The gardens of Damascus: Can Syrians reconnect with nature?

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. Continue reading

A taxi driver told me: “A woman’s body is like a piece of meat…”

Alex Ray

Amman, Jordan April 2013.

The taxi pushed through the ceaseless traffic of the capital’s wealthy western suburbs. Gazing out of the open window, I was met by a blast of hot air. It was spring and by Australian standards, certainly shorts and T-shirts weather. My decision to wear knee length shorts to class that day had caught the driver’s eye. Continue reading

Introducing: “A Taxi Driver Told Me…”

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.

Taxi-in-Iordania

Amman’s plentiful taxi fleet

Continue reading