From the windows left ajar, one can hear guns firing, mortars exploding. The frontline is just 300 meters away. The children don’t flinch; by now they are used to this. On the contrary, they enjoy recognizing and imitating the sounds of the weapons. The kalashnikov, the mortar, the dushka, the rpg, the antiaircraft artillery, the Mig, the Grad. As if it were all a game, some sort of “Old Mac Donald had a farm” in time of war.
Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande visits a clandestine classroom for his dispatch The Illusions of Aleppo, now on Roads & Kingdoms.
Damascus has long told itself that it is where all journeys, all religions and all civilizations begin and end. We who live there now also know that Damascus will be where the final battle for control of Syria will be fought.
Rebel forces are gathered just a few kilometers from the stone walls of the Old City, and inside the walls for almost a year now we have lived with the terrifying sounds of war, the scream of fighter jets, gun battles raging and shells flying overhead. War on our doorstep.
For me the only journeys I ever take these days are around the souks and alleyways of my neighborhood. On these walks I am not only trying to get a sense of the situation, but also a bit of the reassurance that comes from seeing the market busy with shoppers and children heading off to school. I drop in on friends and get updates on the crisis. Often it’s only gossip and rumor, but there are few other reliable sources of information. I check to see what food is in the market and at what price, as there have been days when fresh food and bread have been scarce. Those are the things on my mind as I slam the heavy metal door of my house and head out into the warren of passageways tucked in a corner of the Old City between the ancient gates of Bab Touma and Bab Salam.