Some of my most beautiful memories are of a short walk through the alleyways of Bab Sharqi (Old Damascus Eastern Gate) on the way to my hospital shift. It led from the Syriac monastery to the arch of Bab Sharqi in the great walls of Old Damascus.
I liked it especially in the mornings, when the sun was warm, yet weak enough not to bother us early risers. First I would salute the owner of the little shop next to the monastery. We would exchange few sentences and a smile. The cafes and restaurants would just be opening up, with their beautiful Damascene decoration and wooden chairs. I could almost hear the saxophone melody from last night’s party.
I would pass the bank staff, gathered smoking morning cigarettes as they tried to wake up. Then the narrow, lively pavement opened into the main path right before the arch. I always felt I would run into someone I knew coming the other way. The feeling continued until I stepped through the gate out of Old Damascus, and woke up from my brief daydream.
It is difficult to describe how much I miss those curved narrow alleyways, so rich with history, soul and heritage. You might expect to feel small in those thousand-year-old alleyways. In fact I felt so whole and complete. This three-minute walk contained some of the most precious and calm moments of my life. It was my own morning meditation.
Images: Street leading to Bab Sharqi, 1921; Bab Sharqi, 1880
James Gordon, via Creative Commons