Following the Amman Bombings and their Aftermath

Monday, November 14, 2005 | Amman, Jordan (map)

A mosque near our house outside Amman. This act perverting their religion has angered many Jordanians.
Last Wednesday, suicide bombers executed a series of coordinated attacks on three prominent hotels here in Amman, Jordan's capital. I live in a distant suburb, so I was nowhere near the attacks; several friends who live within walking distance were all fine. The images of the bombing sites being shown on Jordanian TV these past few days have been quite unsettling, however. Based on the latest reports, as many as 60 people died in the attacks. Many were attending a wedding in one of the hotels.

Thankfully, nobody I know was at the bombing sites. But for Jordan, the impact of this tragedy seems hard to overstate.

Despite having Iraq, Syria, and Israel/Palestine as its neighbors, Jordan has been able to avoid events like this thanks to a little luck and a lot of security forces. Until last week, it was just about the only country left in these parts that hadn't suffered a major terrorist incident. Now, many

A Return to Damascus

Sunday, November 6, 2005 | Damascus, Syria (map)

Streets of Damascus in autumn
With my Syrian visa about to expire and a long weekend approaching (due to 'Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the end of Ramadan), I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to return to Damascus and see some faces from this summer.

The weekend turned out to be quite surreal—with nearly all of my old friends gone and the city dampened by a dreary winter drizzle, Damascus looked less familiar than I had expected. When I visited her home in Bab Tuma, Ra'ife was her old cheerful self, asking questions about life in Amman and cajoling me for speaking like a Jordanian. Her mother, too, seemed the same—the silent presence in the room, weathered and stone-faced.

Ra'ife's house lacked the warmth of the sunshine beaming through the grapevines, and I felt the absence of my friends from the summer. Julian had moved out shortly after I left Damascus, and