Performing at school on International Day, wearing a Druze costume.
I’m Syrian-American. If you’re geographically challenged, that’s a flavor of Arab-American. This is my blog about my father’s native country, Syria, from my own personal perspective. I was born in Eugene, Oregon, but I spent the majority of my grammar school years living in Damascus, Syria, in an old, conservative Muslim neighborhood: the real deal, not an ex-patriot enclave.
Saad e’Din in my neighborhood, Midan (2007).
When I was growing up, whether I was in Oregon or Syria, there was always something that made me feel like an outsider. The gap could be subtle like pop-culture references and idioms or plain like wearing clothes that stood out, or mean kids at school calling me “Siberia” because they didn’t know how to find one of the oldest countries in the world on a map (thank you, Cold War). At one point in my childhood, I described myself as a citizen of “no man’s land,” but as I got older, I came to respect and enjoy my perspective between two cultures. Today, I relish my Syrian heritage as much as my American heritage for giving my life more dimension.
Videotaping the Tkiyyeh at Suleimanniyyeh Mosque (2007).
Once, I overheard a shopkeeper explaining who I was by referring to me as “the foreigner’s daughter.” True old Damascenes will place you on your family tree immediately upon meeting you. It had not occurred to me before that I was so unique among thousands of Mahaynis. At the time, apparently I was. In fact, at the time, even without giving out my last name, I was conspicuous. I was the blond girl who spoke Arabic with a Midanese accent - Midan is a borough of Damascus - and who was invariably accompanied by her red-headed American mother. Consequently, in a city of millions, I couldn’t do anything in public that wasn’t eventually reported to my grandfather. However, the name “the foreigner’s daughter” amused me, so I embraced it.
In 2007, on summer break from university, I visited Syria after an absence of nine years – the longest absence in my life. Friends old and new were excited for me to share pictures and stories of my “exotic” vacation. I didn’t have an internet connection at my father’s farmhouse where I was staying so I began writing form letters to send from internet cafés. Since form letters are usually general and impersonal, I tried to make mine detailed and entertaining, including pictures whenever possible. The seeds for this blog were sown.
The Suleimaniyyeh Mosque in Damascus, Syria (2007).
Feel free to post questions. They may inspire a future blog! But, please be respectful of others. I’d like this to be a safe space where people can bring their curiosity, not animosity.
Thanks! I hope you enjoy it.
June 9, 2013