A Django site.
July 22, 2009
» Sea Side

Ah, Abu Fares, truth be told, I have not been your way in a very long time. With this piece I was pulling on memories of the distant past as well as some accounts from friends. I would be so happy to travel there one of these days and I would definitely let you know if I was going to be there. I needed a little vacation…so I took one in my mind to one of the prettiest areas of Syria.
Is it going to be another G&A? Well, Abu Fares, I have a proposal for you. How would you like to collaborate on a fictional tale that reflects life in the area – continuing from where I left off? I don’t know of anyone better to write about this beautiful part of the country. It might be kind of exciting to see what we can come up with. What do you say? I would hate to be presumptuous, but I think our readers might enjoy it.

Mariyah (responding to my comment on her post Sea Side)



Over a period of eight months, from October 2008 till June 2009, Mariyah mixed fiction with fact and romance with resilience to create faultless white, bronze, gold and black pearls and wore them in a string around her supple neck. She then sprayed the exquisite beads with the perfume of her boundless imagination and conjured the most endearing fairy-tale on the Syrian Blogsphere, The Story of Ghassan & Alexandra.

Anyone who knows me well enough surely realizes that I'm not the romantic type, or so I would like to believe. But as my hair becomes whiter and thinner, my mind and soul get younger and greener. When I read Mariyah's first chapter of her new work Sea Side and after she invited me to co-write it with her I can't but express my absolute delight and elation. I am honored dearest Mariyah and I look forward an entertaining and sweeping flow of a spontaneous plot. As we follow our uncharted storyline we will be startling each other even before we surprise our readers.

Sea Side will appear in alternating episodes written by Mariyah and Abufares on Mariyah's Blog. She has already started the journey with a breathtaking introduction which had captivated me at least and made my heart leap with joy at her offer. I invite you all to join us there for an undetermined stretch of time. Ahhhh, the never ending stories by the sea… by Mariyah's side.

July 10, 2009

GlobalVoices Online - Syria
GlobalVoices Online - Syria
Global Voices » Syria is about »
» Arab World: Stories in Pictures

Armed with their cameras, two bloggers in the region took pictures of habits and things which caught their attention and commented on them.

In Syria, beshr094 posted this photograph and wrote:

An ugly wall

An ugly wall

الحقيقة هي أني أغار على وطني وأريد له الصورة الأبهى و الأحلى بعكس اولئك …. الذين لايتمتعون بلمحة من التفكير , واتسائل ألا يوجد ضوابط على أصحاب المطابع في سوريا ؟ فمن المعروف عندما تريد طباعة إعلان أو أي شيئ آخر يرسل صاحب المطبعة ” الصبي ” لـ لصق الإعلانات وكأن الشوارع ( مطوبة أسمه ) :( فيجوب الصبي شوارعة المدينة وأينما وجد حائطا ً صافيا ً كالسماء يذهب ويضع الإعلان المحترم لصاحب المطبعة المحترم وللمُعلن القدير .

هذا مايحدث فما هو رأيك ؟

The truth is that I am concerned for my country and want to see it in its best form, which is quite the opposite of those who don't have a shard of intelligence.
My question is, are there any regulations for printers in Syria? It is known that if you wanted to print an advertisement or anything else, the printer would send a worker to stick those posters on all the walls, as if he owned them. This worker walks across town, and sticks those posters on every clear gap he sees.

This is what happens, so what do you think?

Kuwaiti Frankom saw this golden metallic Lexus, which caught his attention and said:

 The Golden Lexus

The Golden Lexus

أقرأ عن تلك السيارت التي يتم تعديلها وصبغها بالوان وحركات غريبة !! ولكنني لم اتخيل أنني شأشاهد أي من تلك السيارات أمامي .. هذه صورة التقطها مساء أمس أثناء خروجنا من مجمع الافنيوز .. سيارة ليكزس أل أس 460 تحمل لوحات أبو ظبي – الامارات وهي مصبوغة بالكامل باللون الذهبي
I have read about those cars which have been modified and painted weird colours!! But I have never imagined that I would see such a car parked in front of me. This is a photograph I took last night as I was leaving The Avenues Mall. It is a Lexus 460, with Abu Dhabi number plates, and is completely painted in golden.

July 9, 2009

GlobalVoices Online - Syria
GlobalVoices Online - Syria
Global Voices » Syria is about »
» Arab World: Swine Flu Fever Continues

Swine flu or H1N1 is still making headlines across the Arab world as new cases continue to be discovered by health authorities and announced in the Press on a daily basis.

In Bahrain, Silly Bahraini Girl (which is me) is back home and surprised at what she saw at her country's airport:

Reality of how mad this place has become smacks you in the face the second you land at the Bahrain
International Airport and see all the ground staff wearing surgical masks, from the ground handling staff to the immigration and customs officers. “What's wrong with you?” I ask them. “Is there a plague in Bahrain?” I continue questioning […] the situation seemed tense and and the level of swine madness was certainly the highest I have come across everywhere I have travelled through since pig mania gripped Planet Earth. Why wasn't there a single person wearing a mask at the airports of San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and Heathrow which I have travelled
through over the past few weeks?

Still in Bahrain, Sohail Al Gosaibi smells a conspiracy in the air, noting that exaggerating the effect of swine flu benefits the media, advertising and pharmaceutical industries. The Saudi blogger writes:

The media almost always exaggerate the situation, remember that fears sells.  And newspapers and news channels have to sell advertising space and airtime to make money, and the more shocking and scary their stories, the more viewers and readers they have, which leads to more
advertisers, and more profits.

Al Gosaibi also quotes an article he has read and concludes:

According to the article, the US and UK governments have  billions of dollars worth of Tamifluiflu stock that they must use within the next few months, or they’ll expire.  Interesting, huh?

And speaking of theories, Jordan Reform Watch also has something up his sleeve and writes:

Ahhh..The swine-flu with all the accompanying conspiracy theories..A Jordanian “Scientist” specializing in diseases claims that Mecca And Medina are somehow isolated from disease, thus there is no need for the talk about the possible outbreaks that might result from the millions of pilgrims being in extreme proximity while performing Hajj..

Kill them Pigs..Go To hajj..You will be disease free..

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia, who blogs at Egyptian Chronicles, is also concerned about how the disease will spread during the Hajj [annual Muslim pilgrimage season to Mecca], where millions of pilgrims from around the world converge to Mecca to perform the ritual. She notes:

the discussion about the future of Pilgrimage “Hij” and Omra [smaller pilgrimage] this year is still debatable. The minister of health wants to cancel Omra where as the minister of tourism is against the cancellation , I do not need to speak about Pilgrimage.
Of course the debate is much hotter among the clerics themselves. Saudi Arabia understands the challenge it is facing already and decided to deal with the situation as much as it can in the Omra and pilgrimage , it recommends that pregenant women , elderly and kids to avoid pilgrimage this year , I really respect this move.
I also have a better suggestion. In such circumstances why not to limit Omra and pilgrimage for the first time pilgrims only from men and women

Our final stop is in Syria, where blogger Yaser Arwani [ar] links to a news story which says that Syria's first swine flu case was recently reported in a Syrian doctor, who works in Australia and was on a visit to her country. The female doctor travelled to Syria through Dubai International Airport and the disease was not detected until a few days after her arrival.

July 5, 2009
» Realm of the Damned

On a late summer afternoon in a hotel lobby in Athens, I sat waiting for the heat of the day to abate before I stroll alongside the marina. I've been going there late in the day to hear the harmonious sounds of a sail catching wind and the gush of bleeding froth from the scarred face of the sea. Relaxing in a corner, I was watching people go by. Eager fresh bodies coming to Greece to bask in the sun and laze on her sandy beaches. Tired long faces burdened with the insipidity of personal lives or the stink of business deals gone rotten. The banal display of emotions and the happiness and misery of total strangers filled me with a foreboding loneliness. I have learned a long time ago that I am most lonely when I am in the middle of a crowd. However, I have come not only to accept but to embrace my solitude as a trusty friend and entertaining companion. My eyes were deciphering the flickering images and sending them to my brain, saturating it like a sponge with forming notions. I was ripe to write. A seemingly innocuous apparition can trigger an avalanche of words. A sexy and rotund butt for instance would toss me in bed after midnight. I would strew the words into an improbable script, wrap it around my nakedness and scribble it in between the folds of the white sheets. Yet wickedness has its own iniquitous way of stirring me as well, of shaking me up considerably and forcing me to venture into the realm of the damned. And, this is the turn my mind took in Athens.





The sliding doors split open admitting a whiff of suffocating and sticky air into the cool lobby. In walked a man of the cloth, a thirty something years old Greek Orthodox priest, dressed in mourning black from head to toe, beard uncouth, eyebrows hawkish and ugly features wreaking of oppression and hoariness. He eyed the patrons haughtily half expecting them perhaps to kneel in reverence and servitude. I was, I suspected, the only one who took notice of his presence and in no uncertain way he was aware of that too. He stood in the middle of the vast hall waiting for something to happen.





Does he have an appointment with God, I wondered. Well, there was a bunch of cute North American chicks with supple white legs and full swaying breasts gathered in one corner. Take a look Hideous Father, may be something would stir under that sooty robe of yours. Or what about the middle aged couple there, huddled so close and holding hands, afraid of wasting a single moment away from each other. Perhaps they can teach you a thing or two about the love you never knew. Nah, my day was destined to be ruined completely when an older bowed priest followed in. The wear and tear of years have turned his hair and beard into one giant white broom. The miserable sexagenarian hurried without vacillation toward the repulsive younger cleric then.... then for God's Sake bent down and kissed his hand.





God's obsession with robes and uniforms and his distaste for nudity and permissiveness are fascinating and intriguing divine aspects to my humble mind. What went wrong after he created us nude and sexy and made him change his conviction? Why does he want women to dress like sacks of potatoes and men like idiots? What about his fetish with hair? Why does he insist that women should cover their heads?





What if a woman shave her hair? Does she still have to hide her scalp? Is the top of her head too erotic for innocuous men not to get wild and ejaculate in the middle of the street? But most importantly is the question about the differences and the common ground between all the major religions. Why do they vary so much in the definition of the divine being to the point of being fully contradictory to each other while they, by and large, agree about oppressing women, limiting sex, rationing pleasure and forbidding certain practices? Was it an inherent design fault that slipped the mind of God? Didn't he consider that a woman's butt might prove too attractive to a horny man? Was woman in her present glory and allure an unfortunate accident? Did he intend her to be a utilitarian reproduction machine, a closed Dodge Van of a sort, but instead ended up with a Red Hot Ferrari?





These questions and many more were never in fact directed to God by me. They are, however, intended for the dimwits who have been meddling with our ethos over at least the last two millennia. As I disgustingly observed an older man bowing and kissing the hand of a younger one I couldn't help but reminisce that the Greek Orthodox are not the only ones promoting hierarchy and advocating the inherent favoritism of God. The Catholic Church is notoriously imbecilic in its public and secret practices. Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Sheikhs (and now as if we didn't have enough tomfools the new wave of Muslim Sheikhas: Priestesses even if they vehemently deny being so) are as guilty as their Christian colleagues in their thirst and quest for earthly power on account of their special ties with “upstairs”.



A gentle westerly wind stirred the leaves in the trees of Athens as I walked by the marina. It was still quite hot and muggy but the young men and women knew how to undress properly for the weather. They gingerly exposed their suntanned bodies for the seagulls, the boats and for me to see. Some of which were pretty hot babes but amazingly I didn't jump anyone. I stood at the edge of the breakwater watching the sun disappears behind the masts. It took the Greeks a little longer than their European neighbors to give their religious establishment the finger. How many years before the raucous wave crashes on our shores, I wondered. Not too long I know, for the winds of change are steadfastly blowing.

This skim-the-surface post is intended to be a prelude of things to come. I find myself increasingly irritated by the counter movement of Neo-Islam. Although I don't plan to waste my time or ruin my day by butting my head against the religious establishment, I will not fail to sneak an attack from time to time. Why remain silent when they are so obnoxiously vocal? Why not look at the Sheikhs and Sheikhas straight in the eye and tell'em to fuck off? It's about time.

June 27, 2009
» Suffonsified

My mobile's alarm blasted at two o'clock piercing the still of night and robbing precious sleep from my weary eyes. Bewildered, I slowly lifted my upper body on an elbow. I had gone to bed well past midnight but suddenly I remembered that I had a car to ride, two airplanes to board and a taxi to drop me at a hotel in Martigues. Eighteen hours later, I leaned on the reception counter of a small hotel in the south of France.
Oui demoiselle, je veux rester pour quatre nuits chez vous.

The summer sun lingers in the sky of France well past its usual day-shift of lower latitudes. My biological clock completely out of sync, my laptop rendered useless after a fatal system crash on the flight from Damascus to Paris and loneliness creeping up on me I descended the hill on foot and headed toward the docks of the small town by the sea.



I scrounged frantically for a discarded cigarette butt on the pavement and sidewalks. No city could be so clean, no place more serene. Seagulls flew overhead sending shrieks echoing against the brilliantly colored walls of quaint houses. A loose sail fluttered in the wind while a couple of hands worked feverishly to quite it down. I could taste the salt on my lips, I could taste hers in my reverie. Moored boats wobbled on the troubled surface of the canal, straining against the ropes. The creaking of wood longing to sail was too painful to hear, too realistically disturbing.
-Where would you go old sport, I asked the heaving and battered launch, if you had the choice?
-Anywhere, it pleaded silently in my head, just set me free and let me drift.




Restless, sleepless and mindless I brought back Prufrock, my PC and travel companion to life. The night died in my arms. Its last memory was of my ecstatic eyes beaming out of my tired face. Connected at last, I was craving to read.

Fares, my pride and joy, the reason I am called Abufares after all had started posting in Arabic on his blog “Superkid Chronicles”. How can I ever convey my feeling of elation about the fact that he's writing. My nine years old son, Abumaher, is perhaps the youngest on the Syrian Blogsphere today. He had only posted twice so far and I've already commented with words that betrayed my fatherly bias. Still, I needed to take a look at his virtual space again and feast my mind on adulation and hope. I am in love with people who write. I always was. And Fares, my flesh and blood, is writing.

The neat office where I was to work for the next three days was thrown on the shoulder of a mountain. It stood sentry to the estuary which led to a lake somewhere further east. I met people who became my friends, for life. We shared bread, butter and plenty of wine. The sound of our laughter drifted in the breeze toward the piers. We exchanged toasts and stories of our cities by the sea, always by the sea. For it had brought us together, seamen who would rot and die in the dry blandness of the inland. What is a woman if her hair is not weaved with seaweed, if her armpits do not taste of the salt that keeps us old mariners afloat? What of her thighs if they don't froth with zest to the tiding of my call? Her piquant breasts a safe harbor for my head where I close my eyes and still can see.



Mariyah's 26-episode story of Ghassan & Alexandra burned my second night and handed me safely to the morning sun. I would really like to find a way to tell you and myself how much I like Mariyah. Since she dropped anchor on Syplanet she had become my fantasy ship. When I sit on the outstretched rocky wharf of the corniche in Tartous her writing washes over my head and shoulders, cleansing my heart and soul. I gaze at the curved horizon and wonder about the straights she's crossing. Be tender on her Oh Goddess of the Sea and bring her smooth passage until she takes shelter while the storm withers away. Dawn crawled from beyond the hills, invading the dim corners of my room. Finally, I dosed for minutes dreaming of the intoxicating scent of Mariyah's prose.



On a concealed terrace not far from the marina half a dozen tables were laid in the shade of a giant Eucalyptus tree. I had my lunch there day after day. My hosts, perfect gentlemen, treated me like the indubitable ambassador I was to their tranquil shores. I never sampled a more toothsome cuts of entrecôte or a more divine côtelettes d'agneau in my whole life. Ah, les Français, I forgive their snobbish repute though I have only basked in their unrivaled hospitality and generosity. The twin bottles of Rosé kept us company and lulled our senses, reinforcing the simple verity that we were one family across the Mediterranean. The clinking of flushed goblets reverberated among the patrons. Salut mes amis, à votre santé.

Gabriela writes from Lima, 8000 miles away. Ever since she graced my blog with her first comment I took an immediate liking to her. I know that I will meet this intelligent, spirited and beautiful lady one day. I have no doubt. She will either come to see me in Tartous and I will walk with her through the narrow alleys of the old city or she will guide me in the Barranco district of her enchanting city. Gabriela writes inimitably in Spanish, a language I have always loved and vaguely understood. I translate her post on Google first and swallow the shabby English just for the sake of getting the general meaning behind her words. Then, I slowly sip her Latin spirit and get dizzy on her dainty melody and rhythm. Seis de enero is the blog of my lovely Peruvian Lawyer. I can't wait to be in Lima, to get in trouble then have Gabriela bail me out. She stayed with me on my third night and didn't leave until she got her message across. You can't spend your whole life traveling without going where you always wanted to. South America is a dream on hold, Gabriela reminded me.

Whenever I walked the streets of Beirut a personal unsolved mystery followed in my footsteps. Who was she and where did she come from? Evidence of her oriental paternal pedigree was abundant as traces of Islamic arcs, Arabian nights and Byzantine bells could be discerned on her slender body. Yet her mother remained behind a veil until I landed in Marseille. Ahhh, the full realization, the overwhelming sense of Déjà Vu . No wonder so many Lebanese call France their mom. Just take my word for it dear neighbors, it was never France, it was Marseille only and all along. We sat in that most famous of restaurants on the beach of the city. We were late for the topless volleyball chicks, my hosts apologized. This is where the fabled bouillabaisse de Marseille is prepared. My friends and I surrendered to the maitre who promised to take good care of us. He brought forward a glass of Pastis for me when he learned about my fondness of Arak. Then in the spirit of White we drank some of the best wine the south of France had to offer. Growing up by the sea and being raised on its scrumptious fruits all of my life I finally had to take my hat off, Chapeau bas a Marseille. A fish, if given the choice, will ask to be eaten in a bouillabaisse in Marseille after it dies and goes to heaven.



I gingerly climbed the stairs to my room on my last night in Martigues, satisfied beyond explanation, absolutely, perfectly, completely suffonsified. Only Isobel can do justice to the fleeting hours of bliss before I pack again and move. Suffonsifism has been my best kept little secret for quite some time. The apparent simplicity and effortlessness this gorgeous woman puts into her writing is mind boggling. Her posts are often short and to the point. How can she, I wonder, say it the way she does. How can she be so suffonsified and make me, a man behind a small screen halfway across the world, come to grasp the full meaning of her blog's name? I have never read anyone like Isobel. I very much doubt that I will ever read anything remotely parallel. I tiptoed through her lines, paused at her comas and came to full stop at her periods. Her divine music rushed through my mind, her priceless humanity escorted me through the blind twists and turns of a long tunnel where there was light at the end. I stood there in awe, not daring to blink for fear of missing a minute detail of her beauty within me, not believing that I went on for four nights sleepless in Martigues, forever suffonsified, and ever!

May 18, 2009
» A Woman Named Paris

I didn't meet any women in Paris but dreamed of mine with the outbursts of warm sunshine and the falling drops of rain. She was there on the wide avenues and narrow streets, sipping a glass of wine in a café with a red facade, leaning on me and crying of joy in front of the Nike of the Samotrace and holding my hand with every step I made along the cobblestones.

Paris isn't a city for a lonely man but I was not alone after all. My father and I were on a private vacation for a whole week. We were joined by my sisters and got to spend such precious time together. Yet in moments of elation, in instances of edification I was haplessly solitary and I missed her by my side terribly.

I came back three days ago yet I'm still living out of my suitcase. The last month or two seem to have been a perpetual trip. I called Fares today from my hotel room in Damascus. He was surprised that I'm not home. He didn't even know that I had left very early this morning. I'm sorry Son, I'll make it up to you tomorrow. The problem is that I've been suffering from PVDS for the last couple of days. Ah, PVDS, that's Post Vacation Depression Syndrome. I'll be very surprised if such a psychological condition doesn't exist. Well, I know I have it in chronic form. Every time I return from a vacation I get utterly depressed. In fact, I was feeling so down yesterday I wrote it on my wall in facebook, a site I wholeheartedly despise. Why am I still there, I myself wonder. I honestly don't have a straight answer. It's one way, I guess, to break the isolation imposed by space and time. A few of my dear friends even got worried about me and I thank them for that. Don't mind me please as I have an indestructible spirit. Falling down becomes a sweet memory once we're up and running again even if we were let down by someone close. I feel sorry already for privately blaming a friend who couldn't defend herself. I withdraw everything she never heard. She was probably acting in what she thought was the best interest of all concerned.

Back to Paris... Ahhh, what can I write about her! She's a beautifully sexy woman in her early forties. Elegantly dressed, hair swept up and clipped at the back, alluring blue eyes, a string of pearls for a smile, a seductive cleavage with small bouncy boobs, a firm butt, perfect legs, tiny feet and pedicured toes walking down the Champs-Elysées with a wake of perfumed dreams lingering in her trail. I've been privileged to meet her finally after the other European cities I visited over the years. Apparently, I've saved the best for last as there isn't any other place that can even come close. Paris is indeed center of the world, splendor of civilization, cradle of democracy, defeater of monarchy, fortress of resistance, gallery of arts, salon of literature... and satin-sheeted wrought iron bed for lovers. I can't recall all the intimate places I touched in her. I had a whole week, seven days of uninhibited love making and I'm glad I've somehow covered every little exquisite spot of her naked body.

Disconcerting how my mind seems to be jumping all over. Bringing seemingly unrelated matters together in one single post. Am I really writing about Paris the city? Am I hallucinating after my depression? Am I celebrating my recovery? Am I for real or am I only babbling senselessly. I mixed a woman with my sadness, a kid with my friends, betrayal with my apology, Paris with my love making in the hope of reaching the truth. I needed to do that, I had to pick up the pieces before I can smile again. Once I start smiling my heart pumps happiness in my bloodstream. And I just felt it, after eluding me for thirty six hours, echoing around my ribcage, my heart is bursting with a fit. My lungs, my belly, my ass, every cell of my body taken by surprise, swept away with contagious laughter. I'm me again.

May 17, 2009
» Paris

















October 21, 2005

A Damascene Blog
A Damascene Blog
is about »
» Warwick Visit

Yes...eventually I visited Warwick university after all the marketing compaign that Zaid has been doing for the place. Nice....eventhough I expected better.
 
The main issue is that u get the feeling u r living in a villiage...whatever you wanna do, u have to go to the "city"..poor Zaid
 
We went to a job fair for Warwick MSc studenst, very nice people asking you about ur work permit...Viva Syria..!

October 6, 2005

A Damascene Blog
A Damascene Blog
is about »
» Bath Visit

A one day visit to bath today; eventhough I didn't go to lots of places in UK; I believe this is Bath is one of the most beautifull (Just like Bloudan Ya3ni...(;-)
 
I had the chance to take some photos od the place I stayed in near the University of Bath.....remember, this is considered a normal  place for them...(:-(

September 29, 2005

A Damascene Blog
A Damascene Blog
is about »
» London Visit

A short visit to London...Now I can say that I have seen Oxford street and Picadily Circus....The issue is..I was not quite impresssed....Maybe what I liked is the green areas...
 
I have uploaded a couple of photos but there is no indicaation that i was there as I was in none of them...what can I do...I was alone and only saw Salem...so....
 
Next Visit.....Warwick
 
 

April 25, 2009
» Hands

I woke up at 4:42AM, three minutes before the alarm went off. I showered quickly, drank my espresso, ate a cookie and went downstairs to the waiting taxi. Normally, the trip to Damascus drags forever but the two hours and thirty minutes drive to the airport flew by so fast I couldn’t believe it when I found myself in front of the terminal. I checked in, a good time ahead of my flight and waited indifferently in the boarding area. I had The Great Gatsby with me, a gift from a dear friend, but saved it for the flight just in case I needed a distraction. Sure enough, the plane was full of babies, nervous mothers, weary looking men and a wild bunch. It always amazes me how aviation, the most regulated industry of all, permits the airlines to provide travelers with such ridiculously uncomfortable seats. All airlines CEO’s and airplane designers should be forced to sit for the rest of their lives in these miniature stools. I endured the ordeal like a sardine in a tin box while the two passengers I was stuck in between snored all the way to London. F. Scott Fitzgerald provided me with a much welcomed escape.

Heathrow is not an airport to be enjoyed. The mammoth structure of terminals is too spartan to exude any sense of creature comfort. I was relieved when I was finally able to walk out in the cloudy English sky. The series of meetings I was to attend was held in a business hotel not far from the airport. I stood patiently waiting for the shuttle bus to take me to my final destination with a group of worn-out travelers, one of which stood right next to me, totally oblivious to my presence. From behind my foggy eyes I took notice of her deep blue ones, of her elegant stance, of her small body, of her proud breasts, of her curved butt, of her shapely legs, of her manicured toes but most appreciably of her sculptured hands.


Normally, any man in my position would notice and appreciate these minute details. But when a single woman is endowed with them all the perception turns into a sort of passion of such a nature that it feeds upon itself. I just had to keep looking. Oh My God, she is gorgeous. There is no way on earth that such a tranquil beauty is not matched by a splendid and formidable mind, I thought. I went even further in my private musing; this woman must be a poet, an actress, a novelist, an artist of a sort, a … doctor?

A hematologist she turned out to be. We checked in together, a different clerk handling each. "Welcome Dr. McDonald", I heard hers say. For the first time since my twenty minutes journey with the most gorgeous doctor in the world started, she glanced in my direction. "And you’re here for the Shipping Meeting Mr.…. Abufares", my clerk smartly yet unnecessarily announced. Oh, damn it, I cursed under my breath. There she was, a specialist in the disorders of the blood no less, attending a conference with internationally distinguished specialists from all four corners of the globe while I was to spend the next two days with a bunch of ex-seamen turned penguins in business suits. I didn’t mind the washed out sailors. As a matter of fact, they were the jolly lot in the group. What I dreaded most were the business suits who had never wetted their feet.

We walked together to the elevator, the good doctor and I. Like the true gentleman I wanted her to believe me to be I gave her way first. "Thanks", she said. Her voice sounding more like little birds giggling and making love than an ordinary human voice. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her hands all the way up. I mean, there I was, in a six by four confined space with a woman that defied description and all I could stare at were her hands. She must’ve thought that I was the timid and shy type. She wouldn’t believe that despite her astonishing beauty I chose to be infatuated with her hands. We emerged from the elevator and headed in the same direction. The corridor stretched on and on forever. I was walking a step behind and her butt swayed left and right with perfect rhythm. No, she was not joggling nor jiggling. Her butt was merely quivering under the comfortable khaki cotton pants. She then came to a stop in front of her room door and I did the same in front of mine. They were across from each other, our doors, our rooms. I fumbled with my plastic key as she did with hers. She dropped hers on the floor as I dropped mine. We bent to pick them up and we couldn’t keep the insouciant façade any longer as we both burst out laughing. She was one second faster than me in opening her door and as she disappeared with her bag behind it our eyes met then... The last I saw of her was the crimson polish on her nails… on her pulchritudinous hand.

I showered under a stream of deliciously hot water. The fluent spray fingered my neck and shoulders, the small of my back, my thighs and legs like a pair of expert hands, Doctor McDonald’s own hands. I closed my eyes and surrendered to the tantalizingly arousing reverie. Only if we humans were truly transparent, I reflected. How different the world would have been if our emotions and feelings were extraneously projected for all to see. I tossed and turned in bed as I always do on my first night in a new one. The mattress engulfed my body like a warm womb while the pillows swallowed my head with comfort and delight, yet I could not sleep. The two hour time difference didn’t help either and no sooner than I had a shut eye than the clock brought me to tomorrow.

She came in as I was having breakfast. She was dressed in a stunning suit that made her unreachably good-looking. From the distance, I was fascinated with her calves. They were white and slender and led to her unbelievably attractive feet. I could glimpse her pedicured toes while my scrambled eggs waited then got cold in my plate. She sat not far but she obviously hadn’t seen me. I watched her nibble her fruits of the morning and drink her milk. Oh, how she drank her milk. Then as graciously as she walked in she stood up and left the room. I fumbled with my napkin, fork and knife but was already too late.

The morning session dragged on and on. I struggled to keep my eyes open, I resisted with all my force a complete brain shut down until with the mercy of God we were granted a 15 minute break. I didn’t want to leave the meeting room at first but then decided to step out and have a change of scenery. Coffee and cakes were served near the entrance and next to the shipping throng there stood a group of well dressed hematologists, mostly men, peppered with the presence of a few stylish women. My doctor stood on the side speaking to a colleague, smiling ever so mystifyingly and holding a cup of something in her hand. I walked toward her as if drawn by a magnet. I only wanted her to see me walking toward her and she did. I can smile mysteriously as well I wanted her to read in my eyes and I was egotistic enough to believe that she did.

The rest of the day ate me alive. I was burning to get out of the room. There was an enclosed swimming pool I noticed earlier with an open bar. I went craving a glass of Scotch on the Rocks but there at a corner table she sat alone. She had already changed into something more comfortable yet no less tasteful. She saw me all the way from afar this time and didn’t even attempt to hide her smile. I was a few feet away when she said at last: “You know I have seen more of you since WE got here than I saw any of my colleagues in the conference.” “Did you see the guys I’m spending my time with?” I asked. “I‘d better keep running into you or I will lose my mind.” She extended her hand smiling: “I’m Fenella McDonald,” she said, “and you are Captain …?” “Hands”, I replied, “Abufares I mean.” I held her hand in mine and thought of distances stretched across thousands and thousands of miles, erased, nullified, annihilated by a mere touch.

Would you care to join me,” she asked. I did and the gloomy weather of London turned out to be much more bearable after all.

April 17, 2009
» Sandstorm

The road from Amman to Damascus was straight, as the crow flies, stretched and tedious like a lackluster argument. A sandstorm blew from the east kidnapping the asphalt ahead, swallowing up the car in a fugue of uncertainty. A herd of camels materialized to the right for an ephemeral instant then disappeared before I had time to be sure. I was sitting in the back seat of a taxi, head resting rearward in a stupefied daze. The tiny earphones isolated me further from the rest of the world, pounding my head with a tidal wave of drumbeats. Layer upon layer of primal composition building up then followed by a disembodied voice:

oh
I needed to believe in something
I need you to believe in something
I needed to believe something
I need you to believe in something
I needed to believe
I needed to believe

I was a lonely man rediscovering a new age of music, grasping the refrains of an English duo by the name of The Chemical Brothers, feeling anesthetized yet alive at last.



I reached with my hand, the tips of my fingers wiggling their way to the wetness of a lake beckoning at me, calling me to plunge inward apex first, dipping toward the warmth of a womb, sufficiently spacious to hold me, tight enough to etch the passage of time and space on my whole being with indescribable pleasure. Then I woke up.

I was tired, drained and as weary as I could be after days and years of traveling the desert roads with strangers. My lengthy journey into certainty had barely begun. Every turn of the wheel gets me closer to my destiny, still way ahead in the distance, barely discernible but for the power of the mind and the will of the heart. I have been quiet for so long, waiting for my time to come. The yellow nothingness surrendered me and I almost vanished before Pink Floyd brought me back to existence.

Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?
Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light
Don't give in without a fight.

It came to me that I was most unlonely when I was truly alone. Uuuuuummmmm, I breathed the scent that only I can ever smell. I looked at my own eyes, Eyouni, gazing at me with love and want. I leaned on my shoulder and felt the comfort of togetherness. Delicate fingers ran through what little hair I had left, caressing my scalp, dissipating my worries, revivifying my dreams.

I only had to wait but I no longer had to fear. Led Zeppelin trespassed my thoughts. I welcomed the intrusion and I sang along, Stairway to Heaven.

There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

April 3, 2009
» The Cave



Toward the end of October 1096, the Count of Toulouse, Raymond de Saint Gilles (1041– 1105) left his native land never to return. Driven by religious zealotry and material aspirations, Saint Gilles, by far the oldest and richest Crusader, dreamed of dying in the Holy Land. On his way to fulfilling his failed destiny in 1101, he took control of Tortosa, a little burg by the sea. Known today as Tartous, Tortosa offered safe harbor as an entrepôt for military provisions and was ideally close to Cyprus and Antioch. Before the old Count died he managed to transform it into a magnificent military bastion which eventually became one of the most interesting old Mediterranean cities for researchers and historians.



Nine hundred years later, the remains of the Crusader era still form the core of the historic center of Tartous. They have survived centuries of earthquakes, hostilities, neglect and negligence. The splendid cathedral of Our Lady of Tortosa (1123) endured the ravages and the elements of time almost intact. A banqueting hall, originally known as La Salle Des Chevaliers, has lost most of its arched ceiling and houses within its walls scrounging and contiguous abodes. A nearly roofless chapel with a stone lock carrying the sign of the Rose, a testimony to the Knights Templar who dwelled and worshiped within the high walls of Tortosa, has all but succumbed to vandalism and defacement. And to the West, facing and defying the incalculable number of waves thumping incessantly against their sloped outer walls, lay the dungeons, where offending natives were imprisoned, tortured and eventually executed.



The Old City is located at the very beginning of the Corniche, a 2.5 km wide boulevard by the sea ending at the Ghamka River to the south. Most of Tartous’ restaurants and cafes are sprawled along the way and they vary from the mediocre to the admissible. Yet there is one so unique that it transcends all other restaurants in Syria and is possibly among the most distinctive anywhere in the world. It’s called The Cave and it occupies the northernmost dungeon.



The Cave is an unobtrusively restored 900 year old dungeon turned restaurant by none other than my best friend. He did not start the business. In fact, The Cave is one of the oldest restaurants/bars in town but last year he took over and embarked on his ambitious restoration dream. No expenses were spared and the painstaking work was brought down to a halt time and again by City officials and the pen pushers of the Antiquity Department. The Antiquity Law in Syria is even more archaic than the ruins it protects. In the wrong hands of bureaucrats any legislation can bring an entire country to a standstill. My friend persisted stubbornly and was finally awarded with the realization of his vision: a high-end joint in Tartous serving the best sea food and a la carte entrées this side of the Mediterranean. The ambiance is inimitable, the attention to details impeccable, the food delectable, the drinks ambrosial.



Next time in town and looking for a delightful gastronomical experience give The Cave a try. You can of course tell them Abufares sent you. Knowing my friend, don’t expect any discount but you will sure be treated like a Count.

March 29, 2009

GlobalVoices Online - Syria
GlobalVoices Online - Syria
Global Voices » Syria is about »
» In Love With Syria

Global Voices Online Morocco author Jillian York describes [en] her short visit to Syria in this post, where she explains why she had the time of her life.

March 22, 2009

GlobalVoices Online - Syria
GlobalVoices Online - Syria
Global Voices » Syria is about »
» Jordan: Photographs from Damascus

Jordanian Ali Dahmash is back from Damascus, Syria, and shares photographs he has taken there in this post.

March 15, 2009
» Fijleet: Kingdom of Heaven

After a full week of wind and rain, Friday morning broke out clear and warm at last. The thermometer on the balcony by the kitchen showed 19ºC. The sky was pristine, with plumes of rare clouds splashed sparingly around its turquoise canvas. I didn’t want to miss this singular February opportunity and I hurriedly showered but did not shave. I put on a fresh pair of jeans, a comfortable sweatshirt and an old familiar baseball cap. Within minutes I was looking at the cityscape through my rearview mirror.


Ghassan Massoud

Tartous
was still asleep on this brilliant day. I was heading due east on the quaint road to Dreikish. I swiftly eyeballed the rudimentary map and estimated the distance to my final destination at 45, 46 km perhaps, significantly less than the 65 km indicated on one of the websites I’ve earlier browsed.


On the road to Dreikish - A mosque in the woods

When I finally got a chance to watch Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott on DVD and in addition to enjoying this historically accurate movie tremendously, I became fascinated with the actor who played Salah El-Din, our own Tartoussi, Ghassan Massoud. I only knew by chance that he was born and that he grew up in a small village by the name of Fijleet. Among my springtime motorcycle jaunts I must’ve ridden through Fijleet at least once in the past but I couldn’t quite remember when. Reading the affectionate words Ghassan used to describe his village made me itch to go there.


The southern horizon - The Lebanese Cedar Mountains

Upon reaching Dreikish (elev. 500 m) and near the first intersection in town I stopped and asked a bystander for instructions. “You should go to the left there”, he pointed, “I’m going to Jnaynet Reslan and it’s on the way to Fijleet. I can ride along with you and show you the way if you don’t mind.” Of course I didn’t. The man was young, in his mid twenties perhaps. He taught at the local elementary school and thought that he would most certainly die if he ever left this country and moved anywhere else. “On Fridays, I trek these hills between the olive trees. I walked to Dreikish early this morning, bought a few things and was waiting for a microbus to get back to the Jnaynet until you showed up”, he confessed. “But tell me. Whom do you want to see in Fijleet?”, he asked.


The road climbed and winded

I told him that I was driving by and taking pictures and didn’t know anyone from around this area. He volunteered to take my picture with some beautiful scenery in the background and I gladly accepted. Once we reached his village he offered his natural hospitality and begged me to have lunch with him and his mother. I apologized reluctantly although I would’ve loved to take him up on his offer. When I left home earlier everyone was still in bed. I wanted to return on time to have a light lunch then go to the football game at the municipal stadium with Fares. Our local team Al-Sahel (The Coast) was playing at home against Ariha. They are doing very well in the 2nd division and might, just might, make it to the top level next season. Samir finally accepted my excuse as I promised to visit him on my next trip to his village.


Road Sign - Fijleet

The road ahead climbed and winded, knifing the endless hills with love and care. Off in the distance to the south the Lebanese Cedar Mountains shaped the jagged horizon. Up in front evergreen summits loomed closer and closer until I finally reached Fijleet (estimated elev 750 m). I parked my car by the side of the road and descended to see, smell, hear, touch, feel and breathe her timeless and regnant beauty.


Fijleet- Looking from the West

I cruised slowly through the narrow roads of the village, shot a few photos and basked in the sunshine. I contemplated the connection between Fijleet and Hollywood. Ghassan Massoud rose to stardom and international fame through his roles in Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007). He gained my respect and admiration for the heartfelt words of reverence and affection he bestowed on his native land.


A house in Fijleet

There’s no adobe like home wherever that might be. It is indeed a state of mind to call a place home and some of us might be fortunate enough to have more than one. As long as there’s a locus for us where we can walk in the pitch black of darkness and not stumble, we’re going to be fine. We can do that in our own backyard or somewhere, in the company of someone, whom we can fully trust to take our hand and show us the way.


Fijleet as seen from the East

Driving Instructions: From Tartous take the road to Dreikish, 30 km. Once in Dreikish and at the first roundabout, go left (North) then continue to Jnaynet Reslan 10 km ahead. Maintain the main road for 6 km to Fijleet. There are signs in Arabic along the way and you can always ask.

December 23, 2008
» Lost Village

"The digital revolution changed us forever. We take many of the modern amenities and conveniences for granted. Man has all but become a slave to technology. The onslaught of the drastic changes brought about by this new age is calamitous in scale. Yet in all disasters there’s at least a sole survivor:
Om Al Tanafes Al – Fow’a."

I didn’t write this uncanny introduction on my own. It’s rather my translated version of the prologue to a 27- episode Syrian comedy show called, appropriately enough, Day’a Day’aa (Lost Village). The name of this place is Om Al Tanafes Al-Fow'a. The series started airing a few months back on Abu Dhabi Satellite Channel before other TV stations tagged along. It gradually picked momentum and in due course gained phenomenal success all over Syria. In the coastal region in particular, Lost Village has gathered a huge following of fans. Its key to success and humor lies in the fact that, and for the first time, it uses a local form of Lattakian dialect. Even the Tartoussi neighbors, who inherently abhor the atrocious Lattakian tongue, fell in love with the show.


Ass'ad and Judi

Now let me clear a couple of important matters. The show itself might prove irrelevant as far as my non-Syrian readers are concerned but please bear with me and don’t get disheartened yet. I promise to make it up by taking you on an interesting journey. Then I have to mention the critical reviews, which by and large, were all inauspicious toward the show. Too vulgar, crude, weird and provincial sense of humor, they claimed. However, we all know for a fact that by and large most critics are botched writers, painters, poets, chefs or artists. At a certain point in their creative careers they failed to stop taking themselves too seriously which is perhaps the only road to brilliance and originality. Instead of creating they reverted to passing judgment on the creativity of others. They became, for lack of a more decent word, bitter assholes who can’t grasp the beauty of minimalism.

Lost Village was written by Dr. Mamdouh Hmadeh and directed by Al-Layth Hajjo. Om Al Tanafes Al Fow’a is a small village in the amazing and picturesque countryside of Lattakia where time had stood still. The few inhabitants of this miniature rural community all play central roles in the show. However, the main two characters are Ass’ad and Judi (played by Nidal Sijri and Bassem Yakhour), two friends-for-life whose knowledge of the outside world equals that of mine in rap music and cubic painting. Gergos Jbara, Zuhair Ramadan, Toulay Haroun and Abdul Nasser Saraqbi are members in a cast of extremely funny actors who had perfected the Lattakian dialect up to a very suspicious extent.

It must come as no surprise that I felt awfully itchy not to go and take a look at the location where the show was shot in its entirety. Om Al Tanafes Al Fow’a’s real name is Al Samra (The Brunette), a tiny village at a 9 km distance to the west of Kasab and a couple of hundred meters south of the Turkish border. This is certainly the most stunning place in all of Syria. I have been around Al Samra on a few occasions before. Twelve summers ago, in the company of three biker friends, I camped in the thick forests of the region overnight. It was like a homecoming for me, except that now this forgotten piece of heaven has become a household name all over the country.

We left Tartous on a Friday morning and made it to Lattakia (90 km to the north) in a little over 45 minutes. Then we headed in a northeasterly direction climbing steadily up the mountains. Driving through endlessly gorgeous orange groves at first then through denser and denser hills covered with pine, fur and laurel trees we reached Lake Balloran.


Lake Balloran

We parked on the side of the road and feasted on the beauty of the scenery with hungry eyes. Further ahead a simple handwritten sign with the word عسل (Honey) grabbed my attention. I rolled the window on the right side of the car down and the smell of fresh Mana’eesh Bi Zaatar and Bi Jebneh (Thyme & Olive Oil pies and White Cheese Pies) assaulted my passengers’ and my nose. The fire in the Tannour was blazing and the attending woman beamed at us with a huge smile and kind eyes. We hurriedly aborted the car and took refuge on a table in the outdoors under a whicker cover.


Tannour

This place, like a dozen or more on the way up, is family owned and operated. Abu Ali brought the tea service while his wife Om Ali, helped by one of her young daughters, prepared the pies. It was a once-in-a-lifetime memorable breakfast with food that defies description, hospitality that rebels at logic and goodness that betrays a deeply ingrained generosity. These folks might be economically classifiable as poor but for the life of me I have never met a more loving couple, a happier bunch of kids, a more spectacularly functional family or a richer group of people in their dignity and sufficiency.


Mana'eesh bi Zaatar

After I had my fill of pies and tea I walked into the Dekkan (one room in the house transformed into a small grocery store) and asked Abu Ali if he still had any honey for sale. He brought forward a dusty 1 kg jar, the only one left, from a higher shelf behind. "This is the last one of the season", he confessed. "It’s pure Ajram Assal" (عسل عجرم Heather Honey from the Genus Calluna). He produced a straw and dipped it ever so lightly in the open jar. “Here, try it. It’s untouched by humans”. “No Abu Ali, I don’t want to. There’s nothing around this land of yours or beyond to add to your honey which won't make it even better”. He gleamed at my words of compliment and trust and, unasked, reduced his price. “You’ve made my day with your words, "Abu… Shou Bil Salameh" (the father of whom may I ask)? “Abu Fares min Tartous”, I replied as I proudly pointed a finger toward Fares, who was joyfully playing like a freed bird amongst the trees. “You still have to try it though,” plunging that straw further into the honey jar. I swear to you dear reader, not even Nancy Ajram could’ve tasted as delicious as this Honey Ajram. My eyes rolled upward to heaven in ecstasy.


Kasab

An hour later we resumed our ascend to Kasab at 1725 m altitude. The sky was impeccably blue and the air chilly and crisp. A man was tending a fence and I asked him for directions to Al Samra. He replied with a delightful Armenian accent: “Everybody is going to the Lost Village today, what’s wrong with you people!” Yet he smiled and showed me the way.


Day'a Day'aa - Lost Village

The road was narrow and steep. We were descending fast into a …. valley. A valley unlike any I have ever seen before. Two mountain peaks loomed off to our right and left and sloped sharply to meet each other at a little distance ahead where their feet joined in the azure sea. The mountain to the right was in Turkey while the one on the left and the road itself belonged to Syria. The scene was breathtaking and I had to pull to the side again. We brought our collars higher around our chins and stood mesmerized and awestruck. The cold seemed to be that of another planet. The sun peaked at her zenith but even she seemed to be burning ever more cleanly.


Moukhtar's House

The first house from the show was a little further down the road. It was the Mekhtar’s house, Abdul Salam Al Beeseh (played by Zuheir Ramadan). There was a row of cars, bumper to bumper, parked on the side and people roaming the road, like us, enthralled by the eternal beauty of this magical place. We walked by each of the familiar houses with a quiet throng as if on pilgrimage to another world. My dad, my sister, my wife, my son and I felt elated. Deep inside I was worried though. What could become of this secluded and forgotten village with the constant offensive of tourists like us? I silently prayed for the natives and their good earth not to lose what has become so rare and precious. I prayed that they don’t drop their innocence for another way of life which has already proven ephemeral and pointless.


Ass'ad House

We had a great yet simple lunch at a restaurant called Al Rabwe on the outskirts of Kasab then made it into the town center by sunset. My passengers wanted to do a little shopping in this mostly Armenian town. From previous visits I knew of a wonderful shop where local items, hard to find anywhere else, are sold. Kasab is most famous for special delicacies and her Laurel Soap, which they have perfected into a fine art. Their soap is prepared with olive oil and laurel leaves in its most plain form. However, a huge array of various blends are produced and sold. I ended up buying laurel soap with rose water, with honey, with flower essence and with musk. My olfactory sense was at a total loss inside this store. We also bought Zaatar (Thyme), Rahat Holkum (Loukoum), Malban stuffed with walnuts and pistachios, herbal tea and spices.


Laurel Soap

It was only fitting for such a wonderful day to end on a sublime note. We drove back in full moonlight and although I was eager to get home as quickly as possible I didn’t push hard. Images and aromas of the good food we brought danced in my head for a quiet dinner. The warmth of a scented bath with a thousand floating laurel leaves beckoned at me. I made good on my reveries once I got home and slept to dream even beyond.

December 14, 2008
» Venezia in Nudo


For a whole week the thick fog shrouded the city of Venice and crushed her spirit. In the aftermath of a grievous tidal flooding the temperature hovered around 3ºC and a light drizzle relentlessly molested the asphyxiated alleys. As I landed in Marco Polo airport on Monday, the 1st of December 2008, Venice was drowning under a 156 cm (5’1”) tidal surge, the worst since 1986 and the fourth highest ever in the city’s recorded history.
I, too, was sinking and my soul besieged by the triviality of being, the futility of struggle and the absurdity of reality. As I chatted with well-dressed colleagues from across the Mediterranean in a brazenly flaunting meeting room, exchanging pleasantries and munching delectably fresh croissants, hundreds of innocent lives were being consumed by Cholera in Zimbabwe. We shook heads, all of us, and commiserated sympathetically before the taking of a final round of a most exquisite espresso caffè. Then pokerfaced, we sat down to business.


I was chained to a desk with a silk tie for most of my stay and I had very little opportunity to be alone outside the confines of my hotel room. After yet another boisterous dinner I would wearily lean on the tiled wall and let the deluge of the steamy hot shower wash my body while my solitude scrubbed in vain to cleanse my conscience. I would slump into bed oblivious to the incessant repartee of frivolity on Italian television and dream of sleeping.

A little after midday in an office in Venice, having just returned from an errand on a berthed Syrian ship in Chioggia (a port 50 km south of Venice), I put on my coat and strolled along a soggy pier in the Porto di Venezia. I was told that there is an obscure eastern entrance not that far to the back. Five minutes out and hands in pockets I emerged in a clearing on the campus of the Venezia Istituto Universitario di Architettura. Then, and as if on cue, the fog lifted and the voluptuous sun emerged shamelessly from behind her veil. All of a sudden, what was and later returned to be a miserable day became a glorious one.


I followed the small flocks of lively students as they too surfaced from study halls and left their gloomy burdens behind. It was lunch hour, probably my favorite time in Italy since it gave the locals the only chance on weekdays not to take themselves too seriously. We went through a labyrinth of narrow alleys, climbed nameless (as far as I’m concerned) bridges then reached an open court basking in the sunlight called the Campo Santa Margherita.


I left the young and restless and wondered aimlessly a little longer. A hundred meters or so down a random cobblestone pathway I stared at the unassuming entrance of a restaurant called Osteria Do Farai. Little did I know that I was to embark on a superb culinary best-kept-little-secret of gli Veneziani. I relied on my sternly limited Italian and my exceptionally acute common sense and ordered an Insalata di Frutti di Mare Veneziana (Venetian Seafood Salad), Spaghetti con Conchiglie (spaghetti with clams, wedge shells and mussels) and half a liter of their in-house white wine. I ate in silence and treated every single bite and sip with tenderness and compassion. I could’ve finished my meal in less than 30 minutes but that was not an option I was willing to take. Instead I was deliberately slow and I exchanged glances with other diners, lonely or in pairs, sitting around the diminutive tables. My waitress, well the only waitress in the house, was a friendly woman in her late fifties. She handled me as she did everybody else with amicable familiarity and kindness. I consumed an hour of my life in Do Farai but it was time well spent and the seafood amongst the best I’ve had in my travels or at home. The sun had dipped below the silhouette of the colored Venetian landscape when I finally walked out. I buttoned my coat and walked against the cold westerly breeze consuming the rest of the afternoon.

Venezia floats on an archipelago of 118 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon off the Adriatic Sea. The population of the entire commune of Venezia, which includes Mestre and Marghera on the mainland, is about 272,000. The historic center or the “island” of Venice itself is called home by 62,000 people. By all accounts it’s considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It certainly is inimitable and unique. No matter how earthly we have chosen to become, if we find ourselves in a quiet moment alone in Venice, wings of fancy will carry us beyond the here and now.


I’ve been to Venice more times than I can remember and my infatuation with her had always been that of a sailor with a memorable scarlet woman in a distant harbor. Yet this last visit left me tender and more caring. I wasn’t a faceless tourist in the crowds on the inexorable pilgrimage to the Piazza San Marco. As a matter of fact I didn’t go anywhere near the usual sightseers’ shrines. Instead I lingered in the obscure and less traveled back alleys where I came face to face with a city inhabited by real people, studying or working, walking or eating and then later sleeping in a three dimensional world behind the tinted facades of the quaint buildings.


Night fell ever so quickly and the fog invaded all the spaces, sneaked through keyholes and closed any last chance of escape. Feeble street lights resisted the darkness without conviction then succumbed. I was nearly running out of breath when I reached the docks. Clueless as to its origin, the sound of a solitary fog bell echoed against the wharfs along the waterfront where I stood in wonder. An old cabbie leaned against his taxi smoking a cigarette at the docks. I took my seat in the front and he skillfully maneuvered the car in the blind all the way to my hotel on terra firma. "Buona sera", we said in chorus before I waived him with my hand. The car was instantly swallowed by the thick brume as I in turn disappeared in a dimly lit foyer. I climbed the flight of stairs to my room and locked the door behind me. I lay naked in bed switching TV channels. More died of cholera that day, of explosions and fires, of sieges and hunger, of human cruelty and injustice. I waited motionless, staring into the darkness, for the alarm clock to whisk me back to the pettiness of existence, the vainness of resistance and the mockery of truth. "Venezia, I shall return".

November 22, 2008

GlobalVoices Online - Syria
GlobalVoices Online - Syria
Global Voices » Syria is about »
» MENA: How to deal with Somali piracy?

Last week a Saudi supertanker was hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Kenya, making it the largest ship ever to have been seized in this way. The problem of Somali piracy is growing; in this post we hear bloggers' reactions from around the Middle East.

Saudi blogger Ahmed Ba Aboud wants Arab nations, and international bodies, to do something about the reasons for the increase in piracy:

أعتقد أن الغالبية سمعوا عن ناقلة النفط السعودية العملاقة نجم الشعرى و التي خُطفت على يد مجموعة من القراصنة الصوماليين. لا أعرف كيف يمكن أن تنتهي هذه القضية، و لكنني أتسأل كيف يمكن لنا كبشر و مسلمين أن ننام ملئ جفوننا بينما تسوء أوضاع الصوماليين لدرجة تصبح القرصنة مهنة مفضلة لدى بعض الصوماليين. هذا السؤال بالطبع ليس محصور بالمسلمين الذين يعانون من سوء أوضاعهم على جميع الأصعدة، بل الأولى بالسؤال هو ما يسمى بالمجتمع الدولي و الأمم المتحدة و مجلس الأمن الموقر. كل هذه الأطر الدولية تظهر و تتفاعل مع القضايا حال كون المتضرر أو المستفيد منها هو أحد القوى الدولية المهمة، بينما يغض العالم الطرف عن مأسي الصوماليين كل هذه السنوات الطويلة جداً منذ سقوط نظام زياد بري، و لا يتذكرهم إلا في حالات الإستياء الأمريكي مما يزعم عن قواعد لتنظيم القاعدة هناك أو من خلال إرسال بعض الأطعمة للجوعى هناك.
من المؤسف بالنسبة لي أن تجتمع الدول العربية المطلة على البحر الأحمر من أجل مناقشة سبل حماية الملاحة في البحر الأحمر و يتم تناسي الأسباب الجذرية للمشاكل الصومالية و الدور الإنساني و الديني و المنطقي المفترض تحمله تجاه الصومال و اهله.
I think that most people have heard about the Saudi supertanker, the Sirius Star, which was hijacked by a group of Somali pirates. I don't know how this issue can be resolved, and I wonder how we as human beings and Muslims can sleep at night while the situation of the Somalis is deteriorating to the extent that piracy has become the chosen profession for some of them. This question is of course not limited to Muslims, who are suffering from bad circumstances at all levels; indeed the most deserving of the question are the so-called international community, the United Nations, and the Security Council. All these international frameworks appear and interact with the issues when the party benefiting from it is one of the important international powers, while the world has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of the Somalis all these long years, since the fall of Siad Barre's regime. They are only remembered in the cases that the US voices its disappointment with what is presumed to be Al Qaeda organisation bases there, or through sending food aid for the hungry people there. It is a shame, as far as I am concerned, for the Arab countries bordering the Red Sea to meet to discuss ways of protecting shipping in the Red Sea, while forgetting the root causes of the Somali problems and the humanitarian, religious and logical role that they are supposed to play regarding Somalia and its people.

Syrian blogger Maysaloon believes there is more to the story than meets the eye:

Apparently this Somali piracy issue has only become a problem since 2005, around the time that somebody started supplying the men with fast white speedboats. There is probably some truth to this, and somebody is probably making a lot of money out of this, so the actual pirates are getting only a fraction of the takings. Still, there are huge sums of money being paid in ransoms, lots of good which are being stolen and I'm not so sure I understand how well these goods are being sold in a country with practically no infrastructure. Recently a shipment of Russian tanks was also seized. Interesting that Somalia was only recently “liberated” by Ethiopian troops with US blessings.

Iraqi blogger Roads to Iraq also has a conspiracy theory, translating some opinions found on Arabic news sites:

There is some truth behind Yemen accusations of Western countries with ignoring the piracy to internationalize the Red Sea. … This is also what Al-Akhbar reported today saying:

Western fleets raises doubts about the nature of their mission… Puntland’s Minister of ports, Nur Said, the West fleet led by the United near the coast of Somalia was involved in the increasing piracy operation…Chairman of the Red Sea shipping company, Abdul Majeed Matar, recalled how the commander of a British warship, called the company to tell them the details of hijacking the company’s ship (Al-Mansoura) rather than to militarily intervene to prevent the operation.

The last clue is reported on Al-Sharq Al-Awsat by asking one of the pirates, who revealed:

Some countries provide the pirates with information about the routes of the ships in the area.

John Burgess, who writes about Saudi Arabia at Crossroads Arabia, reports on the kingdom's plans to get more involved in the attempts to control piracy:

Saudi Arabia has decided that it needs to play its fair role in confronting international piracy, particularly after the hijacking of Sirius Star, the Saudi-owned supertanker seized over the weekend. The tanker, which holds 1/4 of one day’s production of Saudi oil is being held off the coast of Somalia. While Saudi Arabia’s Navy is small, it does have ‘blue water’ capabilities. It can take part in anti-piracy patrols and is sufficiently armed to sink any pirate vessel, from attack boats to ‘mother ships’ from which they descend. The Saudi Navy is probably not large enough to do port-to-port escort duty, even for only the super-est of tankers, but might manage shorter escorts, through particularly dangerous waters. […] The new Saudi assertiveness is pretty hot. Arab News, in an editorial, does call for attacks on the port cities of Somalia that are hosting the pirate fleets. And yes, ‘collateral damage’ is always a possibility when military action is taken. I don’t see any way to get around that. But perhaps if Arab armed forces were required to face up to that reality, it might change some of the overblown rhetoric about other unintended casualties in other wars.

In his post John Burgess mentioned that the Indian Navy sank a pirate ‘mother ship' earlier this week, and commenter ratherdashing quipped:

Apparently the defense of shipping lanes has been outsourced to India just like everything else.

American-born Israeli Yisrael Medad is looking at the situation from a different angle:

If these [Arab] countries can't handle a dozen pirates, what can we expect against Iran going nuclear?

Jordanian blogger Hareega wants to offer the pirates a little encouragement - by linking to a Japanese animated version of Treasure Island he watched as a child:

الطاقم الفني والإداري والمهني في مدونة هاريغا يتمنى للاخوة الصوماليين كل التوفيق في إحكام سيطرتهم على سفينة النفط التابعة للاخوة السعوديين ويتمنى لهم كل التوفيق في قرصنة كل ما تبقى من هذه السفن، ولتشجيع الاخوة القراصنة نقوم بتقديم هذه الأغنية الهادفة من مسلسل جزيرة الكنز، المسلسل الوحيد المعروض على شاشة تلفزيون مقديشو منذ عشرين سنة وهو ما ألهم الاخوة القراصنة في تنفيذ عملهم التاريخي ….
The technical, administrative and professional team of Hareega's blog wishes the Somali brothers every success in tightening their control over the oil tanker belonging to the Saudi brothers, and wishes them every success in the piracy of all remaining ships. To encourage the brother pirates we present this song from the serial Treasure Island, the only serial shown on Mogadishu television screens for the last 20 years, which inspired the brother pirates to undertake their historic task…

To watch the clip, click here.

November 21, 2008

MQabbani
MQabbani
is about »
» to Dimashq-Syria

am now on Syria- Jordan border

I cant wait till reach Damascuse, my lovely city ,my home, my ultimate place for happiness

my heart in Damascuse, am counting minuts to see her ,

I missing her so much…
she dont know am coimg today D

yallah ya 7elween keep smile o enjoy your week end o your week start kaman