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Another data point. My Damascus hotel, a local operation, had a segregated breakfast room. A shoulder high partition separated the scandalously underdressed westerners from the women in black. Although I think they were Iranian pilgrims.
The Middle East is a hugely complex subject when it comes to religion and I quickly get confused by the Sunni/Shia divide and all the various off-shoots. There were many Iranians in Syria when we went too and Iranian mosques in Damascus and Aleppo for sure and I got the impression that Syria was far more secular than Iran. Like you I found Jordan more relaxed again, whilst when I visited Lebanon in 2000 it was heavily under Syrian influence. I do need to take some proper time to study it all more closely, but even then I fear I will have unanswered questions. I have certainly loved all my visits to the region, but no doubt I was in a ‘male traveller bubble’ and shielded from reality. As for your comment about the underdressed Westerners, I too saw that on occasions (happily not that often) and found it both disrespectful and foolish.
No, no, I meant underdressed ironically, in contrast to the black shrouds with face veils worn by the Iranian women. Everyone on the western side had their arms and legs covered.
Ah, glad to hear that.
I note the absence of women. Syrua was not a good country to be a woman.
Actually better than in lots of countries in the region. I have pictures elsewhere on my blog of women smoking hookahs and having fun. Remarkably Syria seemed very laid back in 2009 with lots of ladies in Western clothes. Appearances can hide a lot of truths of course.
Whereas the first thing I noticed on arriving in Aleppo in 2009 was that all the women on the streets were shrouded in black. Subsequently a boy hardly into his teens attempted to sexually assault me (I was in my 60s and modestly dressed), and an inadvertent eye contact with a man on a train resulted in a determined attempt to pick me up. Every driver I had boasted about having twelve or more kids.
Jordan was more relaxed and Lebanon – at least in Beirut – still more so. Maybe those ladies in western clothes were western. The ones I talked with were covered.
That’s a horrid experience, sorry you had to suffer that.