“No, I’ll pay.”
“Last time you paid.”
“So! I’ll pay this time too.”
“Come on, Alaa, get ready to go to the shops.”
“Why is it me every time? Let Ihab (my brother) go.”
Ihab says, while playing football: “Don’t look at me, I went last time, let Murad (our cousin) go.”
“Should I go then?” our grandmother asks.
“No, no it’s ok. I’ll go,” I say. “How many should I get?”
“Ok, but that’s too many for me to carry alone. Ihab, come with me.”
Ihab leaves his ball and comes with me.
The first thing you notice when you step into the neighborhood is the scent of jasmine and oranges, mixed with the smell of Old Damascus, which you won’t find anywhere else. It’s the smell of a 13,000-year-old city – older than my grandfather and yours.
When you take a walk through Old Damascus, you forget your pain, boredom, everything that annoys you, and you become drunk. Yes, yes, you become drunk simply on the scent of Old Damascus, more drunk than a drink could make you. And you feel joyful, like your soul is dancing.
My brother and I leave our small neighborhood to a bigger one, where the street is two metres in width. Here you drown in the scent of jasmine. I see our neighbours and say hi – they greet me back. We turn right and go on walking.
The first thing we pass is the shrine of an old Damascene lady called “Rabea Al Adawia the Damascene”. The whole place is green on the inside. You feel a sudden spirituality, as if she is still here keeping it company.
Next to the shrine is a really small shop, one square metre, which sells biscuits but rarely opens. On its left is a mosque. Once it was a big house, but the owners transformed it into a mosque, with rooms for religious students from outside Damascus to sleep in.
Further along the neighbourhood, you pass the doors of old houses, the neighbours, the walls of old houses and old bicycles left in corners, until you reach “Al Kemaria”.
This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Damascus. Its streets are still paved with Roman stones, and it has many restaurants and shops.
When I get there, I turn left to where the lemonade shop is, buy the thirteen cups and go back home.