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 their Baccalaureat and Brevet. No time to waste, we lit the fire, cleaned the veggies, prepared the meat and started drinking by the little shed out in the back. We sat in the shade, ate and drank for 5 hours. Slowly and with compassion, we barbecued the meat and sipped the Arak. We talked about “yesterday”, 18 years ago when we served in the Army together. We asked about lost acquaintances, reminisced over favorite stories and thawed frozen instances of the past. It all went well; although toward the end our speech became a little sluggish, our sight a little blurred.
There we were, 3 stooges on the theater of life, watching it goes by in haste. What’s the point in leading successful careers, going to and fro, waking up early, sleeping up late, worrying, tiring but not being smart enough to stop, take a respite and smell the… barbecued meat and the Arak every once in a while.
Time has slowed down that afternoon in Kamsieh over the hill. It has provided me with a better perspective to peek at every day’s life with a little more relaxed attitude. In our restless quest for wider horizons and further prospects, we often tend to ignore what lies here, barely beyond our own backyard. We dream of the exotic places we wish to visit but we each forget that there is a Kamsieh, scarcely afar from our consciousness. We vowed to make it some other time, and soon.
I wouldn’t be surprised though if next time we meet we wouldn’t talk about this lunch as if it happened “yesterday”, 18 years in our past.

Kamsieh is a beautiful and quiet village, perfect weather in the summer, a little bit on the cold side in the winter. Many small traditional restaurants before, at and after you reach the village. All serve good barbecued chicken/meat and mezza. Great scenery and low prices.
Driving Directions (Tartous – Kamsieh): Total Distance 32 km. Take The Lattakia Hwy and drive North for 15 km. Take the right exit marked Kamsieh. Drive due East for a short distance till you reach the old Tartous-Lattakia road. Make a left turn toward Markieh and drive for about 2 km on the old road. Follow the Kamsieh sign to the right and climb up the mountains (~15 km) passing through: Markieh, Bdayra, Saya, Blawzeh, Kamso Then Kamsieh.


Anonymous said…
shit, I have been away from Syria for so long. You reminded me of the places I knew as a child. Especially the barbequed chicken in these restaurants on the mountain roads of Tartous. I can almost smell them.
Thank yoy for the nice memory
Abufares said…
you're welcome. i know how you must feel like being away. next time i'm in one of those places, i'll drink your toast and everybody else who's not here.
Unknown said…
very nice read..
sounds like you had a great time :)
Abufares said…
sure thing omar. wish you were there. may be someday :-)
Unknown said…
noticed you read Cosmos..
best book of all time, as with every other Sagan book
Abufares said…
You know Omar, when I was in the army with plenty of free time on my hand, I started the translation work on Cosmos (English-Arabic). I would say I had completed roughly 25% of the work. Then I came out to the real world and never had the time again. May be one day. I love this book and I've read it over and over.
I don't know if you've read the Dune books by Frank Herbert. Give a try to the first one and see if you can unhook yourself.
Good Luck.
Anonymous said…
"In our restless quest for wider horizons and further prospects, we often tend to ignore what lies here, barely beyond our own backyard." very very well said....
I enjoyed reading it
Abufares said…
Thanks for the deep reading. I enjoyed reading my own quotation when you wrote it more than I did when I first came up with it.
Haider Droubi said…
an amazing blog...i am lucky i found yr blog,,thx abufares.
Abufares said…
thanx haider
it gives me a great pleasure to know that my words are bein read. your comment is an honor bestowed on me.
Unknown said…
I'm actually close to finish reading a book, so I'll keep herbert in mind for future reading.
Actually my dad was the one who introduced me to Cosmos. He had read it in Arabic, and watched the television series with my grandfather.

I think your idea of translating the book is awesome. 10 years ago I looked for an arabic copy of it all over the place and found none.
Fenella said…
A wonderful description of a beautiful afternoon with friends. It is truly a shame that we often forget, during the daily chaos, the simple things that bring us so much pleasure. I think whether they are nearby or far seems that when everything comes together in the right combination it always stands out in our memory. I hope that you will write more about your time in the army. I would be interested to read it. fae
Abufares said…
The little pleasures in life are perhaps the most difficult to attain. To be with each other somewhere, no matter where, sharing a piece of bread and a glass of wine, talking about yesterday, dreaming about tomorrow. The feel of a hand in your hand the taste of a kiss on your lips. The scent of love in the morning. The memory of the night before. Breakfast in bed. A walk along a path in the shade of trees. A hug by a lake. A stone skipping, two, three times on the calm surface. An embrace and a look into each other's eyes.
We don't need to work hard or be rich to do all that. We just need to be us.
I'll write about my army days.

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