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Showing posts from June, 2006

Lunch Break in Tartous

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It's early summer. The days are long, hot and humid. I leave the office and head home for my lunch break and afterward... I have a choice of taking a nap in a darkened air conditioned room or... Kicking my old bike into life and heading east toward the hilly terrain around Tartous. With no intention, without a purpose, I make a left turn here, another right there, follow an uphill path, or chase a narrow trail down ahead. I follow the road. I'm alone with the thumping monotonous din of the engine and surrounded by the most beautiful Godmade natural scenery anywhere in the world. I return to my office a couple of hours later, feeling new and invigorated. I receive tired looking clients and visitors. They tell me that I look relaxed and fresh, I must've had a nice and long nap... I'm just a lucky guy I guess.

When I Was Seventeen

Madsurg commented on my blog "Traveling at the Speed of Light" and pointed out this beautiful Frank Sinatra song: "It Was a Very Good Year , 1961". I'm sure many of you will be reading its lyrics for the first time. Here it goes: It Was A Very Good Year , by Frank Sinatra When I was seventeen It was a very good year It was a very good year for small town girls And soft summer nights We’d hide from the lights On the village green When I was seventeen When I was twenty-one It was a very good year It was a very good year for city girls Who lived up the stair With all that perfumed hair And it came undone When I was twenty-one When I was thirty-five It was a very good year It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls Of independent means We’d ride in limousines Their chauffeurs would drive When I was thirty-five But now the days grow short I’m in the autumn of the year And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs from the brim to the dreg

A Brief History of Tartous

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Every time I read an article about Tartous, it starts with something like: “Tartous is the second largest port in Syria.” What a stupid piece of information to start an informative article with. Besides, it’s wrong! Just to be on the correct side and not out of pride, Tartous is the second largest port on the eastern Mediterranean (Alexandria having the largest basin). So the port of Tartous is indeed larger than that of Beirut, Tripoli, Banias and Lattakia. I’m just making a point; imagine starting an article on Aleppo with: “Aleppo is the second largest airport in Syria”. That being out of the way, let me tell you what I know about Tartous. Tartous was founded by the Phoenicians as an agricultural satellite to the more important settlement then, the island of Aradus (Arwad). Thus, it came about during the Roman era that the original name of Tartous reflected this secondary role “ Anti-Aradus ”, meaning the town facing Aradus . Anti-Aradus has morphed over the years to Antaradu

Pictures from Saeen, Ayn Al Jawzat

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I had the chance to visit, again, Saeen (Ayn Al Jawzat - Majed Restaurant) with a few friends. Well actually, I'm what you call a regular customer there since 1987. Now, and for the first time, I had the sense to take my camera and take some pictures of the view from the place. I don't need to comment anymore since the pictures speak for themselves. That's why I go there. By the way, I also happen to like the food. For more info check my previous post "Ayn Al Jawzat" http://abufares.blogspot.com/2006/05/ayn-al-jawzat.html

Traveling at the Speed of Light

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Ten years ago, I tipped the scale at exactly 75 kg (165 lbs). Going even further, say 20 years back, I was a lithe young man of 65 kg (143 lbs). So I figure, as I’m trudging along this one way street, that I roughly gain 1 K a year. What I’m adding in weight, I’m obviously losing in hair and sheer good looks. As if it weren’t enough, gravity evidently is conspiring against me. What used to be my chest in the eighties is slipping toward my navel. There’s almost nothing up there in terms of attractive contours to show (or feel) anymore. No sculptured biceps are to be offered to hold on tight to a beautiful girl in distress. In short, I truly believe that a lady has to fall in for my brains now that the looks are all but gone. I’ve read somewhere that in another century the average life expectancy would exceed 120 years. For now, and assuming that I’d live to be 80, I’m definitely middle-aged. I look back at what I’ve done over the years. Quite a lot or nothing at all, is purely relativ

The Little Village of Kamsieh

It’s been ages since I last went out with these guys. I got this phone call from an old friend, an army buddy of mine. He told me that he’s sitting in his office with yet a third friend and that they were just talking about me. Am I busy or engaged? If not, he said, why won’t we go out and have lunch together at his summer home in Kamsieh. I really was doing nothing special at the time and I hailed the idea. I drove to his office, picked them up and together we went for a little shopping. We bought the tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, onions, lettuce and hot peppers. We passed by Abu Omar, the butcher, and ordered 2 kilos of tender and juicy lamb meat, fit for shish kebob (La7me Meshwieh). My friend assured us that he already had the best homemade olive oil and Arak around. So we snaked our way to the little Village of Kamsieh, 32 km northeast of Tartous. It was much cooler than the city. The house lies on a 650 meter hill and was still deserted waiting for my friends’ two kids to finish t

On Faith & Religion - A Visit to Seidnaya

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I’m a faithful Muslim but not a religious one. Spirituality is a very personal privilege under the premise of “take it or leave it”. I don’t judge those who take it or those who choose to refuse it. I only feel itchy and irritated with the extremes. I am awfully annoyed by those who are so pious that they believe that they alone have the keys to the gates of heaven while the rest of humanity will burn in hell. Their opponents who mock religion(s) are also, in my mind, dangerous anarchists. It’s simply my stand that if someone is deeply religious he or she should keep it to themselves and not nag about it. Nagging, in my book, include trying to enlighten, convert, fault, criticize, threaten and terrorize others. It’s also my view that those on the other seat of the seesaw should not spurn, ridicule, disdain, insult, patronize and demean the first crowd. However, I am a strong believer that all religions, as organized institutions, should stay out of politics and public affairs, clear an

Final Countdown to the FREE Germany 2006 World Cup

You don't need to pay 1 cent to watch the World Cup. Tune in on the following: Name Sat Freq Sym TSR Hotbird 11527 27500 H SF2 Hotbird 12400 27500 H Slov2 Hotbird 12302 27500 V ZDF Astra1B 11954 27500 H M6 Eutelsat 11283 27500 V I'm watching ZDF right now in Tartous, 1 hour and 18 minutes until Zero Hour. We have a choice of German, French and some other languages. Arabic was bought by a bunch of thugs. Put your Arabic commentary in water and drink it ART (انقعوا تعليقكم العربي واشربوا ميته). More to follow after the Party.

Fishing in Damascus

Sometimes, we, the sons of the provinces (Abna2 Al-Mouhafazat) as we are known in Damascus , have to go there on business or pleasure. Although I'm 1/2 Damascene (I don't advertise that in Tartous), I have to admit that I don't feel comfortable there. I can understand how the city can grow on you if you give it a chance, but it's a chance I'm unable to give to Damascus or to any other Syrian city for that matter. OK, I love Tartous because I was born there. It's where I have a childhood and a past full of sights, sounds and smells. I have some very fond memories of Damascus during a 4 month transitional period in my life before I moved abroad for many years. But the city never really accepted me, nor did I. The true reason might lie in the fact that I hate large cities in general. Even Tartous is getting too big for my taste. The temperatures were soaring high, the air thirsty and the winds gusting with smells of dry mud and desert sands. I finished working too

The Clock

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He had a face that resembled time. Not a very old one, but a face with enough tear and wear to give it that withered leathery texture. A tall man in his early sixties, bent from years of leaning on a lonely balcony watching fleeting cars go by. There was an enigma of sort engulfing this solitary figure. Rumors ran rampart in the village. Oh, they would say that his wife had poured a can of kerosene over her head one hot summer night, and burned herself to death right in front of his eyes. They would also say that his son and two daughters had left the country since, never to be heard from again. It’s been confirmed that one of the daughters was living in Miami a few years back. So the story goes. Children taught to stay away from his small unfenced garden. Young courting couples walking in the cool of early evenings, shifted to the other side of the road before getting too close to his house. Had he been on a stroll down the tree lined main road of the village, they would

The River Sile - From Treviso to Tartous

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Venice is the dream destination for many travelers wishing to visit Italy someday. I don’t blame them, Venezia is a stunning city. But to be there, and not go a mere 30 km away (by car or train) to another dazzling little city by the name of Treviso is a big mistake. The history of Treviso is a colorful one. It was bombed heavily in both world wars. During the second one in particular, the Americans heavily bombed it (by mistake!?) and caused thousands of casualties while destroying monumental buildings and artistic treasures. Today, many medium sized industries are based in or around Treviso. Besides the fact that it is one of the richest cities in Italy, it’s also a place with a special spell of magic and charm. Before my first trip and due to my knowledge of some of the names of the industries located there (i.e. Benetton ), I was expecting another industrial complex where everybody is a hardworking machine. It turned out that you have to look hard to find the industry, all of w

Average People

I am reading Syrian blogs. I am happy to say that there is a great variety in styles, backgrounds and opinions. We don’t want to be all “Foutouweh” students, that’s for sure. I might be less critical than other bloggers when it comes to passing judgment on the whole Syrian situation. Sure, many would excuse me because I’m sitting right in the middle of it and can’t really let go of the voices inside my head. In all honesty, there are many things around me that I don’t like. But if I were to remain honest, there’s no place like being home despite all the nuisances. The things I don’t like cannot be solved by the United Sates government, or any other foreign government for that matter. I’ve been there before, in more than one place where I can “freely” speak my mind. I lived in the rest of the world for many years. I tried to bridge the gap that exists between the western mentality and ours (mine). I succeeded with those who tried from their own side to understand how we (I) think. It wa