I am an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist who studies the musics of the Arab World, with a special emphasis on Syria. I’ve spent a lot of time in Syria, primarily in Damascus and Aleppo, and have traveled throughout most of the country and gotten to know a wide variety of Syrians, many of whom I have the privilege of considering friends.
It is my wish with this collection of stories to bring some humanity into our understanding of Syria today to evoke the rich, complex, sometimes contradictory, but nonetheless fascinating tapestry of everyday life in a land inhabited by wonderfully complex (and sometimes contradictory) people. In other words, people like you and me.
Although I try to avoid direct political writing (at least 99% of all contemporary writing on Syrian in any language has been political), astute readers will find much of relevance to the contemporary situation in these lines, or by reading between them. Moreover, as an American I consider it a political act to write honestly and positively about a place that generally is misunderstood or cast in the negative. As an educator I see it as my obligation to speak out against ignorance and injustice. May these stories reach well beyond the confines of the academy to open more eyes if not hearts to the humanity of Syria and its many peoples.
For Syrians, both those currently in Syria and those many who live outside her boundaries, may this collection serve as a reminder of the beauty of your homeland as seen through my eyes, heard through my ears, and embraced with my heart.