Organisation and Identity

I think I’m registered on the course and due to start on Sunday. Its hard to tell, all of the other students, and most of the staff spoke Arabic throughout the registration thing. I had ques pointed to me and when i got to the front of them I had the peaces of paper taken away from me and replaced with new bits. Sometimes a new que was pointed to me, though occasionally i was given bits of paper with addresses written on them in Arabic. sometimes other students were able to translate. usually they couldn’t. eventually the paper chase ended, and i was told to come back on Sunday (the Monday of the Middle East and the first day of term).


Inroling involved doling out passport photos like I’m a minor European royal with an over inflated opinion of my own importance, and eventually i ran out. I found a man with a camera and photoshop, tidied my hair and sat down with my ears out and mouth shut, passport style.

‘smile,’ he ordered, begged and cajoled, snapping away till he had a suitable shot.

he uploaded it onto the computer, and made it the right size. perhaps i should explain it was an unusually hot day, I was red and sweaty, and my hair was all over the place. this clearly upset the man, who photoshoped wisps of my hair out. he then toned my skin shade down so i wasn’t as red, before removing all blemishes and shine on my skin. He wasn’t satisfied though. He whitened the whiles of my eyes, then amped up the blue of my eyes then turned his attention to my mouth, which needed whiter teeth and redder lips.


The application forms for the institute are not filed in alphabetical order according to surname, rather they are kept in loose piles with passport photos on the top. None of secretary’s who’ve looked have recognised me as the owner of my photo yet.

Author: adventuresinarabic

I'm studying Arabic in Damascus, living through the Arab Spring and blogging about my experiences hear.

2 thoughts on “Organisation and Identity”

  1. I wouldn’t worry; no-one looks like their passport photo. At least I hope not. Please God tell me I don’t look like my passport photo…

  2. I love this story so much that I read it out to Jon, with great use of inflection etc, and then laughed like a freak for ages. I really want to see the photo!

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