The article is written by the publisher of Diaspora Glitz Magazine, Obi-West Utchaychukwu. He shared a 2005 experience while holidaying in Damascus, Syria
Obi-West Utchaychukwu is based in Finland. He is the founder of Face of African Queen Finland, a beauty pageant for young ladies from African background
In 2005, before the multi-sided Syrian civil war. I was working for an international company where my task enabled me to travel abroad, I got my Syrian visa and I began to prepare for the trip. Having been to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, so Damascus was my next destination.
I bought my flight ticket with Air Maroc to transit in Casablanca en route to Damascus. A week before my departure, I was told that because I’m a Nigerian passport holder, that they won’t grant me entry into the country despite having an authentic visa except someone stands as a surety for me in the country; who will take responsibility for my stay. It was when Syria was in the throes of insecurity.
I made some phone calls and I was connected to a Nigerian lady called Pat Otabor who lived in Damascus. I called her and told her that I will be visiting Syria and she told me that I need to pay someone who will come to the airport to sign an undertaking. I didn’t waste time and I asked her “How much?” and she replied in Nigerian pidgin “bros nah $150” I didn’t bother to argue, I just told her no problem.
Our flight landed at Damascus international airport, stern-looking Military men guided us to the immigration section. I was the only black man amongst the passengers which made me the cynosure of all eyes. Still in the queue, when out of the blue, a military man just like the Goliath character in the David and Goliath movie walked to me and said. “Where are you from?” With nervousness, I replied-Nigeria sir. Can I see your passport he said while stretching out his hand to me? When I handed my passport to him, he quickly flipped through to see if I had visited Israel before coming to Syria. If I had visited Israel before coming to Syria, I would have had a problem. They would have charged me for espionage.
After going through a thorough search and interrogation for about an hour, they asked me the name of my contact person in Syria and I told them that was when they handed my already stamped passport to me.
As I came out, I saw a dark-skinned lady grinning from afar. She was accompanied by another black guy. They walked to me, and she asked are you, Obi? I smiled and responded “Yes, I’m Obi”
We boarded a taxi to her house, I was so fatigued, I needed to have a good sleep. When we got to her house, I came down with her and the African guy asked me for the $150 which I gave him and he also collected $50 from me for a taxi ride and he continued with the taxi to his house. The guy is a Sierra Leonean, who was the president of African students in Damascus. We entered the building, she turned to the right and said that’s my door. She opened the door and we entered, then I discovered that it was a studio with a big bed and a couch by the side. Without hesitation, I asked her, Sister, but you told me that you have a private room for me when i told you that I want to reserve a room in the hotel. She replied subtly, no worries, you can pass the night here and can get a place for yourself by tomorrow.
While relaxing on the couch, she asked me if I would like to eat a Nigerian delicacy called “fufu and egusi soup”, I told her no, that I would prefer noodles. After eating and having discussed with her, where she told me that she is planning to immigrate to Greece through Turkey. She turned to me and said, bro, go and take your bath while pointing towards the bathroom door. I paused for a moment, and then I told her that I’m okay; I will have my bath in the morning. Taking off my trousers in front of a lady that I don’t know and leaving my wallet and my document behind while in the bathroom are the major reasons I declined.
I want to take a shower she said, and she gave me the remote control of her old tv. After about fifteen minutes, she walked into the room with see-through lingerie, her seductive boobs reminded me of the temptation of the biblical Joseph in the hands of Potiphar’s wife. “Are you enjoying the channel?” she asked, this time she was in bed. You can change it, I told her. I threw the remote control to her. A couple of minutes later, she turned to me and said, I want to put off the light, “Come and lie down, let’s sleep together” I was a bit confused. What did you say? I ask her. I said come and lie down, she reiterated, this time, she has come to bed eyes. At this juncture, I was befuddled, my mind was preoccupied with two things-whether to heed to her invitation for sex or tell her that I’m comfortable passing the cold night on the couch.
Out of the blue, I turned to her and I told her “Thank you” I’m comfortable here. She sighed and switched off the light. I couldn’t sleep, I was having a gnawing feeling in my spirit. I also noticed that she was unable to stay asleep.
When it was morning, I told her that I want to take a walk around the neighbourhood. Her response was cold, obviously because of what transpired during the night. I got a sim card from the local network and activated the internet. The first thing I did was to look for a furnished place where I will put up and I paid for it. I got back to her house, she was angry because I was out for too long. I apologized and told her that I’m leaving her place right away. To where? she asked. I have gotten a furnished studio, I replied. Can I get the address? she asked, this time, I was close to the door of the building. I told her I will send it to her.
Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world with amazing historic sites. I visited The Umayyad Mosque also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, where the tomb of John the Baptist is located. I visited the Straight Street called Bab Shargi in Arab where Apostle Paul got converted. I can’t forget the sweet memory of Antioch, also known as Aleppo where you’ll find one of the early church. Another interesting place was the Citadel of Aleppo, a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the city. Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque that holds the remains of Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter was an interesting place. Maaloula, a large rocky Christian community where you’ll find some monasteries and the temple of Baal were the places I also visited that I can remember.
A couple of months later after my arrival to Nigeria, I decided to call a Nigerian student whom I met in a Church in Damascus. After we have spoken for a while I asked him about Pat and I was shocked when he told me that she is dead. You mean Pat is dead? He replied “yes.” According to the guy, Pat relocated to Turkey and fell sick and when she got to the hospital it was discovered that she’s HIV positive. She died of AIDs complications that she contracted years ago. So Pat was HIV positive and she wanted me to lie with her? I began to reminiscent what transpired the night I was at her place and at the same time I was thanking God for not heeding to her seduction.