This weekend, my grandfather decided to visit Syria again for the first time in 55 years. 55 five years! That’s a little more than half a century, and I’m sure everyone can imagine how drastically a country can change in 55 years. And so, with 2 of my cousins who are visiting for a week from the US, my grandfather, and my uncle, we jumped into the car and headed to Damascus.

So we spent the last couple of days there- eating their delicious food (I hold the stance that Syrians are the best cooks in the world), wandering around Souq il Hamedeyeh(one of my very favorite places in the world), and gawking at the worst case of horrible driving we’ve ever seen in our life(yes, the WORST! Absolutely and insanely aggressive! The cab drivers barely missed several good chances to get us killed, and we even got into a minor accident! I don’t understand how people dare to say that my driving is bad! You know who you are…). My favorite thing about Syria is the unbelievable amount of Levantine culture and history in its lands.

I also discovered a good deal of really fascinating information about the Dallals, my mother’s family who I went with on the trip. My grandfather was really excited about showing his grandchildren, who are both first timers to the Arab world a little family history, and so a lot of “show and tell” was done, mostly with information that I didn’t know before. For example, I knew that the Dallal’s are somehow related to Abed-Il-Malik Ibn Marwan, who built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, but I had no idea that the family tree traces right back to the Caliph Muwaiya whose dynasty ruled for over 500 years. So the Dallal family is basically a branch of the Tahboobs of Hebron which is a branch of the Marwanis of Syria which is a branch of the Ummayyads of Mecca. It really is pretty cool, I mean, my ancestors built one of my very favorite places in the world- the Ummayyad Mosque and Al-Andalus of Spain.

Picture time:

Myself with cousins Karl(Paul’s brother), and Andres

The mindblowing Souq Il-Hamedeyeh, an ancient bazaar in downtown Damascus, a man selling “Saber”, a very Levantine fruit, outside of Souq Il-Hamedeyeh, and two view of the quite mesmerizing alleys of Damascus.

To look at the rest of the pictures and read the captions, click on each thumbnail below:

One of the funniest parts about the trip was getting invited to a restaurant to have Mansaf, the Jordanian national dish. I was quite happy and excited, for after all, it’s my favorite dish and Andres and Karl didn’t get to try it yet. To my surprise, when they served the “Mansaf”, it was the farthest thing possible from Mansaf, basically consisting of spiced rice mixed with boiled vegetables, fried cashews and almonds, and a zebdeyeh of regular cold and solid yoghurt right out of the fridge! It also was topped with both lamb AND chicken! I can’t believe they’re marketing that as Mansaf! I personally thought that was a complete disgrace to authentic Jordanian Mansaf, a cncoction of white rice, pine nuts, and Jameed. Admittedly, it was excellent, but I still find it quite hilarious that they consider it Mansaf.

On our way back to home, sweet home, we were all pleasantly surprised to see that intensive remodelling has taken place in the Jordanian borders, and the once quite dreary customs is now a very bright and well designed room with marble, wood, and colors that actually match. Way to go!