full body massage. Once he is done, you are shown back into the main entry courtyard and are wrapped with towels head to foot and sit down like jelly and are served a cold drink. Once you are done, you leave the bath house feeling like a new man.

Vanessa is in South Africa and I have not heard if she is alive or not, but hopefully all is well. I was also able to attend church this friday and increase attendance at the service by 50%. I also found out that the park I was hanging out in on Fridays to speak to people and improve my conversation skills is a park primarily frequented by gay Syrians - no wonder they were so friendly!

1 comment:

binrobert said...

Hanging out at Sibke park I see. I never would have guessed that about you... But seriously, I did the same thing until I heard who frequents that park.