Friday, September 25, 2009

Flashback Friday: Home Sweet Syrian Home

I could fill up a good pile of Flashback Friday entries with stories about the apartment we had in Damascus. It had so many quirks, most of which are only ha-ha funny to me now that we don't live there anymore. Where shall I begin?

How about the front door? Here is a picture of ours. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth (and top) floor of an apartment building in the Sheikh Saad area of the Mezze neighborhood of Damascus. The easiest way to describe where we lived to people who know the city are that we lived in Mezze - but not the nice Mezze. I loved the round doorknob in the middle of the door. It made me feel like a hobbit every time I went home.

Our apartment was pretty nice by some standards, not so nice by others. I went to plenty of Syrian homes that were better than ours. I also went to some that made ours look like a palace, though the ostentatious Louis XIV decoration scheme certainly helped a little with that. The more gilded, ruffly, and chandelier-y, the better. Check out our living room, below - and this was after we had cleared out a few of the more egregiously fancy decorations (and I hope we took down that doilied fake flower contraption on the TV very soon after taking this picture).

The chandeliers were fun. The one in the picture had many candle-flame-shaped lightbulbs in it, but I don't think more than half a dozen worked at any given time. If the draw on power for our building was especially strong, several of the bulbs would go out and then come on again when the power surged.

Some of the apartment's less endearing quirks included the following:

-The mattress on our bed was supported not by a box spring, or indeed any kind of structure integral to the bed frame itself, but by flimsy pieces of masonite board, which were in turn propped up by an awkward rigging of cinderblocks and 2x4s. This arrangement was so precarious that the bed sometimes shifted and squeaked loudly if you happened to even flex a muscle while lying down on it.

-Then again, one of the mattresses in the guest bedroom was actually a Frankenstein-type conglomeration of different pieces of foam rubber welded together to make a reasonably sized sleeping surface, so we considered ourselves lucky to have what we did (and our guests not so lucky).

-But the joke was on us after all when we ended up dragging that mattress out into the living room every night to sleep in our one air-conditioned room when I was pregnant with Miriam in the summer.

-Speaking of sleep, guess when we didn't get any? During the whole holy month of Ramadan, that's when. Here's the deal: the first floor of our building was occupied by businesses, one of which was a tailor shop equipped with large, industrial-strength sewing machines (can you see where this is going?). During Ramadan, many people adjusted their schedules to accommodate the all-day fasting ritual, sleeping during the day and working/socializing at night. So the tailors in our building worked all night long until dawn. The industrial-strength sewing machines made the whole building vibrate. It was so bad that we couldn't sleep - and we were on the fourth floor! We might have had some recourse with the building's owner except that the owner of the building and the owner of the tailor shop were the same person. Let's just say that during Ramadan, I read a lot of books during the wee hours of the night, including the entire Chronicles of Narnia series and a good chunk of the Harry Potters, too. Sorry to have to be the one to show you the ugly side of Ramadan, but there it is.

Still to come in some future installment of Home Sweet Syrian Home: cold showers, our Turkish toilet, and our downstairs neighbor takes to forging armor in the middle of the night.


shabba shabba said...

Oh wow. Thanks for posting a pic of the apartment. We don't have any, and it brings back, um, memories. You know, it kind of speaks to the kind of people Shannon and I are that I don't think we ever even noticed the flowers on top of the TV. Nor do I remember noticing how that is one small living room -- it looks kind of like the garbage chamber on Star Wars that almost squishes the heroes (but without the garbage, of course -- just referring to the narrow nature of the room -- you were an excellent housekeeper).

Bridget said...

I thought you might enjoy this post.

(And for anyone who's wondering what on earth my relationship with the previous commenter is that I have lived in the same apartment as he did - he lived in it before Jeremy and I did.)

Liz Johnson said...

Did you feel super fancy every time you came home? Because those curtains are INSANE.

Do you ever look back and think, "How on earth did I survive that???" You're my hero.

Susanne said...

Oh my word, tell me you did NOT have a Turkish toilet!

I enjoyed looking around your Syrian apartment. If able, I'm going to include a link in the "create a link" section so you can see one of the apartments we visited. I thought the decorations and furniture and style of everything was interesting.

I'm sorry you were not able to sleep during Ramadan. I find it amazing how they can switch their days and nights that easily for one month out of the year. At least you got some reading done.

Susanne said...

Oh nevermind. I don't know how to use that section. But here is the link if you want to see a fancy living room area.

Bridget said...

Susanne, I just looked at your link and that is the PERFECT example of what I mean by Louis XIV style. That one actually looks pretty nice, though, even if it is still so gilded. :)

YES, we had a Turkish toilet. But we also had a regular one.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Ahhh, home sweet home, great memories.

The Wilsons apartment in Amman had the most ornate Louis XIV on the planet. Almost blinding to look at, yet I couldn't look away.


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