A different Sunday ride with Amir

The ancient site of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus preserves the architecture, art, and ambience of what may be the world’s oldest city.

Photograph by Christopher Herwig, Aurora, 1979

Living in New York, I’m used to ride with the famous Manhattan yellow cabs where you end up sitting in a noisy plastic cage, starring at the fare meter.

The ride could be long, to distract yourself you either watch Macy’s commercials on the TV screen yelling in front of you or you listen at the driver’s phone conversation, but do not expect any interaction with the human being.

I had a different experience with Amir on my Sunday ride to the Montreal airport…

We had a hard time finding each other, Amir didn’t speak French and his English was really broken but I managed to understand where he was parked and I entered the car as a taxi passenger: on the back seat.

Amir invited me to sit in the front – yes, there was probably a precautionary measure not to be bothered by regular cab drivers but I like to think that he would have invited me next to him anyways. First thing he did was to grab my hands and rubbed them so as I feel warmer. I could have panicked a little bit being invited to sit next to an unknown driver whose first gesture is to make a physical contact with me but no, I could feel Amir was a kind guy, just worrying I had waited for him too long in the outside cold.

Sitting next to each other during the ride was a perfect opportunity to chat and I discovered an amazing person: Amir, Uber driver in Montreal.

Amir is Syrian.

He comes from Damascus, the Syrian capital where he was a civil engineer. He left his country to come to Canada but he couldn’t stop speaking about Syria, its people and its cultural heritage. Oh that guy was proud!

It was very important for him that I understand Syrian people are educated, welcoming and nice.

It was important for him that I understand ISIS doesn’t represent Syrian people, and that Syrian people are the first victims of ISIS: they suffer from this group of extremists on a daily basis in Syria, and they suffer from the conflation between ISIS and Syrian people some can make in the West. No later than yesterday, I read a facebook comment saying Western people didn’t want to welcome Syrian refugees as those are a bunch of terrorists. I’m dismayed when I read that as I’ve met a 100% Syrian guy who was nothing but kindness, intelligence and willingness to integrate.

Thank you Amir for this 30 minutes’ ride who sent me directly to Damascus and Palmyra, it was an amazing travel and I trust that Syrian people are like you: open minded, kind, with a lot to share.



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