I have lived my whole life, 17 years in Damascus, but for a long time I never realised or sensed the beauty of this place.
I never realised the greatness of its curved roads, the busy crowded shops the night before Eid, the corn on the cob stalls, the bicycle workshop in my neighbourhood. I was always so jealous of all the kids in my neighbourhood when they took their bikes to him to get them fixed. I never learnt how to ride a bike.
When we were little, we played hide and seek with all the kids from different neighbourhoods without caring where they came from or who their families were. We’d argue over who cheated and who won, but we always came back the next day to play together again. I wish we were still the same. I wish we still didn’t care. I wish we could all have amnesia and wake the next day to play hide and seek altogether again.
Everyone describes Damascus as the City of Jasmine, but I never understood why. Now, after my displacement, I pass by a certain spot on the way to where I now live in, and a flashback strikes me. The street facing Jahez park, the long flight of steps up the hill in Mashroueh Dummar in Ashra. That spot takes me back every time to my Damascus.
I never understood why. Until one day, when I looked up to see a jasmine bush filling the street with its fragrance. Perhaps this jasmine grows to remind me – to never allow me to forget – the smell of Damascus. So I will always remember AshSham (Damascus), the breeze of Ashsham, the breeze of jasmine.
Bicycles in Damascus by Dario-Jacopo Lagana’ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Jasmine flowers by Vanessa Pike-Russell / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0