Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Damascus, My Beloved Ancient City

Leen Othman / youthjournalism.org
A narrow, residential alley in Old Damascus

By Leen Othman
Junior Reporter
DAMASCUS, Syria – There’s this little yard north of the Omayyad mosque, where Roman pillars meet with Saladin’s grave and the resting place of three Ottoman pilots. Then, when the chants for prayer are raised, little doves that usually inhabit that yard rise up into the blue sky.
This is a small example of a large Damascus, a little taste of where I get to live and call home.
Describing Damascus historically, geographically, or even socially is impossible using one article. Describing Damascus personally, is impossible using language.

Leen Othman / youthjournalism.org
Asaad Basha Khan, an ancient hotel
Some people may love their hometowns, others are striving to leave, but for me Damascus is not just a hometown. Damascus is home, it is life, it is me and without Damascus, my soul does not breathe. An exaggeration?
How can you exaggerate how much you love a city that has streets that are 7,000 years old? These same streets have small children running through them, playing in the place where history’s dominant characters once walked.
Leen Othman / youthjournalism.org
Qasyoun Mount overlooking Damascus at sunrise. This photo was taken during a few days of snow last year.
How can you exaggerate smelling jasmine at every corner? At having an old lady standing at her door, offering you a fresh lemon or orange that she just picked from her yard?
How is it possible to not love seeing two houses, built together, and aged together until they got to the point where they lean in on each other, like their inhabitants.
Leen Othman / youthjournalism.org
The main entrance to the Ommayad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus
Leen Othman / youthjournalism.org
Olive Street in Old Damascus
Olive trees, doves in public squares, ancient small doors, cobblestone alleys, grandparents and grandchildren together or a young couple in love, church bells ringing simultaneously with mosque calls, arches of victory and white jasmine petals on the road, fallen from the trees lining the streets.
Damascus is beautiful. It is strong and enduring, yet loving and caring.
Damascus today has a quiet sadness that looms at sunrise and sunset, between the bustle of the day and the stillness of night.
The sadness lives silently, like the pain a mother hides from her children, yet the sense of its agony shows in little moments when the world is not looking. The streets sense it, the buildings sense it, and its sons sense it. Yet they all hold on, they all look up to the great mountain guarding it, waiting for a sun that will rise again without a cloud to block its light.
And until then, magnanimous Damascus holds on with all its might for even history knows that no matter how much it tried to pull her down, she never yields. Hope gets her through each day and through every night.
I was born here, and I lived here, but Damascus has stepped out of whens and wheres for me. It became me or more likely I became a small part of her. I am a small part of the cradle of life, and the birthplace of civilizations, and this is my home.
Leen Othman / youthjournalism.org
A church bell tower in the Bab Sharki area of old Damascus

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