THE SHORT STORIES OF ZAKARIA TAMER
• The neighbourhood, the starting place
I would like to ask you about the Sarouja neighbourhood where you were born, and more specifically Al-Bahsa, and also the Eyn El-Karsh neighbourhood, next to Sarouja, or Little Istanbul as it used to be called.
The Sarouja neighbourhood cannot be compared to Eyn El-Karsh as the Sarouja market place is an old historical neighbourhood, while Eyn El-Karsh is a new neighbourhood that started being developed in the 1940s. The “interior” Al-Bahsa neighbourhood, where I was born, had undergone drastic changes in its population. During Turkish rule the inhabitants of Al-Bahsa were a mixture of Muslims, Christians and Armenians, and they had agreed amongst themselves that they were all Syrians but each with their own specific traditions and beliefs. The Christians and Armenians lived in the “exterior” part of Al-Bahsa while the Muslims lived in the “interior” region. The exterior part was not blocked off, you would enter it from Al-Marja Square and exit it by Al-Ahram Cinema.
Zakaria Tamer, aged 21
Most of the shops there were occupied by the best calligraphers in Damascus.
As for the interior AlBahsa, it was a “blocked-off” neighbourhood, or as it used to be described a “dammed” neighbourhood, and comprised seven alleyways on the left and right, all dead-ends, consisting of about a hundred houses whose inhabitants were all from Damascus. The interior Al-Bahsa was close to Al-Marja which, at the time, was the centre of town, so all the demonstrations against the French occupiers and their Syrian political supporters would start there. And all the executions by hanging
116 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015