|Damascus street near mosque|
So you can imagine my bittersweet joy when I ran into a market trader from Damascus when I was strolling near Taksim Square. I had just finished writing a letter and was enjoying the madness of Istiklal Street when I heard a voice among thousands say: 'Hey I know you.' Excited that someone even knew me at all I turned around and there was Samir a young guy who used to have a shop just beside the Ulmayyad mosque. I recognized him straight away as he did me and I remembered how sometimes I used to take tea with him and his friends under the vines. We would talk about politics, religion, shopping, everything really. It was like greeting an old friend as we talked about those peaceful days. He was with a couple of other Syrians so we spent some time walking through Istanbul talking about families left behind, their fears for the future and their beautiful old town with missiles overhead. It was a sad sort of walk even though there was something quite miraculous and amazing and special that even after some time we still remembered each other. ( It just goes to show how sparse tourists were back then as I don't think I am that memorable.) Anyway now he works in the Grand Bazaar here though of course he longs for home. I have promised to visit him there and I will definitely do that. Samir reminded me of the kindness of the Syrians in that now lost and badly broken land. Actually part of me wonders how we recognised each other. I feel like such a different person to the one I was then. I am sure he feels the same.