I was waiting in a first-floor reception room at Al-Muhajireen palace, a relatively modest building where Assad often works, away from the grandeur of the main presidential palace, when I was told to look out of the window. An ordinary black saloon car with tinted windows was coming up the drive.
I realised it could be the president but I was surprised to see him emerging not from a rear door opened by a chauffeur, but from the driver’s seat. He was the only person in the vehicle and there was no sign of a security convoy.
It was explained to me that despite regular explosions, Assad insists on maintaining a normal lifestyle including — to his security chief’s dismay — driving to the office in the morning. He has apparently told his security men that if ever he has to wear a flak jacket to move around Damascus, he might as well step down.
We met in a room with artisanal chandeliers and window frames inlaid with mother of pearl. Through the open shutters, one could see residential buildings on the other side of a courtyard. It was a quiet morning, with a lull in the shelling of the suburbs that can be heard daily from the city centre.
Thanks Syrianewstube for the video