Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Photos: 1. Petra. 2. Ali and his father, two fighters. 3. My fisrt saudi driver.
Founded by somebody in some moment of the fifth millenium before Christ, Damascus is the world’s oldest continuosly inhabited city. While its origins get lost in myth, history holds certain that Damascus was the capital of the great Umayyad Caliphat, which comprehended the whole Islamic world between india and Spain, a unity never achieved before or since. From that golden age only architechtural treasures remain. In the Big Mosque, for example, the Mausoleums of both Saladin and John the Baptist find place. One, the biggest enemy of Christiandom, the other in charge of baptizing Christ itself…

To Damascus I arrived after a week of playing Tom and Jerry with the Syrian political police in the Kurdish area. Max, Matteo and Silvia, myItalian friends from Hasakeh, were also visiting the city, and with them I shared my fisrt three days, sneaking into their hotel at night, whose porter was the kind of people that finds a five legged cow perfectly normal. I didn’t count how many times we crossed the covered bazaar, which roof still bears the bullet holes of the French plane’s macine guns trying to sofoccate the 1925’s rebelion, eventualy getting lost in the laberynth of alleys, mosques and Chevrolet Impalas that forges the Old Town.

When the Italians headed back to Damascus I betrayed the hotel (A one leg cow world have certainly called the porter’s attention) and knocked Ezzat’s house door, local member of Hospitality Club. Ezzat is a convinced muslim, and as such he enjoys complicated filosophical arguments. At fisrt he aimed a conversion to Islam but, discovering my agnosticism he tried at least to make me a Christian. “If we can see the caml’s excrement that means that the camel is around” – is bedouin proverb, and Ezzat’s best teosophic card. Leaving religion aside I was fascinated by the way Ezzat’s familiy incarnated contemporary Syrian history. His 86 year old father participated, aged 6, in the 1925 Revolt, smuggling guns in his donkey. With such example it’s no wonder that Ali, Ezzat’s brother, was one of the hundreds of Syrians that rushed to Iraq to fight the American invasion, accomplishing his duty of carrying on the jihad or holy war. The CNN would call him a terrorist. I have him in front of me. He is a calm, educated person, father of three who ownes a metallurgic workshop. He ended up in Tikrit, regreting is militia never saw action: when on April 9th Baghdad surrendered the Iraqi regular troops that had trained them were running in underwear through the streets screaming; “The Americans are coming!”. So, oh surprise, the untrained voluntary militias were the ones no trying to convince the Iraqi army of fighting, gun on one hand, Qoran in the other. All in vain, nobody wil risk his life for U$S100 a month…

Before leaving Syria I stil had a mission, wehich I accomplished on Wednesday: being face to face with the fragnebt containing the oldest known alphabet, coined by the Kingdom of Ugarit, in Syria around 1400 BC. Impossible not to shed a tear, remembering the words of Mercedes Sosa: “Thanks to life, that has given me so much (…) and the alphabet, and with it the words, that I think and declare….” She should have said “thanks to Syria..!”

220 kms separate Damascus from Amman, the Jordanian capital. Of the drivers involved in the trip I should remember an Saudi Arabian in a 1980 Chevrolet Caprice who took me to the border and a Palestinian who in his Toyota pick up smuggled me into the capital and payed (I still didn’t have local currency) a taxi for me to Ala’a s house, local member of Hospitality Club. He introduces his country’ the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordania, apparently conceived in the back seat of a Rolls Royce by Winston Churchill, in an attemt (succesful) of creating a “cushion” state to soften regional tensions. (some say puppet state) It is a formidable contrast that, while the current fronteers have been disegned with a ruler and a pencil by UN cartographers, Jordania encompasses a plurality of Biblic sites. Jesus was baptized where the Jordan river meets the Dead Sea, where I was on Monday. A few kms from there is Mount Nebo, where Moses fisrt received SMS from God promising him the…well…the Promised Land, and sparking two millenia of conflicts. More recently, since the cration of the State of Israel, thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge in Jordan, which was the only country to aknowledg them full citizenship. They are now 70% of the total population of 4 millon. Half of this number dwells in the modern capital Amman, the other half is diseminated in the desert that covers 96% of the national territory. With such geographic parameters one understands that richness can only come from prizes (foreign investments) for the alignation with America. Lula’s proposal of cooperation between the Arab block and Latin America remained unattended, blocked more by the government than by the people.

On Tuesday I headed for petra, the rose red city carved in the mountains that was a secret held for 400 years by bedouins. One day of 1812 the revealed the existence of the secret to a Swiss explorer. I continue walking towards Cairo whre I hope to receive 2006…

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