By Sarah Jaber
As Francois Voltaire once said, “Our country is that spot to which our heart is bound.” But what is a bounded heart? Is a bounded heart tied with the ropes of love or the obligations of family? Over the summer of 2010, I discovered where and why my heart was bound. It was to the beautiful soils of “The City of Jasmine.” Syria was the destination of my travel and the departure of my unawareness. It was where I learned to love my country and admire its people.
The sound of honking cars made its way through the crowded streets of Damascus and into my grandfathers two by two. It was a sunny day, and I was squished next to my brother. I had no idea where we were going. “Mama, can’t we just go to the mall?” I asked. “Today we’re going somewhere different,” she replied. I trusted my mother, leaned back, and closed my eyes….“Get up, we’re in Old Damascus,” by brother yelled while slamming the door. I stepped out of the car, wondering what this trip would have in store for me. We entered a narrow road, and I visualized the best picture with the mosque just perfectly in the background. I pressed the button on my camera, but nothing happened: my batteries were dead. Here I was in one of the oldest cities in the world and I had forgotten to bring extra batteries. “It’s ok, we can ask for some in these mini shops,” my mom said. Maybe there was still a chance.
And so my quest to find double A batteries began but little did I know that this quest would teach me something about the people of Syria. We entered one of the shops nearby. The man jumped to help us, no silent stalking like they do in America. He lined up all the kinds he had and I grabbed a pair. I placed it into my camera, but the screen remained black. He rushed to open another box, not caring about the mess around him. I took the next pair and placed it into my camera, making sure the positive and negative signs were aligned. It was again a failure. I began to question my own camera, when the man, again, began to rip the covering off a third pair. I prayed for the best, and finally got the green light. I smiled at the man not because I was happy about my camera but because of how he demonstrated kindness and hospitality. He truly wanted to see the green light as much as I did and he did anything to make me happy. This was just an ordinary man, but to me, he had extraordinary character. This sympathy and lack of selfishness is what defines many Syrians, and is the reason for my admiration.
Now that I had my camera, I was ready to see one of the oldest mosques in the world. I entered The Amawi Mosque with my right foot. Immediately, I felt blessed to enter such a magnificent place. The forty five minutes that I spent in that mosque felt like an entire day. From Syedna Yahya’s shrine to praying the Mughrib Prayer, everything was so authentic and faith instilled. It made me forget what I would do tomorrow and made me focus on how I would remember today. I could not believe that such a marvelous place was in Syria’s backyard. Who needs malls or restaurants, when you can travel back in time in a way that makes you love the present? Syria was my present and I finally learned how to open it.
The day was over and it was time to head back. I seemed to enjoy everything about the ride home. The honking noise from cars now sounded like melodies while the scent of jasmine slowly flourished. My trip to Syria was one that I would never forget. It brought to my attention the kindness of its people and the significance of its history. I let my thoughts wander until we finally got home. I left my grandfather’s car a new person. I left my grandfather’s car with a bounded heart.