One reason I travelled to Damascus was that it seemed exotic and also it was just there, it was a destination. On the journey I started to look more and more at links and borders – lines of separation.
Once I got to Damascus I wasn’t quite sure why I’d come. I found myself wandering in those nameless streets. But I was glad to have travelled somewhere that’s sometimes spoken of negatively.
Actually, the streets do have names. They’re written on the signs in Arabic and English and also given a number. The numeric code gets round any confusion over inconsistencies in transliteration, I guess. Perhaps in practice nobody who knows the city uses them. For an outsider it’s useful to have a shared frame of reference. That way you can use your existing map and what people tell you as well as what’s actually around you to feel where you are.
Leaving home challenges you into reality, you’re forced to experience and absorb. Back home you can float in the familiar.