Jabal Qasioun is an incredibly humble mountain, yet its presence can be felt from far and wide. It sits and watches over those who call it home and has witnessed the winds of change blow against is hardened exterior throughout the ages. Its ancient veins are filled with rich history as it stretches out like the arm of an old friend to embrace the oldest constantly inhabited city on earth, the city of Sham, now known as Damascus.
When I lived in Syria in 2009, I frequently climbed to the top of Jabal Qasioun and sat for hours looking out over the sprawling city below. It didn’t matter to me if it was the middle of a scorching 40 degree day, or the middle of the cool summer night, I would somehow find myself sitting atop this mountain, ruminating on the world around me. I would sometimes try to count the glowing green lights from the myriad of minarets and mosques that peppered the night cityscape, but would be defeated every time, as it was as thought eh night sky above had mirrored its stars as minarets below.
I awoke on my very first day in Damascus to the bright morning light, streaming through the crack of the old dusty curtains that hid me from the busy world outside my tiny bedroom. I wandered the streets of the old city in search of possibly the best chocolate croissant I have ever had, baked fresh from a tiny, yet extremely popular hole on the wall baker in Bab Tuma, I walked out of the historical gates of the old city and looked out to the edge of the sprawling city that surrounded me. The first thing I saw was a tiny green dot perched comfortably on top of an incredible mountain that seemed to hug half of Damascus itself. I was immediately drawn to it and so began my love affair with this wonderful, ancient city.
I left my tiny room in Bab Sharqi (The Eastern Gate) of the old city, nestled in the heart of Damascus and began walking. Every once in a while I would look up to make sure the mountain and that tiny green dot was still in front of me. Through ally ways, mosques, cobbled streets, market places and tiny winding roads, that eventually became too steep even for motorbikes or cars to ascend I walked and did not stop until I that tiny green dot became the humble green dome of an ancient mosque. Mt Qasioun became a source of constant inspiration for me and I eventually ended up moving to live in a tiny old house half way up its steep incline.