03.12.2005A German Brass Band in the Middle EastTouring the Orient with a Trumpet and a NotepadDamascus
Back to Damascus on the tour bus. In contrast to Beirut, Damascus is truly the Middle East. Everything is much more fragmented, bazaars, souks, traders on the streets, water pipe smokers in small cafes everywhere, and hustle and bustle on every corner. Here, as well, the people are extremely open, friendly, and interested in foreigners.
In Damascus, the band gives a concert in Tishreen Park. "Towards the end of the concert we exhort the audience to dance", Moll writes, "and they comply enthusiastically" We wake up early the next day. A tour through the old city of Damascus begins at nine. Half the band has been hit with an oriental intestinal tract infection and our tour group is correspondingly smaller. Five of us march along behind our guide, Dr. Omar Madani.
He is a friendly old gentleman, an architect, who after three years of unemployment turned his energies to the tourism sector. On the way to the old city, we notice many Muslim pilgrims, especially black robed women from Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq.
A memorable scene takes place at the entrance to the Souk Hamidiye. A crowd of these black-garbed women, each reminiscent of the palace ghost, congests startled and cackling at the foot of an escalator. Some of them are already on the escalator and have broken into a state of panic. Screeching, some have sat down or even fallen over. The escalator has to be stopped and only after massive encouragement by a number of male passers-by does the group succeed, reluctantly, to climb the stationary escalator.
Most likely, these women have never seen an escalator before in their lives. Why they just didn't use the directly adjacent normal staircase remains a mystery.
That evening we give a concert in a 1960s built amphitheater in Tishreen Park. Towards the end of the concert we exhort the audience to dance, and they comply enthusiastically, which is not usual elsewhere in the Middle East.
Next stop: Aleppo (click 5)