The end of the road

view.jpgBack in Britain. I may have arrived without my luggage (that only got as far as London) but I have had an experience which will stay with me for life. And while I may have not had a sudden revelation on my road to Damascus, there are some valuable lessons in life that travel always seems to impart.
Forget the vile cold I’ve been struck down with and the lack of sleep, the journey brought me into contact with some generous, fun and lively people. The image of the Middle East as a place of oppresive regimes and religious strife couldn’t be more out-of-sync with the secular, open view of the world I encountered in Syria.
As far as the food goes I’ve learned how a proper Tabbouleh should be constructed – mainly chopped parsley, about a quarter chopped mint and chopped tomato – no bulgar and absolutely no cucumber – with lemon juice and a little oil.
I’ve marvelled at the crispy saltiness of the bread sold on the streets and the flowery, fragrance of the herbal tea. I know now that I don’t like unripe almonds eaten complete with their furry coats dipped in salt but that the boiled apricot sweets which are so chewy are a wonderful thing.
I didn’t see any sheep being carried through the streets or singing kickers. I did see a lot of young people enjoying their leisure time and a culture where family life is central.
I’ve experienced traditional hospitality and I’ve truly valued the friendship of strangers who have gone out of their way to be welcoming even when the language could have been a barrier.
It may be goodbye to Damascus, a wave to this view of a city surrounded by mountains, but I feel a return visit could be on the cards.

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