July 2004

There, Damascus blossoms in a terrible heat and a no less important influx of people from the Gulf. At certain hours, it becomes difficult to find a free cab. Among these rich tourists, some are quite arrogant: in the old city, I saw one whose large frame, swollen with pride and wallet, occupied the width of the alley.

I continue to study

In the morning, the newspaper for an hour with R., and texts in the afternoon with my teacher. As it is the vacations I give up grammar until the beginning of the school year.

There are invitations given or received
A meal in the ghota with Magida and the children
Evening walks in the old Damascus
Meeting a beloved face
This beautiful French T-shirt worn by a Syrian
This young man on a terrace writing his diary or even a book
The foul (beans) eaten at Bouz El Djedi in Chalan
There is also the fresh fruit juice drunk at Abou Shaker’s in Salihya where people crowd in the evening.

I took this picture especially for you last nightand this made me be hailed by a suspicious young man:

why are you taking this picture? he asks me. I explain to him internet and so on. But why this juice stand? he insists.

I answer that I am trying to give an idea of what Damascus is like in July; besides, Abu Shaker is quite famous here.

And you don’t have that at home? No. And you wouldn’t photograph a frittekot? I should have retorted.

Let’s move on to a sinister encounter, probably a member of some jihad

Don’t worry, it’s my

In summer, it is difficult to get an appointment with him because he is overwhelmed with work. From all over the world people are flocking to have their pianos professionally restored for a price that will allow them to make up for the trip plus everything else (buying a car, he says, but I think he’s putting it off a bit; still… I remember the American prices and they were very expensive indeed).

I’m also trying to catch up on my “posts” as there are a plethora of photos in my archives. Expect to be overwhelmed with chapters.

I have started to lose a few pounds, because although I still wear galabyas at home or at our place, I don’t know anymore, I would like to put on my European clothes from time to time that I don’t fit into anymore.

I think of my return to Belgium, of the reunion with my dishwasher (a year of washing dishes by hand!), with my vast apartment, with the people I love and miss (more than my dishwasher), with Pascal and Dominique, my hosts.

However, in cha Allah, I’m coming back in September to join the Mahad (the school).

Maybe I’ll go to Yemen before school starts. Reading Travels with a Tangerine by Tim Mackintosh made me want to, as he seems to like it there. In this book, he follows in the footsteps of the great Arab traveler Ibn Battutah.

I am green with envy when he tells me that he picks up Ibn Battutah’s travels from a shelf in the bookstore and is immediately captivated by his story, but he reads in Arabic! I am still struggling to decipher – with a lot of help – stories for children! I calm down when I learn that he has been living in Yemen for 17 years (that was 2 or 3 years ago)! Something to look forward to.