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For more on our adventures & the amazing people we met in Syria, please visit my personal blog.  This is one I left there a few days ago.

We would often leave Old Damascus by hailing taxis from Bab Sharqi, which means Eastern Gate. It’s one of the seven ancient city-gates of Damascus and the one we saw every day as it was closest to the hostel. We could leave this gate by car or walk along the outside of the wall. It’s along this wall that we could reach our hostel by ladder.

Bab Sharqi is a short walk from the church
that honors the apostle Paul
(See second & third pictures here.)

This is a view across the road.

I think the sign says something about Coke being good with food. Some people boycott American products because they believe our major corporations pay high taxes and they know Israel receives billions of US tax money. They do not want to support their enemy in the slightest way so they avoid American goods.

Here is a car wash across the street from the hostel. Note the cute little yellow taxi. We rode in those nearly every day. Most all of the taxi drivers were sociable and many said one word we understood well: “Obama!” One driver asked Samer if we were sympathetic to the Arabs whereas another declared us “friendly” (because of our smiles) and wished he had a day off so he could spend it with us. He is the one who didn’t want to charge us for taking us to Anas Restaurant. (Don’t worry, we paid him.) Taxi rides were cheap in Syria and bus rides were even cheaper.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

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Today I will tell you how we got to our hostel in Old Damascus. First of all, here is a view from the street which runs in front of the hostel. Yes, that’s a horse-drawn cart among the crowd of taxis and mini-buses and other vehicles. I would enjoy peering out of the window just to see who was happening by at any given moment.


This is the long way to our hostel. It’s about ten minutes from the busy road you just saw. Typically taxis would drop us off at Bab Sharqi (the tall white thing in the center of first picture),

and we’d walk down these narrow streets in the Bab Touma neighborhood

which cars and buses would brave at times.

Welcome to The Damascus Hostel! This is probably the most interesting place I’ve ever stayed in. We met people from Australia, Turkey, the United States, British Columbia, Lattakia, London, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France and Amsterdam.

The other way to our hostel was a bit more exciting. Here Andrew will demonstrate. Starting at the busy road (pic 1),

climb over the fence

ring for the ladder if it’s not already down & then climb up here.


Our room was in the tower. That is the window I’d look out of to see the sights on the busy street below. One of my favorite memories was seeing cleaners washing the street with a big water truck around 12:30 or 1 AM. I wish I’d been able to photograph that, but I figured I’d only get a glare from the window.

Later I’ll share pictures from within these hostel walls, but now you know how to get into the place.

Pictures from Damascus, Syria
January/February 2009

Stay tuned….Samer is working on a great post, I hope. In the meantime something else from my personal blog about our time in Syria.

Today I will tell you about one restaurant we went to. Sorry, but I don’t know the name. I think this was my least favorite place, and it’s not that this place was bad. Rather the others were just so delish! We’d just had a wonderful time at the mountain overlook where we’d seen Damascus at night. There were 7 of us in 2 cars so we stopped by a cute restaurant for dinner. Andrew was in his gusto mood to try anything the guys recommended, whereas I was Ms. Picky and not so apt to try new stuff. I have nut allergies so I have an excuse. And after looking at this menu, I was glad I was picky. I just don’t see this stuff advertised in most restaurants I frequent in the States. OK…none of them. Can’t say I’ve seen brains, kidneys, livers, testicles or tongues at O’Charley’s, Ruby Tuesday or Cracker Barrel. Maybe they are there and I just missed ’em! (Gotta hate that!) Seriously, brains with egg?

Soooooo, I looked at this menu and probably had one of those deer-in-the-headlights faces … something like 8-/, but thankfully, I found out “shish tawook” was similar to grilled chicken …. ahhhh, something safe. *whew*

The offending menu. I mean LOOK at it!

Ol’ Andrew was gung ho to try the local cuisine, but found fatteh wasn’t his thing. Can you guess which bowl was his? Thankfully the fries were good and I gave him some of my chicken because, well, I’m just sweet like that, ya know?


Oh, here we are! See how happy I am with my chicken? I was just overwhelmingly glad I wasn’t eating brain salad. I’m lovin’ Andrew’s face at the prospect of having to finish off that bowl of Shami goodness! (evil laugh)

(Aren’t y’all wondering about this stupid hat I wore nearly every day? C’mon, admit it! I look like a character from The Cat in the Hat, right? Ha!)

I’d already eaten all the chicken before I remembered to take a picture. (Thankfully, Samer took the one above and sent it to me in time for this post.) Mushrooms aren’t my thing … so I gave them to Sami since he loves them.

And here are our dinner and looking-at-Damascus-at-night companions.
Mohammed and Ahmad (aka Jake)


Basheer, Samer and Sami

Notice the pictures in the background … we saw those e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e!

Pictures from February 3, 2009
Damascus, Syria

I am going to start sharing some pictures from our trip to Syria. On the first Sunday we were there, we went to an internet cafe’ in the Shiite neighborhood and when we left it around 1:30, these scenes from the street caught our eyes.

Children, children, everywhere … even in the streets!

Children talking with their friends after school probably wondering who that crazy foreigner is taking their photo

Kids, bikes, cars, trucks, even the occasional horse … all sharing the road

These little guys were nice enough to stop and pose for the camera

Andrew got caught by the guy we dubbed “the aggressive nut seller,” and he bought . . .

a kilo of pistachios and cashews for about $17!


Photos from February 1, 2009
Damascus, Syria

A week ago today, we were at Krac des Chevaliers.  *sigh*  Our trip to Syria was great!  The people were so hospitable!  See more of those we met here. I really miss them a lot.  We left Damascus early Wednesday after 12 wonderful days.

Here we are with Samer. He is truly a fantastic young man!  I am very blessed to be his friend.  It was an honor to meet his family, friends and see his city and the surrounding areas.

More later.


A year ago the January excitement was snow, but not this year!



My house in January 2008 when we actually got snow!

Southern snow is so boring compared to, ohhhhhh, deciding your first overseas trip is flying over 6,000 miles to visit friends in the Middle East! Agreed?! Samer invited me and my husband to visit Damascus many months ago. We discussed it then, decided we might like to go during the winter so we went ahead and got our passports just in case. That was in May 2008 so this trip seemed so far away, but now it’s here and I can hardly believe it! Did I ever mention that I’d never traveled west of Tennessee? And that the only plane trips I’d been on were 1.5 hours each way. So this will be quite a change!

If all goes as planned, we will fly to Chicago in the morning and then it’s on to Istanbul for a 12 hour layover. Lord willing, we will arrive in Damascus at 1:25 on Friday morning. That’s different from what it was originally, but oh well. The earlier flight from Istanbul to Damascus was canceled.

We are looking forward to seeing Damascus and surrounding areas, but most importantly, I am eager to meet my Arab friends. I really meant it when I said they were God’s gifts to me! I look forward to meeting Samer, Sami, Jake, Amer, Basheer, Hassan, Mohammed and maybe even Souvenirs & Scars (see blogroll on left). Sadly, my cheeky friend Louai is in London (he’s a famous architect!) so I won’t get to see him, but he has been helpful in giving suggestions about places to visit.

I guess the moral of this story is….don’t invite me to come visit you unless you really mean it. I just might take you up on the offer! Insh’allah. 😉

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)


In American culture we generally expect to receive a few gifts around certain holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, but, to me, gifts are more special when they arrive for no obvious reason.  No birthday, no wedding anniversary, no holiday or graduation from school or college.  One of those “just because” gifts that make us feel loved or appreciated by the giver because he or she was thinking about us and decided to bless us with something thoughtful.  For many people, a gift’s value isn’t determined as much by the cost as the thought behind it.

One year ago today, I was given such a gift.  Well, my gift is both valuable and full of thought.  One year ago today — 9 October 2007 — I was at my parents’ house with my nephew when I decided to check MySpace to see if I had any new comments or messages.  What a surprise to see a note from a young Arab college student from Damascus, Syria!  Who knew by answering this simple message, my life would change so drastically?  Ha, ha……probably the One Who sent me this special gift!

I never would have thought replying to Samer’s message that I would come to have more of an understanding and love for Arabs and Muslims.  Those were two groups I really didn’t know much about or cared for very much. I just didn’t know any.  None.  And I didn’t care to understand them. It just never occurred to me that I should care since I never crossed paths with them.  Ahhh, but the Lord had different plans!  He wanted me to “cross paths” with some Arab Muslims. Apparently He wanted me to learn some things, to broaden my perspective and understand their views and struggles.

I thank God for Samer and the other young Arab friends that I have met as a result of him.  I praise God for my Shami, Latakian and Palestinian friends — Amer, Basheer, Sami, Louai, Hassan and Ahmad (aka Jake). God has given me such wonderful opportunities to learn from them this past year.  They are my unexpected gifts!  I am so very thankful for each of them and the way they have impacted my life.  Definitely I can no longer hear “Arab” or “Muslim” or “Syrian” or “Palestinian” and dismiss them as before. Now when I hear those words, I think “FRIENDS.”

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3)

As Patriot Day draws nearer, I thought I would turn my attention to national pride.  But instead of focusing on America or the events of 9/11/01, I wanted to briefly discuss pride nonAmericans have in their nations.  I am reminded of an article I read — perhaps on Al Jazeera English — where an Egyptian woman discussed how even though she did not agree with her government on most things and wishes for a change in what she considers a corrupt regime, still she found herself cheering her government somehow when other nations spoke against it.  Kind of reminds me of the attitude we have at times. You know, where you can have a problem with your sister and fight with her and even say a few choice words about her, but the minute an outsider says something about her:  whoa!  She’d better watch her mouth in your presence!

Makes me wonder about the ordinary people living in nations that are “demonized” by Western media and politicians.  Or the reverse as well. How do Westerners feel when their countries are badmouthed or threatened by other nations?

Does living in a “terrorist state” or “the axis of evil” make you feel as if the West considers all who live in Iran or Afghanistan or North Korea or Sudan as evil terrorists?  Does it make you want to rise up against your government in order to wipe out the evil that the Western politicians have identified? Or do those descriptions make you angry enough that you feel defensive for your country …. even if you really don’t “believe in it”?

Countries often impose sanctions upon “disobedient” nations in order to get the leaders to obey the will of The Powerful.  I believe The Powerful have high hopes that the ordinary people will get so tired of being denied useful items that they will rise up and throw out their corrupt governments.  Iraq was under heavy sanctions for years yet that never happened.  Are there examples where sanctions have worked out as planned?  We say we don’t want to hurt the ordinary people, but that’s exactly what happens.  Do you think Saddam Hussein and his boys suffered along with the ordinary Iraqis?


Just something on my mind lately especially when I learned recently that a friend was denied downloading a web browser simply because he lived in Syria. Here is an ordinary, peaceful, kindhearted human being unable to download Google Chrome because he was unable to check that “I certify that I do not live in Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea or Syria.”

Give me a break!   Thoughts?