SYRIA – President, Sheiks, Mufti, and Kanafeh

This is the final post, 6th in a series (one, two, three, four, five), of my recent trip to Syria – September 13-18, 2011. You can listen to the Orthodixie Podcast about the trip by clicking HERE.

Our final full day in Syria, Saturday, September 17th, began with a visit to the Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus (formerly the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist). Unlike my visit last year — HERE — this time, as part of an official delegation visit, I got to see the “VIP Lounge” (so to speak).

You’d think I’d have learned that when taking a picture of a mirror you do so from an angle so as not to be in the picture!

In this entry salon, there is a model of the Umayyad Mosque.

You can read about its history here.

After enjoying some refreshments here …

instead of taking off our shoes, like everyone else, we got to don little blue booties.

The only female member of our delegation got to don more (think: Harry Potter 8.5).

Looking back toward the public entry of the mosque, toward the street.

And turning to view the inner courtyard.

Inside, the Umayyad Mosque is massive open space. The tomb of John the Baptist can be seen to the left.

This shrine is the main attraction, especially for those visiting Syria.

Like this guy.

The Dome of the Treasury (more here).

After the mosque, it was time to dive into the Souk El-Hamidiyeh (the sprawling market in Old Damascus).

A perfumery where I was able to get some essence for my daughters … and my son.

We discarded our tourist identities around 2:30 PM; little did we know that our “day” still had a good 12 hours yet to go.

This image (not the official pic) was taken with my camera following our 2-hour meeting with President Assad. A bit of an overview of that meeting, including the question I asked the President, is presented in this episode of the Orthodixie Podcast.

Our meeting with the President was 5-7:00 PM, around 7:30, back at the hotel, we met with a group of tribal leaders, Sheiks, about their views of the current situation in Syria.

Looks like Fr Timothy is starting to feel at home.

Originally, we were to meet with the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, around 7:30 PM, with dinner following.

He was delayed in Aleppo, however, and our meeting did not commence until 11:30 PM.

And yes …

“dinner” followed. We did not lift our forks till after midnight.

The outdoor courtyard of a local banquet hall, where we dined, had a huge chandelier with glass globes for oil.

I should have snapped a pic of every course of this massive meal. Y’all? — They served two entrees! There was an imam across the table from me who did not speak English, but when they brought out the second hefty entree, he and I both laughed (a universal language) until we had tears in our eyes.

A little after 2:00 AM, September 18, 2011.

But this …

Though I would have sworn I had no room for another drop of food, this was the best kanafeh I’ve yet had. (Notice the word yet; I stand to be corrected.)

The podcast about this trip is available by clicking HERE.

Last year’s podcast about my trip to Syria – here.

Thanks to all for your prayers for a safe and profitable journey.
Pray for peace in Syria.

Some images courtesy of John Maddex.

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