Damascus: St. Paul, St. Thomas and the Most Expensive Piss in the World

Date: 2nd April 2011

This was the day of the World Cup final so obviously, my job was to find a place that showed the match. That proved to be futile however, so I headed to an internet place where I was able to catch the match streaming.

It's easy (and fun!) to get lost in the old city's myriad alleyways

A Street in the Old Town

In between sessions I walked around town, visited some of the same places I went to yesterday, and explored more of the narrow old town alleys. I saw the chapel of St. Paul and the chapel of some other dude who gave him back his eyesight. Okay I should probably narrate that story as it is a very important chapter in Christian history, and it all happened right here in Damascus. So here’s what happened –

Saul was a Jew who was getting bored of whipping the newly converted Christians in Jerusalem so, looking for a change in his routine he decided to go whip some christians in Damascus instead. On the road to Damascus, God came down to earth with his System Of A Down “tribute” *cough*COVER*cough* band and serenaded Saul with the line from Chop Suey – “Why have you forsaken me?”, and quite casually blinded him with his heavenly light.

Now this is where Saul’s behaviour is a bit difficult to understand. You see, if someone had made me blind, I’d be like “Oy! You there! Who do you think you are? It’s terribly inconvenient without eyes, you know? BAD GOD. BAD.” and probably give Him a piece of my mind. But no, not good old Saul. He, as was fashionable in those days, switched allegiance and started preaching the word of God and His son Jesus, who at that time was still relatively unknown but soon to be almost as popular as the Beatles (Lennon’s words, not mine). Saul then proceeded to Damascus, where he got his eyesight back after three days, and became St. Paul. Here’s a link to a less childish version of the story.

Snacks at a vendor in the Souq

Roadside snacks: "One-ty five for one. Special price for you, only one-ty"

It might also interest you to know that Christianity apparently came to India from Syria. But it wasn’t St. Paul, it was St. Thomas of “Doubting Thomas” fame who carried it with him. And you thought YOUR backpack was heavy. “Ha!”.

This day too, as the day before, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty the women in Damascus are. Apparently, looks are really important here and even the women that wear the hijab are very well made-up. Now the previous day, while walking around I had zero eye contact. I thought this was strange, because I do stand out here. I haven’t seen any South Asians here yet, so I’m typically the brownest on any street. I’m even more conspicuous than the Scandinavian blondes with their ample SLR-laden bosoms. Okay, maybe not more than them, but you get my point. Anyway, this day, I had eye contact all over the place. I swear the only difference was that I had shaved. I was wearing the same clothes and the same hair. So here’s a tip for the single and ready to mingle travellers – Groom well!

Al Hamidiyeh Souq in Damascus: Back in Action after the Friday holiday

Al Hamidiyeh Souq: Back in Action after the Friday holiday

I also had today what might just be the most expensive piss in the world. 25 Syrian Pounds for a piddle in a public toilet. Now, I might be mistaken, but as far as I remember it was 25p in London and a quarter in the US to use the public “restrooms”. And here in Damascus it’s over half a dollar!

Old houses in Damascus: probably not structurally the strongest, but at least they look nice!

Old Houses is Damascus, just outside the city walls.

The souqs were open for business, so I bought some almonds and cashews, did window shopping and drank tea with the carpet sellers. I also had my first Nargileh (sheesha). It was expensive, but I felt it was worth it. Plus the setting was lovely; Al Nawfara behind the Umayyad mosque, while the famous storyteller of Damascus was reading a story to an enthralled audience (in Arabic, unfortunately). The sheesha was accompanied by Kamun, a kind of hot jaljeera-like drink.

The Al Nawfara coffee shop in Damascus

The Al Nawfara coffee shop in Damascus

Later that night we stepped out of the city walls and into the “new” city for a brief glimpse and some crepes, before returning home. Now a couple of things happened that day which I won’t mention now, but I’ll write about them once I’m out of Syria. But at least we won! Even though I didn’t watch most of the match, I was there for the final sixer! Kudos to the Indian team, they had at least one supporter in Damascus 🙂

Walls of the Damascus Citadel at night

Walls of the Damascus Citadel at night

The day’s expenses:

  • Coffee: 75 (Free internet)
  • Lunch: 150 (Free internet)
  • Piss: 25
  • Dry Fruits: 125
  • Snacks: 25
  • Sheesha and Kamun: 175
  • Internet: 40
  • Dinner (Crepe+Drinks): 60

Total: 675 SYP (Approx 650 INR or 14.5 USD)

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7 Responses to Damascus: St. Paul, St. Thomas and the Most Expensive Piss in the World

  1. Aditya Mukharji says:

    Dude! Did you say you shaved but did not change your clothes?!
    Superb stuff though..

  2. Jana says:

    nice "translation" of the Christian mythology.. or was it true?? 🙂

  3. Mamta says:

    Awesome read…what an experience it must be…keep it coming buddy…!!

  4. Britni says:

    Ah Narglieh…. my guilty pleasure from the east. I miss smoking 3 a day, but my lungs don't! Although I am going tonight with some friends 🙂
    Excellent synopsis of the story of Saul/Paul by the way… I think I've been converted back to the church!

  5. maniz says:

    Animesh…that was and awesome post 😛 [Though I'm still assuming about what things might have happened which, yer gonna disclose, once your off Syria?] '-))

  6. Pingback: Caught In No Man's Land at the Turkish Border | Desi Backpacker

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