Al-Rawda café…Museum that stores memories of Syrian intellectuals

Damascus, SANA_ Amid buildings and modern shops and down the road from the parliament, al-Rawda café in al-Abed Street in Damascus, for more than 80 years, still retains its identity as a socio-cultural forum.

The 800 square meters café, renowned meeting-place of artists, intellectuals and politicians, is often described as Syria’s miniature parliament.

On a marble table and a bamboo chair, many novels, love poems and verses of poetry for leading intellectuals and poets such as Adonis, Mohamed al-Maghout, Walid Ekhlasi and others were written.

This Damascene talk-shop has turned into a quasi-real parliament, all sectors of Syrian society are represented, in addition to the artists and writers who run its more important debates.

Journalists frequent the café for professional reasons, to pick up news of the cultural world and arrange interviews.

It is a place where all sectors of Syrian society gather daily, from merchants, doctors,  lawyers, retired politicians and officers, even some characters who played role in the political life.

Outwardly, al-Rawda may seem no different than Damascus’s other well-known traditional coffeehouses. People play cards, and the clatter of backgammon dice drowns out all other sounds. The widescreen TVs along the walls are strictly tuned to Syrian or sports channels.

Abu al-Hakam has been working at the café for 40 years and is proud to have met most of the intellectuals of Syria and the Arab world  who visited the café.

To one corner, Abu al-Hakam says, you can see two people playing backgammon and to another sit a writer, who is a frequent visitor of the place, looking busy writing down something, while the youths, sweeping the central part, seem diving in their laptops…a wonderful combination of two generations and lifestyles.

These gatherings and discussions may help create a new free-thinking generation.

In 1938, the coffeehouse was an outdoor cinema. The popular café consists of two indoor and outdoor halls, beverages and hot drinks are served in addition to Hookah water pipe.

Gh. A. Hassoun

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