We used to play a game. It's called spot the foreigner. You get extra points if they're speaking Arabic, if they don't have a backpack, if they're walking fast.
It worked because foreigners were a rare species in Damascus.
Now, there is a flood. No doubt, it's because Syria is in the news. Five years ago, most people I talked to would need an explanation of where Syria is (between Iraq and Palestine is my favourite!).
So bravo to the foreigners who sought out Damascus a decade ago. Those who were here had clearly done their research. They knew what they were here for, they had a passion for this little known place. And they loved it.
Fast forward to 2008, and the types of tourists are very different. I'll hesitate to call them war-tourists (because they're not all that bad, and because there is no war!). But instead of coming here out of love, they're coming here as voyeurs. It seems they have a checklist of negative assumptions, and they're hnting for scraps of evidence to support their CNN-view of Syria.
But at least I guess infamy can be good for business.