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By Coleman South

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Extra info for CultureShock! Syria: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette

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I know Syrians who have relatives that have been incarcerated for a dozen years, but no one in their families has ever seen Overview of Land and History 45 them. The only information they get is secondhand, via other people who are able to visit family members in jail. In a culture where family is supreme, refusing family visitation is psychological torture. The Positive Side Most Syrians seem philosophical about their government, frequently joking about it. Also, recent changes, such as the new leadership of President Bashar al-Asad, appear to have made many Syrians feel happier as well as more secure and optimistic about their country’s future.

Don’t Try to Compete with Allah! Things made in Syria simply don’t work most of the time, and when they’re repaired, they don’t stay repaired. There seems to be limited commitment to quality workmanship and even less to excellence. This is even true of most handicrafts. You can buy a beautiful handmade brass teapot, for example, but not be able to use it because it won’t pour straight or it leaks; you can buy gorgeous clothing, but it will show its age very quickly; carpenters and stone masons create lovely and elegant arches and woodwork, but the doors and windows are likely not to work well and you might pull electrical outlets from the wall when you unplug appliances; a painter will spend days meticulously painting plaster scrollwork on a ceiling, but leave windows covered with paint runs and wide swaths of brush marks.

Four of the defendants were just released in January of 2007, several months before the official completion of their sentences, and Mr Saif—a member of Parliament at the time of his arrest—has become a powerful emblem for those who wish to see democracy in Syria. Overview of Land and History 33 In an interview with Kevin Sites of In the Hot Zone, he had this to say: “Before prison we were very tolerant of the regime, maybe too tolerant, maybe even a little naïve. We thought, ‘Mr. ” He says he no longer believes that, yet he believes the government will now allow him to continue operating as he did before.

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