Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shades of green

Damascus -- like Cairo, Baghdad, Amman, and most Arab capitals, I suspect -- gives the impression of desert. The natural landscape, beyond small parks tucked amid low-rise apartment blocks, like the buildings themselves, is shades of brown.

But, just three hours to the north, the desert gives way to green, as far as the eye can see. Syria's bread basket, the plains surrounding Homs and Hama, is another world -- more so after winter rains. At the Roman ruins of Apamea, in the countryside northwest of Hama, which I visited last week with Syrian friends, stone columns and scattered remains of a 2,000-year-old city are nearly engulfed by rolling green fields.
Along the edge of a graveyard of ancient building blocks, boys directed their sheep, in search of yet greener grass.