As the civil war in Syria continues, a significant number of Syrians remain loyal to the embattled government of Bashar Al-Assad. One Christian friend explained to me that although they didn't like the current regime, they considered it inevitable that, should it fall, Syria would descend into a state of violent chaos reminiscent of Afghanistan or Somalia.
To the East of the old city there is a busy road that tanks and other military vehicles often drive along as they travel between the nearest base and whichever suburb they happen to be fighting in on a given day. Recently, a friend saw a tank drive down this road in a convoy with some other vehicles. On its side its crew had had spray-painted, in big white Arabic letters, "Assad! -- or we destroy the country."
While many Syrians have suffered immensely during the current conflict, others continue to live much as before. One week, a young single mother and her two-year-old son came to stay in my house for a few days, her home destroyed and ransacked. Later that week, I went out and met a western friend for a drink in the old city. All of the girls were expensively and revealingly dressed and danced with their male companions seemingly unencumbered by their towering heels, while everyone was knocking back a range of exotic cocktails and shots.
The sound of violence in surrounding suburbs has become a feature of life in Central Damascus. While the central parts of the capital have, for the most part, been spared the fighting that has beset some outer suburbs in recent months, residents here are frequently reminded of their precarious situation by the sound of explosions and gunfire emanating from surrounding suburbs.