"Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will- whatever we may think."
Sunday, July 29
Today was our day to do the rest of the old city. Aside from wandering aimlessly through the streets, we went to see the Azzam Palace next to the great Mosque. It was a nice large space with displays of Arabic life portrayed by a bunch of identical manikins, male or female, punched out of the same mould. It was like seeing an Arab version of the Dionne Quintuplets! They did have a nice Koranic display, with six Koranic lines written on a seed and a whole chapter written on an egg. You could see through a magnifying glass that the script was perfect- Not that I would ever want to do that but it must take skills!
After we had gone through the palace, we try to take a rest and drink some water on the sidewalk in the old city. Should I say "try" because a small battle ensued with the vendors located in a fifteen foot radius. "Come to my shop lady!" "Wait, okay, we just want to relax and drink some water." "Come drinking my shop!" Wait! We just want to relax and drink some water!" "Drink in my shop! Wullah, it's more comfortable. You no buy. Just looking! No charge for looking! I give you good price!"
One man sent his friends to tell us to that if we were smart, we'd come to his store because he would give us some free watermelon. "Nothing is free!" we told him. We did end up having tea with one family of a man who ran three shops on that street. They told us that Watermelon Man was a very bad man. "Why?" I asked. "Do you have neighbours in Canada?" "Yes," I replied. "Are they all good?" Next, they brought out a little wire puzzle and Nae and I had to get a little ring off the wire structure. I had seen it before in Taiwan even though the men insisted that it had been invented by Bedouin man in the desert. As we try to get the ring off, we attracted an Arab crowd of such a mass that the men who ran the shops tried to take the game away to disperse the crowd.
"No!" We told them, determined to solve the puzzle. "Go make some sales!" We laughed. We eventually did solve the puzzle, with a little help from the father of the store. Each time we made motions to leave, the teapot would be refilled and we would be invited to look at one of their other shops.
Eventually we did succumb and followed one man into his own private warehouse. The warehouse was a four story building with a courtyard and fountain. There were more authentic Turkish wall paintings painted by the people who built the edifice. René and I saw guesthouse potential!
Even though we repeatedly told them that we had no money, they continued to show us room and rooms full of old stuff, swords, teapots, rugs etc. and offer us tea. The boy showing us around decided to be our self-appointed guide for the rest of our stay in Damascus. We had to work carefully to extricate ourselves from the situation without being rude.
On the way out I happened to glance under a chair. "Is that cat dead?" I asked. "No no! Not dead! Sleping. Just watch!" One of the boys moved the chair and poked the cat, but it didn't move.
"Oh, what a pity! This cat was playing just two days ago! Never mind, pull up a chair and drink some tea!"
We practically ran out of the shop after that, and so ended our days in Damascus.