Mexicans in Damascus

Well, certainly, these were not ordinary Mexicans, nor even normal global tourists. They disregarded normalized ideas about not traveling to Syria not once, but twice, and the second time brought their whole family!
Syrian Arab Republic, Western Asia

Story by Kamelia Khalil. Edited by Melaina Dyck
Published on August 30, 2020. Reading time: 4 minutes

This story is also available in es



I live a beautiful, adventurous life.

I was born in Bulgaria. I studied in the Netherlands and in Spain. I worked in Greece. Two years ago, I moved to Damascus, Syria, to teach English. I feel lucky to have had amazing opportunities to live, study, and work in different places. I am privileged to go basically wherever I want and face no serious hardships. Through these experiences, I have come to recognize that borders are old-fashioned. We are all humans and should be able to live as global citizens.

This year I planned to continue my life adventure by traveling to Mexico. I will tell you the story of how traveling to Mexico became my 2020 goal…

…It was a warm October night in Damascus, around 11 pm. I was in my beautiful neighborhood of Bab Sharqi in the Old City of Damascus.[1] When I caught up with some friends, they informed me that tourists were going to join us—two Spanish-speakers.

This was notable because not long ago there were no tourists in Damascus. Nearly 10 years of war caused immense physical and emotional damage. Syria went from a relatively popular, safe, and cheap destination, to being perceived as one of the most dangerous places in the world. Tourism in Syria began to revive in the summer of 2019 and was just getting back on the world stage when the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel.[2]

As it turned out, that October night I met two amazing brothers from Guadalajara, Mexico who were visiting Syria and its neighboring countries, curious to find out for themselves what life was like in the infamous Middle East.

We went to a bar, spoke Spanish (which I had missed!), drank beers, laughed, and opened interesting conversations. The delightful evening ended with an “Adios y hasta pronto[3] at 4 am.

Thank you, WhatsApp! Thank you, technological advances! Thank you, Internet!
I stayed in touch with the Mexican brothers, and the “hasta pronto” came true!

In December 2019, I met up again with the two brothers. This time I had the great pleasure to also meet their amazing parents and awesome sister, who traveled to Syria with them. We enjoyed a few days together; days that felt like hours…

You might be wondering: “What?!? What are Mexicans doing in Syria in these times?!?

Well, certainly, these were not ordinary Mexicans, nor even normal global tourists. They disregarded normalized ideas about not traveling to Syria not once, but twice, and the second time brought their whole family! They are special people. They show that in times of overwhelming violence and chaos, humans can still live guided by curiosity and love. 

I believe life is guided by Love or Fear. These Mexican global citizens are full of immense love. I believe humans like them exist everywhere, regardless of Time and Space! Each of us must decide: To Love and Embrace Life or To Fear and Avoid Others.

I conclude that the term “migration” is limiting. It upholds an old-fashioned imaginary of humans being confined to one territory or another based on where they were born. We should think instead of humans as global citizens, sharing life on Earth together as a blessing for all.

What do you think?


Footnotes

[1] As you might know, Damascus is the oldest inhabited capital, dating back at least 11,000 years. It is also mentioned in the Bible, specifically during the Conversion to Christianity of Saul to Paul the Apostle, after having a vision from Jesus, while on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians. This turning point for Christianity is still remembered by locals and known by visitors; and the road through which Paul the Apostle passed is well-known as The Straight Road, which nowadays is more commonly called Bab Sharqi.

[2] For perspectives on tourism in Syria, check out vloggers on Instagram, such as evazubeck and drewbinsky

[3] Translation: “Goodbye and see you soon!”


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Kamelia Khalil

Kamelia Khalil

My name is Kamelia Khalil, 25 years old and born in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. I'm currently an English teacher in Damascus, Syria.

Topic: Migration

Fortunat Miarintsoa Andrianimanana



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