Posted by Joshua on Friday, July 31st, 2009
Ali Khan says Goodbye to Damascus and SC readers
Over the past year, Ali Khan, a native of India has studied Arabic in Syria and written regular dispatches from Damascus about his experiences and travels. They became a fixture of this blog. Many of us will miss him and SC wishes him all the best in his studies at Cambridge University. He is now headed for the foothills of the Himalayas where he will try putting his dispatches together as a book. [J.L.]
This is sadly my last dispatch for the year that I spent in Damascus. I hope however that I will continue to go there whenever I get the chance. I have returned to India and am writing this from New Delhi. I want to thank every one for taking the time to read my emails and for replying to them. A major reason that I was able to continue to write these weekly dispatches was the constant encouragement I received, often even receiving emails from people who had read the pieces on Syria Comment or on another online page. Prof. Josh Landis was extremely kind in putting up many of the dispatches on SyriaComment. The other day I was in the car with my brother and out of the blue, without paying attention to what I was saying, I said: ‘I miss her very much.’ He immediately looked up and paused his Worms game and then asked me with very inquisitive eyes. ‘Who?’ He probably thought that I had fallen for a Syrian girl and I was about to give him a juicy piece of gossip. I replied ‘Damascus’ to which he mumbled something and then went back to killing worms.
Even though the summer was getting very hot in Damascus and the day had to organised around where I could find the coolest room to read in or to nap in, because my room on the roof became a furnace after ten in the morning,I was happy. I particularly enjoyed my last few weeks. My father and brother both came to Damascus then. I spent three weeks with them traveling around Syria and the Lebanon. These travels only reinforced my love for these countries and for so many people and places that I have grown to respect and admire. I was mostly mistaken to be their Syrian guide much to my father’s delight and my brother’s sneaking admiration, even though they had to pay inflated tourist rates whereas I was assumed to be one of them and paid only a fraction. The excursions made me realize once again how much the world and the media choose to misunderstand and misinterpret this part of the world, its people, its culture and indeed even its politics.
I have been fortunate enough to live in a number of different cities and countries for extended periods of time and I have to say that Damascus is possibly the only place where I felt at home as soon as I arrived. Often people live in places for a long time and slowly become disenchanted and disillusioned. Shaam continued to captivate, fascinate, intrigue and surprise me until the day I left for home. I hope that I shall be able to accompany my mother,aunt and cousin to Dimishq, before I go on to England to pursue further studies. They could not come earlier.
Many people have written to me suggesting that I should try and compile the dispatches into a book. This is going to be my project for the next two months. After that I hope to be going to Cambridge University. I feel fortunate to have been offered a conditional offer. Inshallah, if I fulfill all their requirements (which seem to be essentially technical), I shall be there in October. I will keep you updated about the dispatches and would sincerely welcome any ideas that you may have about how to tie them together. Do write whenever you get a chance. I apologise for the long silence. I seem to have lost a sense of time being back in the embrace of family.
Yours, Ali (al-Hindi, as my Arab friends used to call me)