I Moved To Damascus, And It Was Nothing Like What I Expected


I no longer know to what part of the world Syria belongs anymore, but it certainly is far enough from the first world. I decided to move to Damascus somewhere in 2012, but wasn’t able to do so before December 2013. Being a practicing Muslim, I strongly believe in the power of supplication, and so I prayed daily to move to Damascus as soon as possible, especially when my family was totally against it.

Back then, I thought life would be rainbows, roses and bunnies in Damascus despite the war. Little did I know I’d face a bunch of new, unexpected challenges.

The challenges associated with the war are quite predictable–like the lack of power for instance, and having to ignore people with sick political views and the fact that the war has turned many either into blind sheep or into hypocrites who want the war to last forever so they can keep making big bucks as long as they could.

The following challenges are more of first world problems, but they sure did teach me a lot. Nevertheless, I must admit that moving to Damascus was an important milestone in my life.

I’m more of an expat here than I was in Riyadh.

Not only do people say it to my face, but I also see it in their eyes. I don’t belong. I’m not one of them. I’m an alien who landed on a different planet, and no matter how many times I state that I come in peace, people keep asking suspiciously what brought me to Damascus at a time like this, and I can’t help but feel as if I were some Israeli Mossad agent, or, in the best case scenario, a lunatic who escaped a women’s asylum!

I do strongly feel that I belong to this land, but sadly, not to my people, or maybe they convinced my subconscious mind I was an outsider whom they disliked and found suspicious, and who brought the entire nation bad omen.

People think I’m a golden goose just because I was raised in Saudi Arabia.

No, we don’t have an oil well in our house’s yard back in Riyadh. We actually worked our asses off, and didn’t make what people in Syria, and in many other countries, think we were making.

I got paid half what I deserved in most companies at which I worked just because I refused to transfer my visa. Have I transferred my visa, I would have turned into a slave whose passport was held hostage by her master. That’s a long story, but female expats who live in Saudi Arabia with their families know exactly what I’m talking about!

Indeed, I did shop a lot, but I love to shop, what else can I say? I found refugee and bliss in shopping, and every GCC country encourages shopping big time.

I keep hearing comments like, “Your dad works in Saudi, how about you ask him to buy us all cars?”, “You used to work in Saudi, you must have plenty of gold.”, “We are not all rich like you to frequent luxurious cafes and we never worked in Saudi to make the money you people make!” and “We can’t all live a lavish life like yours because this isn’t Riyadh!”. For the record, I do not lead a ‘lavish’ lifestyle.

Not only that, but there are those bloodsuckers who think it’s okay to deceive you and steal your money just because you used to work in Saudi Arabia. They pretend they’re your friends, act like they are in need for money because they might get kicked out of their house if they don’t pay the rent, and having been the good hearted, charity-giver I was–and I mean ‘was’–I used to lend them the money. And you must imagine the rest of the story; like them running off with the money, threatening to hurt me and my family if I ever ask for it again and go around saying terrible things about me on the internet for instance.

Just so you’d all know; have I been or owned a golden goose, I’d be luxuriating at my palace in Santorini, running my own business and giving away Prada bags to the needy.

I’m native-fluent in English.

I know you’re asking how this could be a challenge, but this point somehow takes us back to the fact that I’m an alien on my own land.

Despite the fact that many people in Syria are capable of speaking English, the fact that my English is very fluent either stirred up and provoked, or mesmerized and impressed people.

Not only that, but some Sherlock Holmes wannabes thought they were on a mission to ‘prove I was a fraud, pretending my English was fluent and surprised me with pop-quizzes, where they asked me to translate phrases, sentences and terms.

My English is perfect, indeed, and I am bilingual, but I’m certainly NOT a translator. You know there are college students majoring in translation, where they spend nearly four years of hard work before they become translators. I don’t always know how to replace English phrases with Arabic ones, or vise versa. When I speak, read or write in English, my brain shifts into English-only mode. I’m sorry, but I can’t think in two different languages at the same time. Above all, I have nothing to prove to anyone… at all.

That, in addition to hearing lame statements like, “If only I had your English, I’d beat you at everything!”, “If not for your English, you’d be a total failure.” and “The only skill you have is your English.”

Never in my entire life have I imagined I’d face people who have issues with my English. If anything at all, I usually get commended on my fluency in English and non-Arabs appreciated it.

It also seems that I reminded many of the people I met here in Damascus that there exists a quite popular language called “English”, and it became their duty to ‘compete with me’. Who said this was a competition? And how about the existence of English–not in its current shape though–dates back to the 8th century AD.

If you don’t have a holier-than-thou attitude, you’re a nobody.

Many people here seem to have special respect for snobs who treat them like bugs… and very little or no respect to humble, creative, loving beings.

I don’t understand why this is so…but it is so! If you don’t brag and treat others as if they were trash, you’re literally no one. No matter what talents you possess, what experience you’ve built and what academic achievements you have, you most likely won’t receive the respect you deserve if you’re spontaneous and down-to-earth.

However, it doesn’t matter whether you receive the respect and love you deserve or not. What matters most is you being in love with yourself, and being proud of who you are and your achievement.

Anyways, there is a long list of the first world problems I am facing here in Damascus, and I find the a bit more challenging than the challenges I’m facing because of the current crisis in Syria. As a matter of fact, I am enjoying every third world problem I’m facing here, and I’m grateful for every moment I’ve spent in Damascus so far. This experience has been enchanting, and I’m sure better days are on their way.