tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old Damascus, light on coke, gets high on hotels

Coca-Cola is banned, but apparently Holiday Inn is okay in Syria.

According to a story from Al-Arabiya, the Syrian minister of tourism Saadallah Agha al-Qalaa has just laid the ceremonial foundation stone on a new $35-million five-star luxury hotel to be built (egad!) inside the old city walls of Damascus - right in the neighbourhood of that most historic and beautiful of souqs, al-Hamidiyeh. (Quite near the Umayyad Mosque, pictured.)

Why oh why? Ya salaam, there's plenty of open space in Syria. Hell they just found a church in the desert that no one had seen for 1200 years.

We can only hope that the hotel's design, when the structure is finally completed in 2011, ranks somewhere better on the Eyesore Rankings than the McDonald's on the Champs Elysees, the Hard Rock Cafe in Beirut, the new AGO in Toronto, Starbucks (in general), or these pointy things in Kuwait.

[Okay, that was an unfair dig at the AGO, Toronto's new Frank Gehry thing. We like the new AGO, we just don't like where it is. You can imagine the artist's rendering of the corner of Dundas & McCaul streets all you want, but the area really looks like this. If you're going to build a monstrosity, have the courtesy to do as they do in Doha: put it on a fake island.]

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