Ammerland - January 3rd, 2005

Wedding or Certificate Award? - (Not) A Damascene Fairytale

If a bridegroom asks his 'wife-to-be' for a postponement of their wedding only a few days before the event, then this is not a minor issue.
Irritations are given room for speculations. But, as we all know, the Gods watch over the brave. Just recently it could be witnessed again - namely in Damascus. A development related, intercultural training seminar for Syrian tour guides was held for the third time - but now in form of an advanced seminar for participants who, in previous years, had already completed a basic course. One of the aspirants was Samer, who really got into a rather difficult situation (of which the trainer team of the seminar was unaware of): His wedding with Shazza was scheduled for December 18th (300 invited guests) - it was the day, on which the final exams were to be held. Samer was determined to obtain the advanced certificate as an additional professional qualification. So he spoke to Shazza (English: 'blossom's fragrance'), who, after her initial astonishment, encouraged him positively to attend the course and to postpone the wedding for another week. The parents gave their approval - the guests rearranged their plans. On December 18th, Samer was awarded his certificate together with 13 additional colleagues, which titled him to an 'Intercultural Teacher - Advanced'.

Armin Vielhaber, the Chairman of the "Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung", who conducted the seminar together with Gökhan Tuncer and Astrid Kösterke, was quite surprised to learn about the postponed wedding. 'We were speechless. It is hard to imagine that anything like that could happen in Germany. But over here, they show a tremendous eagerness and willingness to study. Apparently one could observe this already during the basic seminars in December 2003 and in August 2004.'
After Syrian print media had already reported in detail on the first basic course in 2003, now the Syrian TV came to obtain more information from the participants and coaches regarding the intercultural training project, which was tested and globally proven in nearly 100 seminars. The main focus of the two basic seminars was to motivate the participants in providing insights to German-speaking tourists in Syria, by showing them the interesting and different social realities of everyday Syrian life, its people and how to build bridges of sympathy and understanding across the visitors' culture and the host's country. The main theme of the subsequent advanced course was an argumentation-training, with regard to issues relating to politics, economics, religion, development, identity, and globalisation.
Most of the Syrian tour guides, who were awarded with the advanced certificate, work on a freelance basis. So far, each of them has already been looking after guests from different travel agencies and tour operators, such as: Bader Kulturreisen, Bauer Touristik, Biblische Reisen, Bischofsberger Info-Reisen, Djoser Reisen, Dr. Tigges, ECC-Studienreisen, GeBeCo-Studienreisen, Helios Reisen, Holiday Maker Tours, Ikarus Tours, Moneypenny Tours, Thomas Cook Touristik, OFT Reisen, Phoenix Reisen, Sindbad Reisen, Studiosus Reisen, Sina Orient Tour, TUI Deutschland.
In the meantime it has been reported and photographically documented from Damascus that Samer's and Shazza's wedding was celebrated on December 23rd - together with proud parents and many guests.

Those Syrian travel agencies, who work with the newly qualified tour guides, do have reason for proudness and so does the Syrian Tourism Minister, Dr. Saadalla Agha El Kalaa, who engaged himself personally during the past two years in promoting this specific intercultural training scheme.

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Responsible for the text: Klaus Betz