Friday, July 12, 2013

Couchsurfing | The Golden Age

Couchsurfing Logo

Ever since I came back from the Camping Trip in Palmyra which was my first Couchsurfingexperience, I have decided to involve more in CS. I have created a few sub-groups like "Damascus & Emergency Couch Requests" and worked on my profile more and tried to add useful information to the group of each city, Syria group and also to my profile to help travelers who are planning to visit the country in general.

Damascus - The Capital, the oldest city alive.
Aleppo - A large souk and ancient citadel with great views. 
Hama - Waterwheels on the Orontes River. 
Homs - An ancient city, Crac des Chevaliers, Amazing Green Mountains in Spring.
Latakia - A major port city, Saladin's Castle, Fronloq Forests and Al Samra Beah. 
Tartus - a historical port city and historical small island called Arwad.

We have started a chain of Weekly and Bi-Weekly "CS Damascus Meetings". During my participation in CS Syria I have created/attended more than 20 meetings, met awesome people (locals and travelers), shared so many stories with them as much as we shared delicious traditional food at Ziad's, tea & shisha in the old city, fruit juice at Abo Abdo, Damascene sweets at Nabil & Ice cream at Bakdash the Damascene way.

As for the trips, we have participated in few regional camps in Jordan & Lebanon, with the help of many of my CS friends we have created many trips in Syria as well.

CS Activities 2009 - 2010
Couchsurfing Activities 2009-2010

  • CS Jordan Middle East Camp 1st May 2009
  • CS Movie Night 13th May 2009 - Watched Baraka - Syria (Organizer)
  • CS Trip to Deir Mar Musa 5th July 2009 - Syria (Organizer)
  • CS Traditional Night Out 16th July 2009 - Syria (Co-Organizer)
  • CS Green Day in the desert 18th July 2009 - Syria (Co-Organizer)
  • CS Lebanon Middle East Camp 31st July 2009
  • CS Syria Middle East Camp 9th October 2009 (Co-Organizer)
  • CS Green Day in the desert Astronomy and Camping 28th May 2010 (Co-Organizer)
  • CS Syria Middle East Camp (Camel's Riding Across the Syrian Desert) 22 November 2010 (Co-Organizer)
  • CS Lebanon Biking Trip To The South October 2010

Apart from the events listed above, I had the pleasure to meet so many CS travelers and accompany many of them in trips around the country or on a day tour around the oldest continuously inhabited city Damascus. 

The Old City of Damascus
A photo from a high building showing the hurt of the old city of Damascus - Omayyad Mosque

There are two tools on couchsurfing that members can use after they interact with other CS members. One of them is the vouching system, where you can vouch for those who you really trust. The other one is the best in Couchsurfing it is a reference system that allows you to leave references "positive or negative" for other members on their profiles so when they approach others in the community, people get the ability to know more about them and how they behaved in the past.   

I am listing some of the references I have got in the past: (earliest to recent)
Use the scroll on the right to navigate for more references
From Ala Suleiman 
 Amman, Jordan
 Oct 26, 2008
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,   
we met in Palmyra Camping, and he was a nice, smart, well educated, and a photography professional guy.
Then we met many other times, and simply, whenever I visit Syria I always want to meet Emad, coz he really became a good friend of me & I am proud of that.

From Haian Dukhan 
 St Andrews, Scotland
 Oct 26, 2008
 Met in person Friend,   
Emad really deserves to be the ambassador of Damascus. I have first met him during Palmyra CS camping in 2008 but did not really have the chance to talk well to him as the time we had was very short. We kept our communication ongoing through facebook where I was continuously amazed and impressed by his photography skills! He was one of the main organisers of the second Palmyra CS meeting which went really well due to his tremendous efforts of promoting and time scheduling. I look forward to see him again either in Palmyra or in Damascus. Thank you for a wonderful photo on the camel and please consider yourself as having a brother in Palmyra!

From Anas Al-Asaad 
 Montreal, Canada
 Oct 26, 2008
 Met in person Best Friend,  Surfed 3 days Traveled 30 days 
Emad is an Amazing guy, great friend, well-Educated, well-Organized, trustworthy, and great events planer, so proud he's holding the CS flag in Damascus.

From Yamen Awad 
 Nouakchott, Mauritania
 Oct 27, 2008
 Met in person Close Friend,  Traveled 4 days 

My good impression I had had on Emad was approved when we met in a camping trip in Palmyra; his friendly, gentil friendship spirit was flowing out through his personality. He is a great gain to the CS community in Damascus.

From Haitham Shatti 
 Damascus, Syria
 Oct 31, 2008
 Met in person Close Friend,  Hosted 30 days Surfed 30 days Traveled 2 days 
Emad is a great travel companion and an expert IT person ,a very good photographer and i consult him in many things not just networking and computers he has a gentleman attitude and can be relied on, most of his friends are my best friends as well :-)

From Angelo Calianno 
 Cisternino, Italy
 Nov 13, 2008
 Met in person Good Friend,   
Emad was great...he show us all the best part in Damascus with his friends as weel.
He has introduced me to the fabolous Syrian dishes..especially the spicy one..
He is also a good photographer, really a nice guy to meet, I hope to meet him again somewhere around Europe.

From Veronica Gonzalez 
 Amman, Jordan
 Dec 11, 2008
 Met in person Friend,  Traveled 2 days 
Emad and I worked together for a year before he invited me and my friend Lindi on the Palmyra trip in October of this year. Emad was fun to travel with and I am so happy that he invited me to try CS.

From Christopher Bartley 
 Brisbane, Australia
 Feb 1, 2009
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,   
Emad has a wealth of knowledge about Damascus and its culture and history and is willing to share it with everyone. He has a great sense of humour and ability to make newcomers feel welcome. Good luck with your australian visa!

From Alexandra Levina 
 Moscow, Russia
 Apr 9, 2009
 Met in person  
Emad gave as a tour of Damascus on the 2nd day in Syria. A passionate conversationalist with his own viewpoint and I think a kind and sensitive person. Thanx for everything and I wish you success in the future projects of your life time.

From Alex_11 
 Washington, United States
 Apr 22, 2009
 Met in person Friend,   
Emad is the fearless leader of the Damascene Couchsurfing community. He also bought me a falafel! What a guy!

From Bob Smith 
 Abergavenny, Wales
 May 4, 2009
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 4 days 
Shared a great time on the Jordan cs camping trip - then met up again in Damascus where Emad showed me and my mum around with great passion for his city and patience for my mum's little weary legs! A lovely lovely guy.

From ZAHRA R. 
 Anchorage, United States
 May 9, 2009
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 3 days 
Emad is a great guy... very friendly and very passionate about photography as evidenced in his amazing photos. He really knows his cameras as he helped me figure out how to use mine. Thanks Emad!!! I'm finally taking pictures w/out white spots in em ;-)
I hope we cross paths again.

 Bangkok, Thailand
 May 9, 2009
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 1 days 
He is such a wonderful person from Damascus. So active, so passionate about everything and so helpful. He called me when I moved around Syria and helped when I was lost at the highway from Homs to Tartus. He is a great person to meet and know. Makes Damascus and Syria a greater place to stay !! Love to meet him soon in Iran!!

From Marieke and Sjoerd de Jong 
 Groningen, Netherlands
 May 13, 2009
 Met in person Friend,  Traveled 5 days 
Emad is the only person we know who doesn't get lost in the Old City of Damascus! Probably because he knows so much about the city. He guided us 2 days through the streets, tonight we'll join his CS-movie-night in Damascus. A wonderful person to know, entertaining and he is a must-meet-again-somewhere-guy!

From Emily Stott 
 Oxford, England
 Jun 30, 2009
 Met in person Friend,   
Emad sent me a friendly welcoming email and pointed me in the direction of capoeira in Damascus which was very sweet! then we met for a lovely morning walking and talking around the old city, visiting some sights and stopping for snacks and tea, a perfect experience! I recommend you meet him!

 Vancouver, Canada
 Jul 19, 2009
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,   

Meeting Emad was one of the highlights of our time in Syria. He spent the whole day showing us around Damascus and we met many other locals at a CS meeting in the evening. Emad is a funny guy who is easy to chat to. He loves food just as much as we do and knows the best place in town for shwarma and fresh juices! come to Canada if Australia doesn't work out!

From Mirte van de Griendt 
 Gothenburg, Sweden
 Jul 25, 2009
 Met in person Close Friend,   
Emad is an amazin guy! In 2 days he showed us ALL Damascus and we had a lot of fun! He a specialist in good places to eat but the best thing about him is that he doesnt like football but likes shopping :) Hope to meet you again! Thnx for the great days!

From Laura De Jongh 
 Utrecht, Netherlands
 Jul 25, 2009
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 2 days 
You made our trip to Damascus complete! I hope you get a nice job soon, but i was glad you're unemployed right now, because otherwise we would have missed the two great days with you!:)
Thanks for the good care and showing us arround!

From Medhat Attar 
 Cairo, Egypt
 Aug 22, 2009
 Met in person Close Friend,   
what can i say about emad ,,, honestly there r no words to describe how helpful he was when i was in syria , he helped me even more than i imagine and was alwayes there when we need . add to that his will to offer help and he showed us the best place to eat syrian food . frankly speaking i dont know what can i do to pay him back , BIG THANKS man and hope to meet u again and again and again

From Matthew Guttentag 
 Washington, United States
 Dec 4, 2009
 Met in person  
I met Emad while surfing with his friend Haithem. He is an extremely interesting conversationalist and can answer all sorts of questions about Islam and the Middle East. His alter ego "Black Spider" is also an excellent photographer:)
From Khairiel Abu Bakar 
 Copenhagen, Denmark
 Jul 5, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,   
When Emad was young he spent his childhood running around the streets of damascus. thats the reason why he navigates the old city like a river flowing to its desired destination! HAHAHA. I met Emad only in the evening, where he met me at my hotel and we walked through the old city together. I had walked the city (or so i thought) in the day but with Emad around everything got a whole lot easier and you discover new things! Anyway Emad, I wish you well with your IT aspirations and may you let your mom know that you found a blue eyed german blonde one day! HAHAHAHAHA. Salam..

From Katharina Jautz 
 Bonn, Germany
 Aug 24, 2010
 Met in person Friend,   
Emad is a wonderful person: he loves to share his enthusiasm about his city and his knowledge about his culture and religion. He has helped me with so many things in the first week of my stay already and I really enjoy every single meeting with him!

From Nick Chang 
 Silver Spring, United States
 Sep 19, 2010
 Met in person Friend,   

We are very fortuante to have Emad to show us around his amazing ancient city. We learned so much about it thanks to him. His friends are super nice, too. The last night's mountain view of the city is very impressive. Emad embodies the best example what the couchsurfing is about. I hope we'll meet again one day.

From Jared and Megan Williams 
 Melbourne, Australia
 Nov 20, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 2 days 
Very helpful and full of knowledge. Committed, genuine fella. Hope we meet again.

 Preston, England
 Nov 29, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 2 days 
Thanks to Emad I was able to spent night on the desert which was on my "things to do in life" list. But not only he's a great organizer also funny relaxed and very welcoming person. Hope to bump into him somewhere in the world!

From Ana Merchan 
 Dos Hermanas, Spain
 Dec 3, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 2 days 
I met Emad in Palmyra, he was part of the organizing team. I have to say thanks to him and the rest of the guys for such a wonderful experience and the amazing pictures that he took :)

From Amr Al-Faham 
 Sulaymaniyah, Iraq
 Dec 7, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,  Traveled 5 days 
Emad is motivated guy with high spirit and this is why i really appreciate him being an active member in CS. I beleive Damascus is lucky to have such nice person. Keep it going man!

From Lena Melter 
 Basel, Switzerland
 Dec 12, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,   
Emad spent a whole afternoon with me showing me around old Damascus and taking me to his favorite eateries in town. Emad, thank you very much for taking me on this trip to the past as you called it yourself and teaching me so much about your country and culture. It was a great introduction to Syria ans Damascus. Lena

From nicolleindc 
 Silver Spring, United States
 Dec 12, 2010
 Met in person Couchsurfing Friend,   
My husband and I had a great time exploring Damascus with Emad and a couple of his friends. We loved his openness and willingness to answer our questions about the culture and what we saw happening around us. Plus, he knew some wonderful restaurants and a juice stand that is out of this world. :) I hope to see you again before too long!! Thanks for everything!

Here is a 9 minutes movie from Syria. A glimpse of the best moments I had during the period between 2008 and 2011.

Starting 2011 CS Syria team members were brainstorming the activities we will be organizing in spring/summer of 2011. Then the Arab Spring has erupted, a chain-reaction starting in Tunisia passing by Egypt, Yamen, Libya and finally reached Syria in 15 March 2011.

Nothing is the same anymore, our lives as we know it has changed and our priorities has been shifted.

In the future Couchsurfing posts I will be writing about the adventures I had one by one.

Happy Surfing

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