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This report is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

The Pigeon Wars of Damascus (I) Marius Kociejowski

Since my last visit there, almost five years ago, I had had several dreams of Damascus. When I dreamed my way back onto the Souq Hamidiye, where I hoped to find Fatina, 'Queen of the Souq', the only woman to work in that male preserve, what I found instead was some crazy Arabic equivalent of a western shopping mall, an open hive of small concrete cubicles. There was a perfumery of some kind where a live model, dolled up to look like Cleopatra, sat motion-less in a chair. 'Where is Fatina?' I asked her. She seemed not to hear me. I repeated my question, but just like a figure in profile on an Egyptian tomb painting, whose eye nobody'll ever catch, she continued to gaze straight past me. A dream or two later, the Umayyad mosque was nowhere visible, and the area behind it, where the Nofara Café used to be, was now entirely demolished and resembled an industrial landscape, the Barada River cutting through it, black as ink, much wider than it is in reality. I had to be careful not to slip into it because I was walking along the top edge of a steep incline of loose pebbles. The city I knew was gone. Worse still, my friends Abed and Sulayman demonstrated no great desire to see me. When finally I did locate them, on some peculiar housing estate, a group of squat, windowless buildings facing onto a commu-nal square paved with concrete, again nothing ...

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