Down on the beach
One of the things I don’t like about Syria is the pollution. Walking along the shore, the beach is littered with plastic bottles, old shoes, carrier-bags and everything else that has been left by the tide. It’s a shame, because this coastline, with its long, sandy beaches, could be beautiful.
Tartous is undergoing a lot of development, mainly for tourism as the construction of hotels testifies. Apparently, in the summer, this place is bustling with Syrians and Saudis trying to escape the heat. Walking out from the town, the buildings give way to ramshackle little huts which line the shore; their existence under threat from the predicted boom. The land was given to people with a fifty-year lease; that period is coming to an end and the government is keen to sell it to the developers.
At this time of year, there are few people on the beach, we cross only a few fisherman preparing their nets, and we are soon out swimming in the sea. A few hundred metres further down the beach a couple of guys are sat under their bamboo shade, drinking maté, the Argentinian tea seemingly the latest trend in the region. We start speaking to them, and end up spending the whole afternoon sat chatting with them, drinking tea. These guys spend the day enjoying the sun, the sea, and come evening, cast their nets for the evening barbecue, to which we are invited back later. The contrast between the life here of Hussein, our host, and his previous fourteen years spent working seventy-hour weeks in New York is pretty stark.