Tuesday, 17 March 2009


When in Raqqa in became apparent to all that we needed a dedicated translator if things were to run at all here. Mohammed 1 -as we have dubbed him- did some calling round and found a nervous young man called Yassen, a 21 year old fourth year English student from Damascus University who was on holiday.

He came out with us initially for a day to see how he got on. Initially very nervous of us and all the entourage and goings on he has really come out of his shell and even after a few days exudes confidence. He was such a good apprentice we hired him, and haven’t been disappointed.

It’s been great for him too, meeting high ranking officials and practicing English with us all day long. We have discussed and learned about each other’s cultures, laughed, joked and birded together. For a guy who a week ago this was unthinkable, he is now touring the country with four Westerners and seeing places he has never been to either. He has quickly developed an interest in birds and always grabs a scope if one is spare and helps when we get surrounded by kids explaining what we are up to.

The banter has been good which keeps morale high (though Yassen really struggled initially to get to grips with Graham’s Aberdonian accent) and we have taught him a few Scottish phrases.

He woke up this morning and greeted us with “Fit like min” and a wry cheeky smile.