Saturday, June 30, 2007

old city damascus

I just had a really neat experience in the old city last night. There was this music festival put on by the French cultural center where there was live music by different kinds of musicians in about ten different arab houses around the old walled city. You were givent a map and could walk around to all of these immaculate old arab houses with the courtyards and the fountains and listen to all kinds of traditional Arab and modern syrian rock bands. Not only was it cool to walk through the alleys of the old city, replete with hanging balconies and arched doorways, but also to see the real home-grown artsy damascus scene.

There were a lot of local Syrian youth with long hair and black clothes who belonged to the bands or were artists - it really felt like an emerging scene, like something you'd experience in Paris in the 30's or Berlin in the 60's. It's something I haven't ever seen in the middle east outside of a few small groups in the American university in Cairo.

The old city has a real magic to it and is going through a major revival. You can't turn a corner without seeing a house under renovation, and every third doorway is now a sheeshy little restaurant with an open courtyard and a remote control roof that rolls back in the evening to let the breeze in. I would even consider staying in the old city for the rest of the year if I could find a place with AC, a western toilet, and a real kitchen (not a cement block with a portable burner beside a leaky marble basin).

I also went to the international flower show at a local park, which was pretty depressing, not even as impressive as the plant section at any local home depot. Most of the plants were plastic, and besides the few potted plants for sell, there were a stalls selling honey as a natural cure for everything from arthritis to impotence. My favorite was a stall selling some creams for breast enlargement and other ones for breast reduction.

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