Sunday, March 2, 2008

Desperation in Damascus

I WAS appalled that author Christopher Vourlias could spend over a week sightseeing in Damascus ["He Took the Road to Damascus," Feb. 17] and be oblivious to more than a million desperate Iraqi refugees crowded into the city. Clearly he is as clueless as President Bush, who also hasn't publicly acknowledged that the violence and ethnic cleansing in Iraq has caused the largest refugee crisis in the world today. Syria and Jordan are hosting more than 2 million refugees, causing a strain on their housing, schools and medical systems, with only minimal international financial assistance. Maybe the "restless energy" the author senses comes not from the local coffee but from the knowledge that chaos and suffering are far too near and that the tourists just want to shop in the souk.

Lavinia Limon

President and CEO

U.S. Committee for Refugees

and Immigrants, Washington

Christopher Vourlias responds:

In retrospect, the plight of the Iraqi refugees should have been addressed. Most of the 1.4 million refugees currently in Syria live in and around Damascus. However, it's easy for them to be overlooked by casual visitors to the city, since most have been assimilated -- with whatever difficulties -- into the fabric of urban life, and few live in heavily touristed areas. You could spend a week in Damascus without encountering any signs of the refugee crisis, though that's hardly an excuse for the continued neglect that they face from the international community.

Way to Go, Cont'd

YOUR ANNUAL Way to Go guide [Feb. 3] is a stellar compilation of travel resources. However, I was surprised to see that there is no category for women's travel. I hope you will consider adding a Women's Travel category next year and include my company, Serendipity Traveler, which provides inspired travel for active women. We offer trips to destinations around the world, such as our upcoming "Gardens of England and the Chelsea Flower Show" in May and our "Yoga and Adventure" trip to the island of Dominica in November. Our Web site,, lists the particulars.

Peggy Coonley

President, Serendipity Traveler

Rockport, Mass.

Moroccan Boundaries

THE STORY on Morocco ["Usual Suspects Head for Casablanca," Jan. 13] was accompanied by an erroneous map. The map that supposedly shows Moroccan territory includes the Morocco-occupied Western Sahara.

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