“In years past, the booms of artillery, mortars and rockets exchanged between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels arrayed against his rule provided an ominous backbeat to city life. (“That one is outgoing,” residents would confidently say to flinching visitors.)
In their stead, all that could be heard in the Christian quarter of Bab Touma on Saturday night was the chatter of an early Halloween celebration. It was another sign of a resurgent Damascus that appears to have shuffled off the war weariness prevalent before the country’s Russian-backed military began making gains against rebel groups over the last year.
Women in high heels teetered on the narrow, decrepit sidewalks.
They joined gaggles of young people congregating in front of a popular shawarma joint, strategically nestled among a newly opened strip of bars on Mustaqim Street.
Inside the smallest of them, a bar called Abu George, the decor features kitschy lamps, “antique” baubles and posters of bikini-clad women. The walls are covered with thousands of scribbles, lurching from the joyful (“I’m so happy to be here. Wish I could stay forever in Damascus!”) to the defiant (“Only the God [sic] can judge me.”)
The mustachioed bartender, Abu Issam, held court near a tiny counter.” LA Times
IMO West Aleppo would be a lot like this if the jihadis and FSA unicorns would stop shelling residential neighborhoods there. Even the UN has now complained of the indifference to civilian suffering involved. At the same time the RuAF has abstained from bombing in East Aleppo for the last two weeks in the probably futile belief on the part of “the evil Putin” that something can still be made of efforts to separate the jihadis from the unicorns. This reduction in operational tempo occurs just as the rebels (almost all jihadis) are making a desperate attempt to break the government siege of East Aleppo.
Down south in the Damascus region, there are still a few pockets of rebel controlled territory but they are shrinking steadily. The resurgence of ordinary life as described in this piece is reflective of the distance now existing between central Damascus and the places where the shells still fall in the suburbs.
Nevertheless, the aura of the place comes through strongly in this article. Damascus before the civil war was always a fun place. The hotels and restaurants were good. There was no pressure to conform to Islamic standards of dress or behavior, The Grand Bazaar and the “Street Called Straight” were endlessly entertaining. The secret police were discreetly unobtrusive most of the time. The women were Western in style. I remember hanging out in places very like the little bars and cafes described in this piece.
This was all before Robert Ford’s War. BTW, Ford now lives somewhere in northern new England where people still have some common sense. He is reported to me to be somewhat reflective and perhaps repentant of the role he played in triggering this evil war when he was US ambassador in Syria. He said recently at a Washington conference that he has discovered in retirement that the mass of the American people whom he lives among reject neoconism and the very thought of another war waged as a result of a policy of overseas aggression.
So, maybe there is hope, pilgrims, maybe. pl