An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019.
By Alex Ray
“When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens.
The sound of the fast-flowing Barada river accentuated the gardens’ dreamy setting beneath the old city walls. The location made it possible to momentarily forget the ongoing war outside the Syrian capital.
This series of observational posts derives from diaries I have kept while abroad. The title comes from Tiziano Terzani’s travel epic ‘A Fortune Teller Told Me’. As well as fortune tellers, Terzani acknowledges the usefulness of insights gleaned from conversations with taxi drivers.