I knew that Syria is in the middle of the world, but I was not prepared for the variety of faces I would see in what is statistically reported to be a fairly homogeneously Arab country. Some of the people below may belong to various minority groups (I have identified a couple), but I imagine most of them, if asked, would simply answer that they are Arab. Cleary, Arab ethnic/cultural identity is far more complex than many others–not all these people are “pure” descendents of Arabs from Arabia, as a simple comparison with Gulf Arabs reveals. Syrians, belonging as they do to a country that lies at a crossroads, must have ancestry that traces back thousands of miles both east and west. As I have said before, there are no doubt descendants of Crusaders and Mongols in Syria (along with descendants of Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians and Romans), whose ancestors have intermarried with each other and with, perhaps, Arabs from Arabia.
Reading, within a mosque just off of the main souk in Damascus.
Selling coffee and tea, Damascus.
At Bekdach, the famous ice creamery in the Damascus souk.
I am not sure what his Arabic title is, but this man’s job is to tend to the nargilehs (or sheeshas/hookahs). Most restaurants/cafes have a designated specialist.
A bedouin girl at Apamea. I much admired her lambskin jacket!
Abdullah found us at a historical madrassah next to the Aleppo Umayyad Mosque, and then escorted us all around town for hours, helping us find buildings and introducing us to his family. Of seven siblings, he and one of his brothers have fairer features, while the others have darker hair/complexion. Abdullah didn’t speak English, but was clearly exceptionally bright and curious (knowing finer details of many parts of the Old City and rummaging through the contents of each of our bags and pockets). He exuded a bold confidence unexpected in a young boy.
Nighttime, Aleppo souk.
A Kurdish woman we met at St. Simeon.
Part Syrian Turkmen, part Kurdish, part Armenian. And a fine salesman!
A bedouin wife shopping at a blacksmith near the eastern gate of Aleppo.
Don’t you think his looks are rather wasted in the cotton candy business? He belongs on CNN with Anderson Cooper!
A (tourist) camel driver in Palmyra.
A bedouin young man.
A bedouin woman.
In the Christian quarter of Damascus. Note the rosary.
A druze (Muslim religious minority) man in Shahba. Shabha is largely populated with Druze who moved in following conflict in Lebanon.
A young shopkeeper in Damascus, enjoying a nargileh while awaiting customers.