Rolling into Damascus
15 April 2011 |
Yesterday, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad promised government reform, I reviewed The Other Side of the Mirror, an insightful travel book on that little-understood country. Today, the Syrian people have defied their government again, and for the first time are now on the march to Abasseyeen Square in Damascus. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports on Syrian youth harnessing technology in an effort to substitute for detained journalists and international reporters who aren’t allowed out of Damascus. Al Jazeera has the latest on what may be a turning point in this nascent uprising.
In the yesterday’s review, I noted the tension in Syria between the modern and the traditional. Damascus and Aleppo, two of the oldest and best preserved cities in the world, are also growing rapidly (in great measure because of the influx of 1.5 million Iraqi refugees), and urban life is degrading. This morning at a conference hosted by the Penn Institute for Urban Research, Mohammad al-Asad, the founding director of the Center for the Study of the Built Environment in Amman, Jordan, said that the focus these days on urban development in the Middle East is not on architecture or public space, but on government corruption and transit. “If you can move easily around the city, it is a healthy city,” he said, and indeed, in Damascus today the people are rolling in, demanding, at long last, an end to the corrupt and ineffectual regime.