Friday, October 23, 2009

Going to market--at Damascus' famous Souk al-Hamidiyeh

The first tourist-y order of business on our first day in Syria--a visit to Damascus' storied Souk al-Hamidiyeh, about which I'll let Damascus Online do the talking:

[It] is the most famous souk (bazaar or market) of old Damascus. It is located against the southern walls of the city's citadel, close to the Grand Umayyad Mosque. The souk was built during the Ottoman (Turkish) era. The first part (the eastern part) was built in 1780 and the second one (western) was built in 1883. Later the souk was covered and renovated several times. The souk is 600 meters long, 15 meters wide, and about two-storey high. Its shops offer the famous Damascene textiles and antiques.

Traversing the souk's nearly kilometer-long central thoroughfare, said our young and good-looking guide Ali, would take us to the oldest part of Damascus. I flicked open my Flip HD Video right before we entered the market and began recording all the way through, until what I thought was the arch of the mosque came into view. The arch, it turned out, was something older--the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter.

But before that--a whole exotic universe of sights, sounds, smells, colors, the unfamiliar din and life of an ancient city and its inhabitants all but exploding before the swirling, roaming, gulping gaze of my camera lens, which basically mimicked the way my eyes were trying to drink everything in all at once.

The main artery of the souk offers an incredible array of traditional goods and services, but many more are available in the narrow alleys and side roads of the market. This is Damascus' own Divisoria and Greenhills, the hub of its centuries-old mercantile spirit, the crucible--along with the mosque, and how apt that they stand side by side--of its communitarian bonds.

Some notes on the 9-minute vid:

1. Yes, that's me asking Ron, our colleague from Manila Bulletin--who happens to be straight--the name of our cutie guide Ali. Ron laughs and tells me, just call him “Friend!” Ali would accompany us only for the market tour and mosque visit; a Tourism graduate, he was a valuable source of dates and facts about the historic and cultural riches all around us.

2. The pretty girl with the Botticelli curls--that's Maya, our official guide and a Journalism student of Damascus University. She can be heard near the beginning of the vid telling me, “Gilbert, close to me, okay?” A most patient, cheerful guide, especially since we had a tendency to wander around in pursuit of as many pictures as we could take.

3. Most intriguing thing I saw: DVD porn, clandestinely offered, though you can see only a blurry glimpse of it in the video [at 8:25] because I was in a hurry trying to keep up with the rest. Still--even here?

PLUS: More pictures--


r-yo said...

ay ang galing ng camera work. nahilo ako. di na nakarating sa gitna. heheheh

rudeboy said...

"...our young and good-looking guide Ali..."


From what I could discern from your Bourne Identity-esque camera work:

1. The Syrians seem to rival the Lebanese in terms of good looks.

2. Quite a number of them didn't look to be too happy to be on-cam. Did you have any problems with this, Gibbs? I ask because just last night I was reading some articles on how some places expressly frown on picture-and-video taking.

3. How tall is Prince Ali, mighty is he, Ali Habbab? Looks like a big bruiser, your sadeeqy.

And oh...nice market.

Thad said...

Funny, I also had a similar post- but about Tacloban market (which is of course a far cry from this hehe). Nonetheless, I always find markets interesting because they tell so much about the food, culture, and eccentricities of the place you are in.

Nice one!

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