While I was in Syria, almost everyone I met asked me where I was from. I always told them the truth: “Britanya”. Most people just nodded, or said that Britain was a beautiful country and that they wanted to live there. Sometimes, especially back in the summer (July 2007), men would smile at me when I said I was British and ask, “Tony Blair?” I always said, “Sorry” in reply, and they always shrugged, suggesting they knew the world couldn’t be helped, and smiled back at me.
At different times I walked around Syrian city streets with a young woman holding my arm – once a Syrian girl, once an Westerner (I’m not much of a ladies man, but women seem to enjoy hanging on to me). This made people glance constantly, as it’s rare to see men and women touching each other in public. However, no one looked angry or disgusted, and usually, as soon as I met a man’s eyes and smiled in greeting, he smiled back.