Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Apartment move and Chairman Mao

Back in Syria after a holiday in France, which was just the most marvellous break - perfect weather, a lovely hotel en route to the Lot district, where we stayed in the house of a friend in a village we have visited many times before. Peace. Here in Damascus it is now Ramadan (I've been back for a couple of weeks) and I'm just moving into a new apartment, larger than the old one and with a bit of garden front and back, which is nice. Hot water has just been fixed after a week of tepid showers, and I await the connection of the washing machine which will allow me to tackle a huge backlog of dirty laundry.

As ever in Ramadan, the mood of life changes. People drive even more dangerously and with even more use of their horns, the working day stops an hour earlier so that people can rush home to break fast, attention spans and tolerance levels seem to shrink. And as everyone expects it and compensates for it, so this mood swing becomes institutionalised. Hmmm.

One interesting item we have in the office is a key tag bought in Damascus. It's an oval metal frame with a spinning oval centre piece. On the frame it says Canada. On the inner oval there is a head of Chairman Mao. What's the connection? Is this deliberately ironic, or political? Or is it, as I suspect, a faulty batch of key tags which it was cheaper to flog off to Syria than to reassemble? Syria seems to be the dumping ground for the world's faulty goods. Almost everything you find in shops here has some flaw or other, and because people by and large don't know any better these things are just accepted. It's irritating to feel that manufacturers can do this, but without a strong consumer rights culture nothing will change, at least not quickly. Something for Massar to concentrate on.

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