This blog was originally designed to keep me sane as I began learning Arabic. It morphed into a blog of musings about Arabic, the Middle East, and the Islamic World, as well as book reviews about those topics. Then, the blog became a place to keep my family and friends updated on my adventures while I was living abroad. During May and June of 2012, I had a 6-week long internship in Cairo, Egypt through a international student organization called AIESEC. I taught English at the Awladi Orphanage in Cairo, home to several hundred children. I lived in an apartment in Nasr City before moving to Maadi (each is a distinct area of Cairo). I experienced President Mursi's election, camped in the western desert, rode camels by the pyramids, and had countless other experiences. I have since moved past this blog, on towards new endeavors, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Damascus: The Eternal City

After doing a post on the modern happenings in Syria, I was inspired to go and find out more about the country. I have come across descriptions of Damascus that I find fascinating and beautiful. There is such an allure to these romantic ideas of what the Middle East once-was. The Damascus of days gone by is such a bright, cosmopolitan city, but current descriptions paint it as a place that has lost its former glory. While I'm sure that Syria is still a beautiful country to this day, I would very much liked to have seen the far away place as it was so long ago. The following are descriptions of the idyllic Damascus from various eloquent travel writers.

“Through a gap in the rocks, my eye fell on the strangest and most fantastic sight which man has ever seen: it was Damascus and its boundless desert, a few hundred feet below my path... first the town, surrounded by its walls, a forest of minarets of all shapes, watered by the seven branches of its river, and streams without number, until the view is lost in a labyrinth of flower gardens and trees.” -Alphonse de Lamartine

"Damascus dates back anterior to the days of Abraham, and is the oldest city in the world. It was founded by Uz, the grandson of Noah. "The early history of Damascus is shrouded in the mists of a hoary antiquity." Leave the matters written of in the first eleven chapters of the Old Testament out, and no recorded event has occurred in the world but Damascus was in existence to receive the news of it. Go back as far as you will into the vague past, there was always a Damascus. In the writings of every century for more than four thousand years, its name has been mentioned and its praises sung. To Damascus, years are only moments, decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time, not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise, and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality. She saw the foundations of Baalbec, and Thebes, and Ephesus laid; she saw these villages grow into mighty cities, and amaze the world with their grandeur--and she has lived to see them desolate, deserted, and given over to the owls and the bats. She saw the Israelitish empire exalted, and she saw it annihilated. She saw Greece rise, and flourish two thousand years, and die. In her old age she saw Rome built; she saw it overshadow the world with its power; she saw it perish. The few hundreds of years of Genoese and Venetian might and splendor were, to grave old Damascus, only a trifling scintillation hardly worth remembering. Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies. Though another claims the name, old Damascus is by right the Eternal City." -Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

"This Holy Damascus, this Earthly Paradise of the prophet, so fair to his eyes that he dared not trust himself to tarry in her blissful shades —she is a city of hidden palaces, of copses, and gardens, and fountains, and bubbling streams. The juice of her life is the gushing and ice-cold torrent that tumbles from the snowy sides of Anti-Lebanon. Close along on the river's edge, through seven sweet miles of rustling boughs and deepest shade, the city spreads out her whole length: as a man falls flat, face forward on the brook, that he may drink and drink again, so Damascus, thirsting for ever, lies down with her lips to the stream, and clings to its rushing waters.” – A. W. Kinglake, Eothen: Traces of Travel in the East

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