Every day when I was going home from school, I passed through Beirut bus station. Sometimes there have been half broken cars or busses going to war torn Syria. Drivers trying to find customers were asking everybody passing by, including me “Damascus?” or “Are you searching bus to Damascus?” or “Are you traveling to Damascus?”. I always just took a deep breath and answered “I wish…”
I know that they had no idea how much I would like to travel to Syria and see this beautiful country that unfortunately is affected by this non-human war conflict. They had no idea how much this question actually hurts me. It’s a country where I have never been, but even like that I am missing it so much. It’s probably hard to understand. But there aren’t many things I wish more, than being able to travel to Syria.
I remember, looking at photos and postcards from Syria when I was a child, I remember hearing beautiful and even funny stories from my relatives. And I thought that when I will grow up, I will travel there as well. On university I started to study arabic. Again, my teacher spent many years living in Syria and sometimes during the lessons, we didn’t study, but we were just listening to her stories. I even decided to write my bachelor thesis about this beautiful country. Recently I decided to read it again and some of the paragraphs I wrote about history or monuments bring me to tears. In 2011 when the war started, I had my flight ticket already booked and I was really looking forward. In summer the situation was so bad, that traveling was already impossible. In fact, my flight was cancelled. During another summer, it was last year, I was driving in south-eastern Turkey just next to the Syrian border. At night I was already seeing some light from Syrian cities. So close, but so far. And now in Lebanon, I was again only 3 hours drive from Damascus. And again, I had to tell to myself “You can’t go now, but be patient, that moment will come.”
What I would to in Damascus?
In the early morning I would take a book, I would go to the big Ummayad mosque, I would sit on the marble floor, read and watch the people going to pray in peaceful atmosphere in a place of worship of Christians and Muslims, as both were allowed to pray here. I would go to the Hamidiya souq – 2000 years old market with wide streets and covered by big arches, perhaps I would hit the remains of the Roman temple of Jupiter. I would walk, I would enter the small shops, eat dates and ice cream, drink tea and I would have chat with local people. As well I would visit the tomb of Saladin, important Arab king during the Crusades. His fair-play tactics were in strong contrast to the barbarous Europeans fighting for the Holy Land. I wouldn’t be in a hurry, walking through the streets, listening to the sounds of the city – cars, people talking, some music coming from around the corner. In the evening I would be sitting outside of some small restaurant, with nargile and playing tawla with friends. I would have a really nice time, because I know, that the Syrians are one of the most friendly and generous people ever.
But as they say: “If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”