The old city streets are filled with quaint allies, stone walkways and beautiful old wooden doors. I have always loved strolling through these pathways and greeting the people who call them home, watching the women sit and chat and the children skip and hop down the lanes.
In the name of progress and advancement this country is busy tearing down over 250 year old traditional country homes and ‘improving’ the city. This progress means that the streets are now reduced to piles of rubble and old discarded bricks. This time in between the distruction and re-building leave this particular town in a rather sorry state.
The group I travelled with most recently was really struggling with the loss of the history represented by each pile of stones. They mourned the ‘impoverished’ people who were having their family homes literally torn out from under them.
One man strolled ahead of the group to get a picture and came back visibly shaken, “Karen, I heard voices back there. I think some poor family is still being forced to live amidst the rubble”.
I rounded the corner he pointed at and followed the sound of a child’s chatter. Sure enough a few walls were still standing and the front door of the house was slightly a jar.
The women heard us approached and stepped out.
“Happy Holiday,” I greeted her since the end of Ramadan had just been a few days before and most families were still in the midst of celebrating.
She invited us all to come in, and on her third earnest issuing of the invitation I told the group that we were going in for tea.
My fellow travelers were awed by the elegance that awaited them. After passing through the brightly light courtyard we were lead into the living room. The coffee table, or dustahan as it is called here, was lavishly spread with bowls of dried fruit and nuts, candies and cookies. We sat on plush thick cushions and admired the interact woodwork on the walls that shelved expensive looking china tea sets.
The group's ideas of poor and impoverished minority people forced to live in desolated homes came crashing down. In fact our hosts seemed to have a better overall attitude towards the change coming to her city than any of us did. The visit in her home ended up being a highlight for many on the trip.