Sunday, August 08, 2004


I am finally back in Tripoli! That was a long vacation eh :)

Those who have been following my blog know that after Egypt we went to Syria. I would like to tell you that immigration procedures in Syria have always been very courteous; all Arabs are immediately issued an entry visa at the checkpoint on sight. It is a popular destination for Gulf people, Saudis, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, etc..because in addition to the natural beauty and milder weather, it caters for many tastes. Alcohol is not prohibited, and there are no restrictions on dress code. It is not my first time in Syria, but each trip I make I cannot but feel overwhelmed by the intensity of history in Damascus, after all it is one of the oldest cities in the world if not the oldest one. Damascus is mentioned in the earliest historic texts and the archives of Mari dating from the 25th century B.C. In the tablets discovered at Tell al-Amarna, in Egypt, Dimashqa is mentioned as being amongst the cities conquered in the 15th Century BC by Tuthmosis III. The Arameans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians under Alexander, the Nabateans, Rome and Byzantium all stamped their influence on this great city. Christianity was established in Damascus from the beginning of the religion - Saul of Tarsus converted to the new faith on "the road to Damascus". The Omayyad dynasty made Damascus the political, religious and cultural center of early Islam. It was under the Caliph Al Walid, in 705 that the Great Omayyad Mosque was built, the 4th most important in Islam, and the most splendid and opulent building ever constructed in the Middle East. But he also included within the walls of Damascus a church which had itself been built on the site of the temple of the god Hadad of the Arameans. Salah al Din or the famous Saladin, the hero of Islam and my favourite, lies buried in this city which the Crusaders were never able to invest.

Like most Arab countries (apart from Saudi Arabia following the ‘liberation’ of Iraq) Syria is extremely safe. Where in the West can a woman go out wearing a lot of jewelry and not be bothered? I never felt and outsider, in fact that is the trademark of Arab countries, even in huge, sprawling Cairo or shaky Beirut I felt safe with my gold and diamonds and stuff. I really want to stress this safety part, because upon my arrival in late June, many of my friends warned me that I should drop the jewels and stop going out alone as women have been targeted and knifed lately, a group or one person it was rumoured was knifing them. I was devastated, if the legendary safety of women in one of my favourite part of the world was blown away then all was lost. There were many rumours and hearsay that first week: it was some thugs who had crossed the border from Iraq and they were forming gangs and targeting unveiled women, a fundamentalist group and many other stories. But the problem was that a woman with full hijab was also a victim, so what were we to believe? In fact the only common denominator between the victims was the fact that they were females, it did not matter weather they were blondes or brunettes, veiled or not, young or old. There was a serial killer on the loose and it was one person not a gang and he was using exactly the same method of attack. I did not really bother about the warning and one evening I went to visit some family friends at one of the Palestinian camps (I’ll talk about these in another post). I was telling them how I was disappointed about this safety situation, Damascus is one of the bastions of women safety for me I never felt this safe in Rome for example. My friends showed me that day’s newspaper, which I had failed to read, in which it was reported that the serial killer was apprehended and he was a young disturbed man who after being rejected by his fiancée had carried a grudge about women and was avenging his wounded ego in this way (such crimes are also common in the West right ? I read about them always in the popular dailies). Anyway the attacks stopped and my treasured safety was back, it was a false alarm, no rise of fundamentalism (that had been crushed 2 decades ago) and no Iraqi thugs (although I will talk about the Iraqi border another time also).


Heiko said...

I feel extremely safe in the European Union. Also:

<<< Crime is a growing problem in Libya. The most common types of crime are auto theft and theft of items left in vehicles, as well as burglaries. Increasing availability of drugs has led to an increase of crime in the past few years. Libya 's beaches are the frequent sites of muggings and purse-snatchings.>>>

<<< A number of terrorist groups present in Syria oppose U.S. policies in the Middle East. On April 27, 2004 there was a violent clash in an area of Damascus where many foreign citizens reside, in which three people were killed. A 1997 bombing of a public bus in downtown Damascus, which killed 22 people, and the 1998 and 2000 mob attacks against the U.S. Embassy serve as reminders that Syria is not immune from political violence. Americans traveling through the area should remain aware that U.S. interests and citizens might be targeted. >>>

But unlike Libya:

<<< Crime is generally not a serious problem for travelers in Syria. >>>

Highlander said...

Thank you for reading my blog and for the travel warning link which I always made sure to check just to know how realistic are the fears of my American freinds. Unlike these travel warnings I have actually been to all the countries I write about! Have you been to Libya at least ??