Happiness is….

A [i]real[/i] coffee!!Today we found happiness in Damascus. Not in its mosque — gorgeous though it is — or in the enchanting alleyways of the souk, but in a cup of real coffee!! Ever since we entered Turkey it has been nearly impossible to get a proper brew. You can try, with a pleading look in your eyes, to ask for a coffee but inevitably the waiter returns with the disappointment that is a mug of Nescafe, usually made with powdered milk. Oh sure, there are the famous Turkish coffees, served in espresso cups with the grains still at the bottom and we have to admit they are nice enough, but not quite the thing when you’re craving a frothy, milky cup of latte. Inhouse Coffee to the rescue! We found a branch of this Syrian chain just off a street lined with embassies and swish jewellery shops, not to mention Syria’s first real Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, you read that right. In Syria, KFC occupies a spot up with the finest boutiques in town. Chicken drumstick with your Prada bag, madame? Anyway, back to the coffee. Inhouse is the Syrian version of Starbucks with comfy chairs and prices to match. A cappuccino will set you back 2 euros. Not bad by European standards but absolutely outrageous in Syrian terms. The same price would buy you three glasses of freshly squeezed juice or eight falafels from a street vendor. We didn’t care. We paid up and thoroughly enjoyed nursing our coffee among the well-to-do of Damascus. And we had a laugh over Inhouse Coffee’s Syrian quirks. The price list on the wall hadn’t been updated in some time. Prices charged were 50% above what was marked but staff shrugged it off. “It’s an old list,” they said. And when we asked for a customer card which gives you one coffee in ten free they shrugged again. “All out,” they said. The free wifi didn’t work either. No one seemed embarassed. It gave a distinctly Middle Eastern feel to this Starbucks copy. We’ve become used to the finer touches around the edges in many places lacking somewhat, all explained away with a smile and a feeling that’s just the way things are. But the coffee was good and that was all that mattered. Knowing it may be our last decent cuppa for some time to come, we’re even tempted to return tomorrow.

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