I meet Sam, a Syrian-Canadian - the first I've met - at the Hotel lobby in Lattakia. Here for a few months doing research, as part of his medical studies in Toronto. I had just come back from an unfruitful search for a hair salon for women. Islam has a thing with women's hair, making it difficult to see women's hair being cut, and thereby hair salons for women as they are never on the first floor but on the second. Sam tells me there is a great hair salon on the way to where he lives in the centre of town, so we go off, and he drops me off at the ground floor.
I go up the stairs. Natural light shows me the way. On the second floor, there is less natural light, or any light for that matter. It's quite dark in fact. I barely make out "Salon" lettering on a wall down the corridor. I try to be hopeful, as Sam tells me this place is always open. I peer in an open doorway. Six people sit in a circle in darkness, in what seems to be the salon entry.
Marhaba? I say with a definite question mark at the end. Can I get a haircut, is this place open? They sort of barely make out that it is a very Asian-looking ajnabeeya in the doorway, and, given the power outage, the one who becomes my stylist couldn't help but laugh given the circumstances. Yes I say, this ajnabeeya would like a haircut if possible. And eventually I get a very good one, and feel that some weight has been lifted, just in time for the heat of Muscat next week.
Lattakia has been a good place to not do an awful lot, and bask in the enormous pleasure of speaking simple Arabic to very friendly people. The city to its advantage lacks the "drama" that can sometimes discolour the tourist-local relationship in Damascus. It's very down-to-earth here. An authentic welcomeness in their disinterest, and thereby lack of outright distinction between the qualities between a local and tourist.
The hotel I am at has a Tintin-theme to it, and I've perused through about 4 Tintin books in French, English, and Danish. I've met more Canadians here than in Damascus. Tomorrow we are off to Tartus, insha'allah, about an hour south by bus. Grey and overcast today, much a la Vancouver - but yesterday we had a glorious sunny day, and felt the salt-sea breezes of the Mediterranean waft by our cheeks.