Monday, November 13, 2006

Diesel warm

For the three months or so of winter (which has yet to arrive; the temperature reached into the 60s today), I will keep warm by the heat of a diesel-fired stove. On Saturday, Abu Mousa installed in my room the standard Syrian heating system, called a sobia.

The diesel, which I may replenish from a big blue drum on the terrace, sits in an enclosed, bowl-shaped receptacle above the stove. After lighting the mechanism by dropping a make-shift torch – Abu Mousa recommends a Kleenex – into the main chamber, I twist a knob above the bowl, which sets the fuel dripping down a shaft and into the stove. It only takes about five minutes for the room to warm.

The byproduct coils up through a stove pipe, which shoots out my window. As I stepped outside and watched the plumes of thick black smoke spiraling upwards, Damascus’ pollution problem came into clearer focus.

A few old-fashioned types, Abu Mousa including, prefer the wood-burning variety. In the kitchen on most nights these days, he sets firewood to blaze. Last night, he invited me in for mint tea, which he heated on the stove top.


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