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Monday, October 29, 2007 

Change in Syria

I started this blog to paint a picture of life from the streets. But I get too easily distracted by big politics and international arguments.
So right now, I'm going to change that.
Things here are changing. And changing fast. Changing too fast for some people. It's affecting some people too much, others not enough.
But the outlook is positive. If you thought the shutters were being pulled down in preparation for war - by the officials, or by the people - think again.
Private banks are everywhere. French, Saudi, Lebanese, Syrian. And there are cash machines on every street corner. Ok, it's no Lebanon. But people do have access to their money. Society is not relying on cash as much as it used too. But every second coin or note I'm given is a shiny new one.
Talking of new, Pepsi and Coke are here. Pepsi cans even proclaim 'Now in Syria'. The Americanisation doesn't stop there. KFC in Shaalan is doing well.
The open air Z-Bar on top of the Omayaed Palace Hotel decorated with painfully trendy black furniture with views towards Jebl Qasioun wouldn't feel out of place in Beirut or London.
But that's all superficial and affects so few people.
The rich are getting richer. Travel to Saida Zeinab and meet some of the newly arrived Iraqi refugees and it will bring tears to your eyes. But more on that in a few days.
And talking of visitors to Syria, the tourist industry has exploded. I have never seen so many foreigners in Damascus. Germans are everywhere. Every hotel is full. And the taxi drivers are rubbing their hands with glee.
New restaurants and hotels have opened up across the Old City. A couple of years ago there were just two or three.
There are real attempts to clean things up. Baramke bus station has closed. And about time too. It has always been the place I hate in Damascus. Dirty, dusty, busy, polluted and filled with the worst type of people.
It has been replaced by a brand new one outside of Mezzeh.
Jisr bus station has also been closed.
Outside the city people seem more happy than ever before. Syrians seem to realise they have something no-one else in the region has - peace. And there seems to be an awareness the worst is over.
So while officials put up posters ever so subtly reminding us of the threat from outside ('Syria doesn't bow to anyone except God') - the people are a lost more content.
Strangers are talking politics like never before. People who know nothing about politics are willing to thrust their opinion on people they don't know. In the street, in cafes, in taxis. The streets are buzzing with politics.
And so will this blog.
(Technical note - forgive me for any errors - I'm sending this from my phone so it might come out a bit strange.)

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Excellent post Sasa and welcome back! All of us lose focus on what it is which makes us blog from time to time so you aren't alone ;)

It's interesting though, I heard rumours that a lot of these banks opening there are doing well mainly because of the need for "laundry" services in Syria. How true do you think that is? Also, to what extent do you think this is a period of calm before the storm?

If I understand your post correct, you are saying change is forcing itself, not planning.
I think people in Syria are resilient by nature; they have and still living difficult life not to their choice or to their liking. And all the pictures in the street are not their choices but they are peaceful people living under the mantra, the eye can not resist the pit.
My reading is that the change based on planning from top to what better for the public is still long way to go. There is though a plan to do what’s better for few which makes current change a dire one. Thanks for reporting from there, it is refreshing to hear homeland news.

I would like to post your peace on Syria comment , I hope you do not mind as i think it tells a great deal about the improvment in Syria from sombody who lives there not just visiting.

"Syrians seem to realise they have something no-one else in the region has - peace"

I guess that occurs because the terrorists never bite the hand that feeds them...

Its just a huge COINCIDENCE that as Syria is changing, there is instability in Lebanon, a country where western tourists would choose as there FIRST destination in the region because of its nature, nightlife and outdoor activities...

But then what do you expect from a cowardly regime led by ASSAD.....

Sorry Anonymous, but as a western tourist, Lebanon would not be my first choice, but well down my list of preferred destinations- and well below Syria. Beirut nightlife may seem the center of the universe for some, but if nightlife was what I wanted, I'd go to Europe, not some wannabe outpost.
First, I'd go to Syria and/or Turkey for history, archaeology and culture. They're still intact, and the past hasn't been mangled by the likes of Solidare.

well anonymous, you are definitely in the MINORITY......

I agree with your report, Sassa, but why do I have to wait until I am on holiday abroad before I can read you? and post this reply ? About discussing politics openly I would not go that far; I would resist the temptation. True there is a KFC but God forbids that it does away with fata'er.The big avorable points are peace, water, electricity, safety and although most people are not rich (many don't know what a bank account is; they have no money and spend the little they have as they go. Nevertheless, the atm are wonderful to have when you have cash to deposit.To one of the anonymouses Damascus is THE place I like best in the world.

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About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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