Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Syria : Minding the Language

For the first time, I thought that maybe those Kelas Bahasa Arab many many years ago back in secondary school may finally have some use during the Syria-Jordan trip.

In truth, sadly, I remember only remnants of it; very very little, negligible, except for the numbers; I can remember them and can count from 1 to 8 :-P.

Okay enough school stories. Knowing the Arabic language is definitely an advantage when travelling in the Middle East.

In Damascus' Christian Quarter, we found this beautiful copy of The Bible, The New Testament, printed in Arabic.

The shopowner was kind enough to let us browse through it - though I don't really know what to look for since I could not read it.

This has an interesting story - I was exploring Aleppo on Sunday morning and walked into the Syriac Catholic church where the mass was halfway. I stayed on and experienced my first ever mass in Arabic! It was almost ... surreal. After the mass ended I asked a gentleman there whether there was a bookstore in the Church for me to buy some books or stuff. He said there is none and the markets are closed too, and promptly asked me to wait as he will ask the priest! Long story short, I was introduced to the priest who invited us inside the rectory and into his office and presented me with this small maroon Bible.

The New Testament.

Guess why I put up this picture?
(i) to show the number plate (I know my Arabic numbers, ngeh)
(ii) it's a Proton! (why are we always excited to see a Proton overseas?)

I thought - wouldn't it be nice to be able to read this?

This seems to be some kind of award or royal recognition.

At the Umayyad Mosque.

You can find a few street signages like these in Arab and English. This area was where we wanted to head first in Damascus but we could not find it and the taxi driver ... well, did not know either.

There are a few English adverts posted in the Christian Quarter - I am guessing more expats live there. (Exchange Partner??? ;-P)

Well, amidst those there are 'clever' signboards like this - with pictures! You definitely know what they're selling :) By the way, these shops are equivalent to fast food outlets in Syria since they do not have any Western food franchises.

Learn the numbers, and some useful phrases - that will help a lot in your travels.


  1. yupp, can imagine how surreal it is having a mass in arabic. hehe. Many ppl think that the whole people in the middle east are muslim.Ohh, what a good experience getting introduced to a priest there. shud hv taken a pic with him. :-)

  2. JIPP - Yes, it was very very weird to hear the common Arabic words in the prayers. Duh, I forgot to take a picture in the priest's office; unexpected and I was kind of 'terkejut' a bit when he gave me the Bible.