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It’s Friday, the shops of the Sûq al-Buzûriyya are closing , you’ve had your fill of the Hammam Nouri Pasha, and now everyone is heading to the Great Mosque for prayers. Hurry and finish your tea! There’s still time. Yallah!

Once you enter through the Paradise Gate, kick off your shoes and step gingerly across the fabulous marble courtyard. Go ahead, enter the expansive sanctuary and find a little spot toward the back, maybe behind the shrine of John the Baptist. It’s cooler over there, and you can meditate and watch the pigeons flutter about in the beams above. As for the Friday sermon, well, given that most of the religious leaders in Syria today — Muslims and Christians alike — support the current regime explicitly or implicitly (sometimes both!), you won’t miss much if you pay attention only to the pigeons. In days of yore they carried messages of love and peace … the pigeons, yes, but also the religious leaders! Remember Abu Khalil’s “Ya Tira Tiri Ya Hamama”? Allah, shu hilweh! Remember the teachings of great spiritual leaders of the past? Hmmm. Also (often) hilweh too, but perhaps less remembered, less followed.

Ah, but be careful! You never know what will transpire once the sermon is over. Fridays are days of change, days of confrontation, days of rage and rebellion all over Syria. Where are the leaders today? Where are the messengers of love and peace?

Walk carefully, my friend. No matter your goddess or god, your idol or fantasy, pray for peace and love for Syria, for Syrians, for the children, for all of us.

PS Have a listen to Sabah Fakhri singing the song “Ya Tira Tiri” if you do not already know it (or even if you do!) by clicking on the link below.

PPS All photos are mine and are posted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 CC BY license. Songs remain the property of their performers and composers. Buy them at your local store or online.