It is a city of people waiting for the unknown. Most men have sent their children and wives to safer countries. The millions who remain continue to work and attend school. The food stands are full. Cell phone and money machine lines are long. Most things appear normal.
But the shrinking bubble of “normal” Damascus which remains under the control of President Bashar al Assad is haunted by the steady sound of shelling, hundreds a day, outgoing to the suburbs of this ancient city and beyond.
Rebel car bombings are becoming common. Civilians who were largely sheltered by the civil war now find it at their door step. Local men armed by the government, called shabiha, stand guard at home-made checkpoints in their neighborhoods. And the displaced Syrians who fled areas of fighting for the safety of Damascus are worried once again.
Most civilians in Damascus, paranoid to discuss politics out-loud, don’t announce loyalty to either side…a dangerous stance in a place where both sides are intolerant of doubt.