My name is Alya, and I am a Syrian-American living in Texas. A little back story, I used to travel to Damascus (the capital of Syria) every summer throughout my childhood, and I lived there for one year in 2010. When I first moved there, I was very upset to leave my friends and the life I was used to in the US, but it turned out to be one of the best years of my life. I attended an international school and met many beautiful people with diverse backgrounds and multi-cultures. The Syrians were vibrant and filled with life. They were hardworking and always had a smile on their face. There were kids who played soccer on the streets, families taking in the breeze on their balconies, and stray cats around every corner. I used to beg my brother to take me with him to internet cafes and to eat out. The food…oh, the food was a whole other story! The Syrian shawarma was my favorite with its fantastic flavors and oils that dripped from the hand-wrapped sandwiches.
I used to watch a children’s TV program called Spacetoon while enjoying my favorite snacks, Twist cookies, and flavored milk called Popeye (if you know, you know). But my family ended up moving back to the US after that year, and it was the last time I had visited Syria since.
Fast forward 12 years, I finally had the chance to visit my grandparents and relatives in Damascus once again! I wanted to share with you all a little glimpse of my travels to my home country in this post because the experiences still linger in my heart.
Some facts about Damascus:
1. Damascus, the capital, is the oldest inhabited capital in the world
2. Aleppo, Syria is the oldest city in the world!
3. The national flower is Jasmine, with the capital nicknamed the “City of Jasmine”. This flower flourishes on almost every street, and provides a sweet, fragrant scent as you walk past. (I saw these dainty white flowers in every neighborhood and was in utter happiness ✽! Too many photos taken with them)
The food, not just in Syria, but the Middle East, is mouthwatering! Some delights I got to munch:
· Manakeesh: A popular breakfast food in the Middle East, made from dough, filled with a range of ingredients such as cheese, zaatar and meat
· Farooj Broasted: Roasted Chicken served with garlic sauce and waffle fries
· Kibbeh Mishwiyyeh: Grilled Kibbeh (meat and bulgur wheat dumpling)
· Parfait Desserts: Sukseh (aka Lazy Cake)
· Kishk al Fuqara: It looks like pudding, was not my favorite dessert but is very popular as my dad had it every week
· Abu Abdo’s Juicery: This particular shop is worth mentioning as it made a variety of fruit salad bowls and hefty milkshakes (I had the Nutella Fruit Salad, and it was amazing)
Sooq Al Hamediyih
A memorable place I visited was Sooq Al Hamidiyah (Hamidiyah bazaar/mall) with my mom and grandma. This is the largest Sooq in all of Syria and is located within the “Old Damascus” walls. You can find everything there from furniture, clothes, candy, spices, toys, jewelry and even wedding dresses.
Lastly, Al-Azem Palace was beautiful. I got to see the rich Damascene culture through its traditional architecture. Some rooms displayed fabrics dating back to the 1700’s! The chandeliers were gorgeous as they were composed of detailed beadwork that dangled.
Overall, I was very blessed to be able to visit my homeland again. Despite the long years of war, Syria remains a place that bestows a sense of peace and tranquility in my heart. If you made it this far, thank you for reading my mini blog, and I can’t wait to see other entries on this platform!