By Patrizia Stellato
My first trip in Damascus was in August 2009. As soon as I arrived, this ancient and beautiful city impressed me in a very positive way. For its geographic position, getting in touch with Syrian people means to approach a world that seems to be in a perfect balance between East and West, past and present. Small traditional shops, milled around in the crowded, chaotic “suq”, the local traditional markets, full of thousand of colours and scents, coexist with immense shopping centres. Night clubs and discos, full of young people lost in the music and alcohol, stand close to some of the most ancient mosques and churches of the Arab world which face each other, almost as the symbol of an endless struggle between two religions so similar yet so far. This is Syria, or this my first impression of an amazing country where young people try to project into the future but anyway they give importance to traditions and to the national pride.
Furthermore, I was very impressed by the great ospitality and the warm welcome of Syrian people in the way that Arab are famous for. When we got lost in Damascus, people always tried to help us and escort us in the right place. All the friends I met there, still now in my heart, were very hospitable and generous and made us feel at home. The Syrian, a such genuine people, unfortunately, still now, wrongly suffer the lack of democracy and political rights due to an endless dictatorship whose tentacles reach any field of life: freedom of political expression, freedom of press, right of assembly, right of free elections. Syria fascinated me to such an extent that I decided to learn the Arabic language and I can proudly say that now I have completly learned the language.
After a month in Damascus, we also decided to take a short trip to Palmyra. A deserted ancient Roman situated in an palm-tree oasis, Palmyra is an incredible sight. We arrived there in the evening, and went up to the beautiful old castle to watch the sun set over the stone desert. But we stayed the night in a hotel in Palmyra, and decided to get up early in the morning to see the sun rise over the Roman ruins. We got up at 4.30 the next morning and staggered sleepily into the ruins, expecting to find as many tourists and salesmen as the night before crowding the place but we had all to ourselves and I think t’s probably one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
In conclusion, Syria was really a life-altering experience for me. I really miss this heart-breaking country and I hope, one day, to come back there.