The idea of writing something about Damascus suddenly came across my mind when I found my newsfeed filled with the Paris attacks, the media hype about the emotional distribution of the mass towards different tragedies taking place in this world on 13 November 2015. Then, there comes a debate about the refugee-related policy. First, I wondered about the heck that happens to this world. Then, I saw myself among the crowd who find themselves bewildered at the current world politic chaos, scared at the wars happening in the Mid East, and wondering if the end of our civilization world will come to the end soon. But such bewildering moments did not take long for I am soon buried under my daily workloads and forget that there is an outside world turning upside down. Hence, I will not attempt to make an in-depth review or reflection for the aforementioned events may fall beyond my own understanding. This post is written for a simple purpose of sharing some random thoughts coming across my mind.
Damascus, as you may know, is the capital and the second- largest city of Syria. However, you may not know that Damascus is generally regarded as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. As far as I am concerned, the earliest settlement in Damascus may have been dated back since 9000 BC and as stated in my favorite novel written by Mark Twain, the city dates back anterior to the days of Abraham, which was around 2000 BCE. Just imagine a city that stands such a long test of time, just imagine that thousands years ago, empires rise and fall but the city remains here. I owe Mark Twain for his nicely wrought paragraph describing about Damascus in “The Innocent Abroad”:
“As the glare of day mellowed into twilight, we looked down upon a picture which is celebrated all over the world. I think I have read about four hundred times that when Mahomet was a simple camel-driver he reached this point and looked down upon Damascus for the first time, and then made a certain renowned remark. He said man could enter only one paradise; he preferred to go to the one above. So he sat down there and feasted his eyes upon the earthly paradise of Damascus, and then went away without entering its gates. They have erected a tower on the hill to mark the spot where he stood.
Damascus is beautiful from the mountain. It is beautiful even to foreigners accustomed to luxuriant vegetation, and I can easily understand how unspeakably beautiful it must be to eyes that are only used to the God-forsaken barrenness and desolation of Syria. I should think a Syrian would go wild with ecstacy when such a picture bursts upon him for the first time.
Damascus dates back anterior to the days of Abraham, and is the oldest city in the world. It was founded by Uz, the grandson of Noah. “The early history of Damascus is shrouded in the mists of a hoary antiquity.” Leave the matters written of in the first eleven chapters of the Old Testament out, and no recorded event has occurred in the world but Damascus was in existence to receive the news of it. Go back as far as you will into the vague past, there was always a Damascus. In the writings of every century for more than four thousand years, its name has been mentioned and its praises sung. To Damascus, years are only moments, decades are only flitting trifles of time. She measures time, not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise, and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality. She saw the foundations of Baalbec, and Thebes, and Ephesus laid; she saw these villages grow into mighty cities, and amaze the world with their grandeur—and she has lived to see them desolate, deserted, and given over to the owls and the bats. She saw the Israelitish empire exalted, and she saw it annihilated. She saw Greece rise, and flourish two thousand years, and die. In her old age she saw Rome built; she saw it overshadow the world with its power; she saw it perish. The few hundreds of years of Genoese and Venetian might and splendor were, to grave old Damascus, only a trifling scintillation hardly worth remembering. Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies. Though another claims the name, old Damascus is by right the Eternal City.”
Should I replace the noun “Damascus” with blank spaces, I guess it would be difficult for you to figure out it was Damascus. You may, like me, wonder how come a beautiful place turns into a place from which ones are willing to pay all the costs to procure for an escape. Should the ones who are ruining this city on a daily basis happen to know/ remember the golden days of this city, I wonder if they will ever feel guilty of creating a bombing event at a place which used to be celebrated all over the world. Sometimes, I cannot make sense of the war, especially for wars taking place in such a modern time like the era we are living in now. I somehow can feel how it would be hurt for ones that grew up in the peaceful Damascus, then witnessed it ruined day by day and finally forced to leave this place without the slightest hope of coming back. Although the ultimate cause of any war remains a big question to the whole humankind, such obscurity cannot prevent me from feeling sorry for the places doomed with wars all over the world.
The beautiful Damascus…