A lot of the international names in coffee shops are now on the streets of Syrian towns. You can patronize Costa, Second Cup or several Italian shops, but forty years ago there were none that welcomed women. In those days, you went shopping, walked past coffee shops full of men, and went home. Ten years later there were one or two places in Damascus and Aleppo where ladies might 'take coffee', but the rest of Syria was shocked.When I was passing through the town of Homs about twenty years ago, with another woman, we really needed somewhere to sit down and something to drink. We walked round the shopping centre in a search for somewhere not exclusively male, and were eventually desperate enough to go into a cake shop and ask;"Where do ladies go in Homs when they want to drink coffee?" The answer came back, quick as a flash,"Home!" We left.