We always try and do things a little differently on our tours to Syria, but I have to give a full kudos to our local partners and the curve ball they threw at us with the performance of the Syrian Wind Orchestra.
Through the war, sanctions and general hell that the Syrian people have been through the outside perception of the place tends to be of country far from normal. In some respects this is very correct, the country has suffered immense destruction, sanctions have lowered salaries and there are are still air strikes, yet life goes on.
Damascus is point in case with this, people wonder the streets shopping at all manor of stores, which even to my surprise included lingerie shops! There is a bustling street food scene, amazing bars and restaurants, but also lots and lots of culture. Not long after leaving there was a film festival, but more importantly and luckily for us we got to see the Syrian Wind Orchestra at the Opera house.
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When it comes to Syrian culture this is one sphere where you truly see the socialistic element to the country, rather than the more Islamist influence of other states within the region. Syria much like North Korea truly promotes sport, culture and the arts, with classical music being very much part of that.
So, when we were offered a night at the opera, of course we could not refuse.
Watching the Syrian Wind Orchestra
Held at the Damascus Opera House and hosted by the General Association of Dar Al-Assad for Culture & Arts from what we could gather the Syrian Wind Orchestra were a new ensemble doing a fresh performance.
As is expected with the opera we were required to wear formal dress and not come late, or risk being refused entry. Fair enough.
Our group duly seated, we were thus treated to an hour of fine classical music played by the orchestra and led by the extremely enigmatic conductor. By the end he was even conducting the audience as part of the overall performance.
Overall a notable surprise for us as tourists and very much not something we expected – and rightly so! According to our Syrian hosts we were perhaps the first foreign group to ever witness the Syrian Wind Orchestra! Whether true, or not tales of people enjoying opera in Damascus are not all that common.
And what this extra special was that afterwards the evening was indeed far from over and we further went on to enjoy great food and a few bars in the old town. Another fine example of what you get in Syria not only exceeding, but blowing away the misconceptions you might have about how people live their lives in the country. To join our next Syria Tour click here.