Monday, August 01, 2005


Directions, addresses

No-one uses street names here, and no-one uses maps. So for someone coming from a land of A to Z city plans and postcodes, my attempts to tell people where the office was caused complete confusion. At first I put this down to my inability to pronounce the street name, which I had found in a tourist map of Damascus. I soon found that nobody knew the street name however I pronounced it. Faxing location maps to people was no help either. Eventually, I fell into the local pattern. “Take the road opposite the Tala Tower, up the hill, fourth on the right at the corner with the Canadian Ambassador's residence on it, the office is on the left five houses along, above a butcher’s shop, second floor.” It hasn’t appeared on the office stationery in that form yet, but many businesses here do add “beside the Cham Palace Hotel” or “opposite the French Embassy” in advertisements or on business cards. It’s the only way.

All this does not help in telling taxi drivers where to go. My technique is to memorise the names of a dozen useful landmarks and then mime directions from there. Apparently, there was a scheme to create a postcode system some years back. The planners ended up with a code thirteen digits long, and the scheme was quietly dropped.


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