Ever since the ‘Annual Damascus International Exhibition’ began, the Palestine wing has always been one of the richest components of the exhibition visited by vast numbers of visitors. This has not been the case this year.

The exhibition was this year moved from the capital to its suburbs. This reflected negatively on the turnout, in spite of the free transport offered by the Syrian government. In a corner of the exhibition sits the Palestinian wing. Scores of Palestinians from the occupied territories meet their friends and relatives in the Diaspora who make a point of visiting the exhibition for this purpose.

As you walk into the Palestine wing you are greeted by the exquisitely embroidered traditional Palestinian garments, wooden engraved furniture and ceramics, while the pungent fragrance of rosemary, lemon zest and orange juice and the sound of the folkloric songs take you back to the valleys of Palestine.

The tour ends with a picture exhibition depicting the Palestinian people’s heroic struggle as well as the tragedy of its daily existence. Unsuitable location and unbearable conditions Mr Yahya al-Atrash owner of the Klar leather shoe factory, Galilee, says: “The location of the Palestine wing for this year is quite bad, cast at the very end of the exhibition. Its gates overlook the back garden… Many have been unable to find us, thrust as we were in the very end of a huge place few had ever been to before. Many participants have declared that they would never take part in the exhibition again if this terrible state of affairs continues in future years.

This has also reflected on the numbers of visitors to the wing, which have declined sharply in comparison to past years. We have had as a result to sell at a fraction of the cost of our goods, in order to avoid transporting them back to Palestine, which involves much hardship. The facilities placed at our disposal were the poorest… we were the only wing not to be supplied with air conditioning, or even electronic fans… It was boiling hot… quite unbearable…” We had to endure enormous difficulties in the transportation of our products from Palestine to Damascus.

The road linking Galilee to the Jordanian borders was dotted with Israeli military checkpoints, where we had to wait for hours on end… The journey takes you a mere two hours under normal circumstances…” Mr Khalid al-Mirdawi, owner of the al-Mirdawi Juice company, adds: “We have had to walk for 80 kilometres in the dead of night until we reached the bridge to Jordan…” Another participant, Mr Faiz a. Umar – General director of the Ceramic Company (Galilee) said: “ It took us a whole month to transport our products from Galilee to Jordan…

The journey was terribly strenuous… we moved from one city to the next and from one checkpoint to the one after on donkey carts… Much of the ceramic was broken to pieces…”

Source: Shirin Sharrafi: Damascus