On our way back from Damascus

Yesterday I was in Syria. And before yesterday too. I liked how at the Syrian customs they have a poster of Imad Mughnieh that’s the size of Bashar Assad’s portrait, with Nasrallah stickers here and there on the windows that separate employees from the travelers. I also noticed that they have sidewalks in Damascus unlike in Beirut. And most of the Arabic language books they print in Beirut are sold there at half their original price because Lebanese are mostly busy reading in French and English.

But what I liked the most was this: On our way back they stopped us at the Lebanese customs and asked us to open the trunk of the car. I explained to the soldier that the bags he saw were musical instruments so that he does not go crazy and starts opening them randomly. After a short glance, the guy says that it’s ok and that I can go, but then all of a sudden another guy jumps from behind him and starts mumbling about the fact that we had to declare our instruments when we were leaving the country and that because we failed to do so, we should pay (the other guy who stayed silent the whole time) a little something and he’ll let the matter pass. So I told him that we had our bags checked on our way out and nobody told us anything about declaring. The guy answered that “maybe they thought you weren’t coming back”… But what kind of lie was that? I did not realize at first. So my friend who had no patience to argue took out a 10,000L.L. bill and paid the guy (who stayed silent). Very pissed, I looked at him and said “shame”.

But I wanted to know how things worked. So I went to a superior and I asked about the declaration and he said that it exist as a legal requisite. So, actually, given the fact that the custom officers that were there when we left did not ask us for anything although they knew we were coming back (we had to fill special papers of ‘return’), did that on purpose so that we fall in this little trap and pay a little ransom…

Anyway, a short while later once we finished checking our passports, the taxi driver comes back with the money and says that the officer returned it to him for some reason. We spent the drive back home questioning ourselves on the possible causes that prompted the guy to return the 10,000L.L. bill. We soon had a flat tire after falling in an enormous hole in the road (you know how it is), that took 2hr (I’m not exaggerating) to remove because the wheel was stuck.

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8 Responses to On our way back from Damascus

  1. Anonymous says:

    Questions from the “chieuse” you know very well :

    1. Did you see the same-sized pic IN Syria or only at the customs ? And if not, did you wonder why that is ? Is it purely hearted or at least partially based in an important amount on image and policy towards the lebanese that cross the border ?

    2. Why did you like the fact that the pics were there ? (Sincere question, I would like to know)

    3. WHAT were you doing in Syria with the instruments oula ?😛

    Ur friend Z chieuse

  2. bech says:

    Answers:

    1- everywhere in Damascus, in shops and on the streets, you have hizbullah flags and pictures of Nasrallah. But of course it is an insidious strategy to play with the Lebanese brain as you know Syrians always do that…

    2- I like means “I find interesting”. I like means that there are affinities between Syrian and resistance. Any type of transnational affinities can but be praised. especially in a region where there is no nations in the first place.

    3- music, and visiting friends.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Maybe not related… but there are now also Syrian flags everywhere…. in cafes and shops etc whereas before you would only find pictures and posters of al-Assad.

    This phenomena emerged after the Hariri assasination and all that was encountered as forms of ‘racism’ felt towards them by Lebanese people. Their response was to claim value for all those labelled as Syrians. Indeed the whole ordeal probably benefitted the Assad family more than hurt it – they got their people to feel and defend Syria more than they had done for years and years.

    Maha

  4. Anonymous says:

    Maha,
    I find your point more logical than bechir’s somewhat naive vision of the world.
    Bechir, my friend, don’t be paranoid about your comprehension of my perception of Syrian politics(…). C’est le propre de la politique que de manipuler, cher ami. I’m very far from saying that only Syrian politicians manipulate. And Maha’s point makes mine. Even if the flags are spread around the country, Bachar would not spend more money of portraits of Nasrallah unless it has a concrete utility: effect of people’s conception and reaction to events= emotions. So quit the attitude and start acting more mature about criticism, it’s healthier. Zionism, “patriotism” in the US, mecca, and flags of Syria instead of portraits of Bachar (rather have an argument of “evil lebanese sunni” versus THEIR country is much better than sunni versus sunni, don’t you think ?) or “I love life” ads all have the same basis : feed the concept to the masses. That was my point, not criticizing your dear Syria.

    PS “affinities between Syrian and resistance”
    Didn’t Syria litteraly screw z hezb back in the 80’s in the bekaa when their objectives didn’t converge ?

    “Any type of transnational affinities can but be praised” : US and Israel, or the US and Kosovo, US and Georgia ? US and Colombia ? Saudi Arabia and Lebanon ?…hmm…Yup. Very convincing theory of yours. Or maybe you should consider that there are no affinities, only considerations of interest ?

    S.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Having said that, Syrians are very good at this. So congrats I guess.

    S.

  6. Anonymous says:

    hmmm I dont think I agree with you ‘anonymous’. You make it sound like the only reason there are pictures of Hezbollah in Syria is because the Syrian gov. spent money buying them and brian washed people into putting them up. I do believe that Syrian voluntarily have pictures up of Hizbollah because of some kind of affinity they feel with them right at this moment in time (regardless of whether the gov screwed with them beofre or after) Didnt we all learn in university that identification is a process that is not fixed but rather a temporary positioning that is “strategic” and arbitrary (even if it is unconsciously ‘strategic’).

    Maha

  7. bech says:

    thanks maha. I was going to have to answer to S. argument but you did it for me.

    I would add to that, that even if you think in terms of “interests”, a word that I find quite elusive (affinities is one type of interest), I don’t think the Syrian government would bother to think about what the average Lebanese tourist would think when he occasionally visits Syria… I don’t think the Syrian government really want to put money in this. They have better things to do…

    Also, the Syrians clashed with Hizbullah in the beginning of the nineties but since then I think they are pretty well aligned on most issues. Plus, here you need to distinguish between Syrian government and people (although even “government” does not mean much).

    All in all the picture of Mughnieh has most likely been put by an officer at the customs as a solidarity with him. Don’t forget that Mughnieh was working most of the time from Syria.

    Last but not least, S. you should probably go and talk to people in Syria and ask them what they think about Hizbullah and you’ll see that it goes hand in hand with what we’re saying.

  8. Anonymous says:

    very interesting; see some good stuff on Syria/Lebanon at http://www.arabicsource.wordpress.com

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