A not so Merry Christmas
I wasn’t expecting Christmas to marked this year: being far from my friends & family, and far from religious, the date held little significance. And having initially been ignorant of the significant Christian population of Damascus, I also didn’t expect to be reminded of it much in the city. Yet in certain quarters there were oases of Christmas lights in the city, reindeers adorned the sides of buildings. The kitsch-ness of it all could compete with the suburban cull-de-sacs of England.
Christmas songs even made an appearance — Fayrouz, the celebrated Lebanese singer blared from one shop, with her Arabic version of Jingle Bells.
I had been invited to a Christmas party on the 24th (we forget in England how for many countries, it is Christmas Eve when celebrations take place) and I was looking forward to it, not least because of the promise of the Turkish kebabs that Gonay would be preparing. Far from the traditional roast turkey and roasted chestnuts, admittedly.
However, on the night of the 23rd, I eventually fell victim to the Jaramana water. Having been obstinately refusing to drink bottled water since I saw the litter it produced on the beaches of Tartous and Lattakia, I had been drinking the tap-water in Bab Touma. In Jaramana, this is a definite no-no, even for making tea.
I found myself violently shivering & hallucinating during the night of the 23rd, and spent Christmas Eve & Christmas Day horizontal, or locked in the bathroom. Christmas dinner was a banana. My family phoned, but I was unable to speak. Friends offered to come round, but this was a time to be alone. I just had to sit this one out.
As a friend pointed out in an email, at least I didn’t have to deal with the hoards of Christmas shoppers of London or Paris.