Peace, Love and Freedom in Damascus

Peace, Love and Freedom in Damascus

Another deceptively beautiful November day in Damascus, things had seemed calmer, the Old city was bustling with people, Hamadiyya was crowded with shoppers and in front of the Mosque the pigeons were being teased and chased, just for once there wasn’t a TV crew filming the normality and informing their disinterested audience that they had rare access to the heart of Syria, although thinking about it now, when did they ever use the word heart, I weave around the street vendors that for some reason are now allowed free rain, knock-off handbags and cheap shoes, the Shabiha laze beside the Roman arch, not much for them to get excited about, several hundred checkpoints around the Old City keep the revolutionaries at bay, past the gold dealers and into the spice souk, I am in a chipper mood, past the Azam Palace and along the narrow alleyway leading towards Beit Jabri, the white walls and discreet location have provided a canvas for anti-government graffiti, it never last long though before it’s all daubed over in thick black or green emulsion, I almost miss it as I pass by, in fact I have to go back and take a second glance, along with a love heart and peace sign is the immortal word Freedom left uncovered probably because its written not in Arabic but English, I take out my phone a check to see if anyone is coming, I snap and just as I move away the fizz and whistle of a mortar shell flies above my head, it explodes in the next alley, debris and plaster fall from the wall with the graffiti, my stomach knotted I shove my phone in my pocket and head for home, I learn later the shell only hit an empty house a few yards from the Umayyad Mosque.