Day 234: A peaceful day in the world’s oldest city

Damascus: Inside the Courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque

Friday is a welcome relief from the otherwise hustling bustling Syria. Equivalent to Sundays of the western world, today is a day of rest & prayers in Muslim Syria. The roads of Damascus are free from honking traffic and yelling shopkeepers. We can even walk without the need to dodge crowds. “Salaam” I thought, finally some real peace.

Despite so, one cannot escape the fate of being woken at the break of light by the calls to prayer echoing through the oldest city in the world. Prayers to Allah are sang 5 times a day, everyday, and broadcasted from every mosque. Every cantor sings his own melody but each verse seems to be harmonized by another cantor somewhere in the distance. Magical. There’s something alluring about it; on a peaceful evening following a long tiring day, the uprising of voices feel all the more purifying and sacred. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite traits of the mid east.

Waterpipes: Smoke up!

At 8,000 years old, Damascus has witnessed the rise and fall of empires. A little disappointed however, to find that its history is more romantic than the city itself today. The whole Arabian Nights vibe is a lot stronger in Morocco and Egypt than here, I felt. Still, I enjoyed roaming the old city of Damascus, watching men greet each other with kisses or walk arm in arm, hanging out at Al Nawfara cafe where the ancient tradition of story-telling continues whilst locals rub shoulders with tourists over tea and nargilehs (water pipes). The fragrant scent of sweet apple smoke is so pleasant I could sit around all day smelling this stuff.

Mosaic at Umayyad Mosque
Community life springs forth from the courtyard of Umayyad

The centerpiece of Damascus is without doubt the Umayyad Mosque. Step into the courtyard and wow what a magnificent sight! But more magnificent than the courtyard itself is the sense of community that thrives from every corner – groups of young men or women hanging out, chatting, laughing… Families and their children running around, playing, screaming with joy… Older folks studying the Quran or knelt in prayer inside the mosque…

Al-Nawfara Cafe under the shadows of Umayyad

We spent our evening on the steps outside Umayyad, watching life go by around Al Nawfara and meeting a few new friends (Bashar, Shadi and his tall basketball buddy). A very nice slow evening watching Damascus, the way she has watched its inhabitants for millennia past…

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One Comment

  1. ace says:

    i would love the hear the Prayers to Allah. Sounds enchanting.

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