At 6 pm, I was walking against traffic. The peddlers, the touts, the pious and the penniless were all moving together, a giant, pulsating creature pushing its way out of Damascus Gate in the ritual dance of the daily commute. As I pushed against the current, my laptop bag tight against my chest, I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad.” I’m still unsure if I was too tired to notice the chaos of the moment or if the crowds of people pushing past were just too tired to notice me.
Finally, I made it to my hotel in the heart of the Muslim Quarter. I climbed the stairs and was greeted by a little boy, who could not have been older than three years. After a brief assalaamu aleykum, I turned to the reception desk and asked for a room. Sensing a shuffle behind my legs, I peeked back and eyed my new little friend reaching his hand up to pinch my rear. Caught, he looked at me and giggled with glee. Then he reached right up and to pinch me again. And again.
I wasn’t sure what to say or do. One part of me thought, “Oh, how adorable,” while another thought, “My, they learn young.” All I could muster was a self-conscious laugh, which was eagerly welcomed by both the little boy and his relieved father, my host.
Perhaps this is a fitting analogy for my first impressions of the Old City. Awe at the beauty and power of such a small place and the devotion that it inspires mixed with disdain for its inescapable air of distrust due to the barrage of scams that are contained within its walls.
I have three days before beginning work at the AIC, three days to see how well I can navigate this maze of history.
Posted By Sarah Sachs (Palestine)
Posted Oct 5th, 2006