Thursday, May 04, 2006

Syrian trip.... the story

It was Prophet's Muhammad 's Birthday when I first arrived in Damascus a few weeks ago. I don't think I ever recall being there on that occasion before, so it was lovely to experience it. This year even by Syrian standards the celebrations were extraordinary. Syrians usually hang placards praising the Prophet and caligraphy from the Qu'ran about him.Like other Muslim countries they congregate in the Mosques to pray for him ( but there are no fireworks in Syria- only plrayers incantations 'dikhr' and sufi style singing). This is done in rotation , not all mosques are allowed to celebrate simultaneously. Also Syrians hand out sweets and candy on this occasion till the end of the month which is an additional reason for my gaining weight this month ( apart from the one mentioned here ). I mean if paserbys and shopkeepers do it - how am I supposed to say no to all those goodies?

This year's celebrations were bigger as Syria's Christians stood in solidarity with their fellow Muslim brothers thanks to the Danish Cartoons ( whom we are never going to get rid off it seems).....

I was eager to see for myself how Syria has fared since my last visit of December ..Those were the good days prior to the murder of Hariri and the hysteria accompanied by warpath cries which we have been hearing since from the usual people. I'm not going to speculate about who killed him anymore . I wanted to study what happened during the past 12 months. It is not a secret that I love Syria. So what did I find ? Syria is still as beautiful , but thanks to the international meddlers business has been sluggish- who do you think will suffer? your average citizen of course. The gold marker which is usually a hub of activity is heavily affected. Although gold prices have risen worldwide, this never prevented Syrians from buying. This year the decrease is so sharp that the lovely pieces have disapeared from the windows to be replaced by Zirconium , and 12 karat gold and not your standard 18 and 21. So sad.
Still Syrians I noticed are resourful people.


Iraqis have almost doubled since last year, and the commodities prices have shot up accordingly.

As for the internet situation, it's very good I would say. If you have an account with the main provider ( state) you will have a fast dial-up connection, on a monthly contract ( If you pay more you get ADSL). Another choice would be using prepaid internet card from Aya a private provider, which is also dial up but faster and uncensored. Another choice are the numerous cybercafe strew all over the city .

The weather has been gorgeous - spring , clear and sunny, but very cold in the evenings.

With regards to mobiles there are two main providers : Syriatel and Areeba . For less thank 10$ you get a sim card and you can use prepaid units. Both have roaming agreements worldwide , however only Cingular in the US can send and receive in the Middle East.


Syria was also getting ready to celebrate the Western and the Coptic Easter fest which were one week apart. I missed the former since I was in Amman Jordan that week.

The journey to Jordan and back deserves a post entry on its own...boy how things have changed...please wait for it... and also to hear about my experience with a reikki /energy /reflexology master...what brought me there in the first place ?


gatorbait said...

Highlander, i can say my Cingular phonewas useful only as a paperweight. Maybe next time :-)

Highlander said...

Lol Gatorbait it is because Cingular does not have a roaming agreement with the place you went to, however if I recall you were able to receive and text back from a couple of countries right ? that means those countries do have an agreement with cingular ;) Now I can vouch that from Syria I can text to cingular in the US and vice versa but not to the other providers.

so go complain to you the company adn tell them you need to get in touch with the Middle East and they better improve their service ...

gatorbait said...

I'll do that. Now, take a look at what you wrote and detect the tone .I am not complaining, by the way.

Oh, in one of the countries that it did not work, Cingular advised me it would work very well. Guess customer service and I will tango.

Well, you're right about needing a better calling program. Speaking of which, it's about time for a fix.

programmer craig said...

I bet my verizon and sprint phones could call/text the ME if I was willing to pay for it :)

Doesn't mean YOUR phone could do the same, though!? :p

Texts are a bit different in the US (and all of North America I believe) in that the reciever pays for the text message, not the sender. That's the reason you can send e-mail texts for free to North AMerica, but not to anyplace else. It's not really free, the person who's phone you send to pays for having gotten a text message, according to their plan terms.

Whole thing is really confusing to me... weird, I'm such a computer geek but I'm clueless about mobiles. I just know I have unlimted free calling with both my sprint and verizon plans, but only in the continental United States. And... er... 300 free text messages with verizon. My sprint plan doesn't inlucde text messages at all.

programmer craig said...

Hey, by the way, do they have earthlink in the UK? I still have an active earthlink account I haven't even used in over a year :o

7mada said...

Hi there Programmer Craig. I haven’t heard of the Earthlink network in the UK.
Vodafone, O2, Orange, T-mobile are the main network providers then you have 'Three' Network, Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile. It’s either pay-as-you-go where you simply purchase the sim-card and the credit for your phone. Or Monthly contracts - a monthly fee for free calls and texts.

Highlander said...

Programmer_Craig welcome back where have you been hiding ....
As for your cellphone provider , well you have just suggested the solution so why don't you do it ;) as for calling the ME there are other cheaper solution I heard calling cards ....

As for my phone :) depends which one ( I have a whole bunch of them) but basically my Libyan can call anywhere in the world because I have enabled it and can receive and send texts to and from anywhere in the world where the opposite company has roaming agreements with the Libyan provider. Unfortunately at the moment with regards to the US , only Cingular has this deal..

The idea is to pay for sending text messages from the ME or from Europe but it is free for us to receive. However we do not have unlimited calls within our respective countries, so I think yours is the better deal. Let me tell you why . With your 300 free text per month you are covered and you can make your phone calls in the US, the only money you actually need to pay is if you wanted to call abroad. We on the other hand have to be premium prices for every single phone call :( .

As for Earthlink - Craig I have no idea , but I think 7mada answered this question .

7mada, re, the contract phones in the UK you know very well that those 'free calls' are not free - they give you 200 minutes a month or 300 or 500 - off peak or whatever and they limit it to yoru network nnot always accross networks - this is too restrictive and then the premium numbers are payable at a different rate and if I call a landline i get charged so much and if I go over my text allowance it's worse nah I end up paying soooooooooooo much plus VAT , it's horrible! I still prefer Libyan mobile provider ( or the US one for that matter ;) ), at least there are no hidden amounts.

7mada said...

lol UK mobile contracts are always full of hidden charges!

I meant to say the amount of texts or phone calls are given with the package. Say for example a Nokia 6630 - the phone you get 'free', however you pay £14.99 a month and you also get 100 texts to any UK mobile and 500 minutes to any UK landline - excluding premium numbers like the 0845, 0870 or 0800. Obviously if one goes over the 500 minute limit or the 100 text limit - one has to pay for the extra usage- depending on what the tariffs are. That’s not a bad deal I would say :)