Explore the World

Appetising way to start my tour

Less than an hour on Syrian soil and I was being whisked away to join the Friendship Arabia team for a media gathering in Nobles Palace – a restaurant regarded as one of the classiest in Damascus. It was a beautiful setting and the food and service was undoubtedly first class. 

A large group of local media came to greet us and they immediately started asking questions and taking photographs. I explained to one of the Syrian papers that not only was the aim of the Bahrain to Britain Friendship Tour to promote Bahrain and the Bahrain International Circuit, it was also about spreading a message of peace and understanding among nations. 

I highlighted to them that as a Briton living and working in Bahrain for more than six years I had come to realize that the West and the Arab world shared far more similarities than they did differences. I told them: “We all have the same aspirations for ourselves and our families and the majority of us are just normal people who want to live in harmony and enjoy our short time on this earth.” 

I explained that we hoped our tour would go a long way to help create understanding and friendship among all and inspire others to act for the same goal.

After speaking of friendship it was time to do what friends do, so we took dinner in the outside area of the restaurant. The gathering included the team, the local media, Bahrain Embassy staff, the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, Gulf Air officials and others. The setting couldn’t have been nicer, there was a gentle breeze in the air and a traditional Syrian band played what seemed like romantic lullabies to their appreciative audience.

Ali asked me to join the top table and I was honoured to sit between two inspiring and hospitable figures – the Bahrain Ambassador to Syria Waheed Al Sayyar and the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism chairman Nashaat Sanadiki. I couldn’t have wished for better company. While I conducted interviews between mouthfuls of mezza, grill and gozi, I got a wonderful insight into the life of a diplomat, who has been living a kind of friendship tour his entire career. 

It was easy to see the mark this friendly and well-loved character had made on Syria by the number of people who greeted him with enthusiasm throughout the evening. The ambassador was truly charming, inspiring and an instant friend. 

Similarly, Nashaat was a wonderful personality and generously gave me his take on what made Syria unique. I liked his summary of the country and its people: “We have Muslims, Christians and Jews here and we live in harmony,” he said.

I couldn’t help but think in the turmoil stricken world we live in how beautiful this example exists. Instead of tolerance: harmony. What a concept for any nation to aspire to!

As the evening started to wrap up the ambassador introduced me to Arabic pistachio ice cream, a complete first for me, and utterly delicious. It was going to be the following day that I would get the chance to see it being made.

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