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Showing posts from September, 2006

Ramadan Cannon

The last minute before Iftar in Tartous is a moment of intense anticipation. Fathers with their children wait in the cool of the day at the northern side of the Kornish (The sea esplanade) to watch the firing of the cannon. A 2" cast iron tube is inserted in a barrel filled with sand and a dynamite bomb of some sort is placed inside the tube (mortar like). The cannon man (as he's known) keeps an eye on the Baladiet Mosque Minaret for the signal (Green fluorescent lights) to light a cigarette, take a short drag and puts the wick on fire. With the explosion comes the words from the Muezzin: Allah Akbar (God is Greatest) indicating the end of fasting and everyone hurries home to grab their first bite after long hours of waiting with the rest of the family at the Iftar table. Just another day of Ramadan 2006 in Tartous, Syria.

Shorba, Fattouch & Fatteh

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Every town in Syria , as well as other Arab and Islamic countries have their own unique Ramadan Dishes. In Tartous , no Ramadan table is right without the omnipresence of 3 dishes: Shorba (soup) Fattouch (a salad) Fatteh (chickpeas with sesame paste) These are prerequisites for the Iftar of any and all families. Of course there will always be a main entrée or more in addition to the threesome above and they are always welcomed extras. Shorba (soup): Any kind of soup will do really. We especially like the angel hair (thin spaghetti) soup with tomato sauce and meat balls . The preparation is straight forward. The ground beef is shaped like small balls and fried in butter until golden brown. Tomato sauce, water and broth are brought to a boil and then the meat added. Salt, pepper and spices are used as per preference. Once the mélange is boiling, heat is reduced to a minimum, the short thin spaghetti is added and the pot covered over low heat for an hour or so. Stirring occasio

Ramadan 101

For the Non-Muslim readers, unfamiliar with Ramadan , I will give a quick introduction to one of the holiest Islamic occasions. I will keep it simple and would not go into the full religious details since I do not consider myself qualified in that sense. One thing I most certainly need to emphasize, that this post is indented to give a general idea about one of the five pillars of Islam ( Fasting ) and not as a religious lesson. There are many blogs out there written by people far more knowledgeable about the intricacies of religion and faith. They will certainly serve better in providing more precise guidelines. The five pillars of Islam are: 1. Al-Shahada (The Testimony of Faith) which is the declaration that there is none worthy of worship except Allah (God) and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His last messenger. 2. Al-Salat (Prayer) establishing of the five daily Prayers. 3. Al-Zakat (Almsgiving) which is generally 2.5% of the total savings for a rich person working in trade or indust

Ramadan Mubarak

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To my family, here and there To my friends, around the globe To my fellow bloggers, anear and afar To my casual readers, mountains or oceans away... A time to get closer to God and to ourselves within Thirty days to share with the less fortunate, not just a bite to eat, but a life to live Four weeks to forgive and forget A month to reflect on deeds past and hopes to come A moon phase to pray for everlasting peace I wish you all a very Generous Ramadan

Paradise, As Far As The Eye Can See

I kid you not. The title above is the name of a restaurant, 35 km northeast of Tartous. If you think that the owner is out of his mind, think twice. First, you’d better take a look at the imbedded video. I think you will agree that the name is very appropriate. They were three, a cynic , an historian and a blogger . Their schedules agreed that they were all free for the afternoon. A little bit after 2:00PM, and after an exhilarating 40 minute drive, they reached their destination- Paradise As Far As The Eye Can See ( Jannat 3a Mad El-Nazar ). It was sweltering hot in Tartous but once they took their seats at the 600 meter (~1970 ft) altitude shivers ran through their backs. They’d better get to the business at hand without hesitation. A great, simple, fresh, delicious Mezza was immediately served along with a full bottle of home-made Arak (the best they’ve had in years). After a couple of rounds of the magical elixir (made of refreshing aniseed and white grapes) and tiny bites fro

Solar Energy & Haifa Wehbe

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On my first trip to the beautiful island of Cyprus in 1986, the second thing to catch my eye, after the stunning rendezvous of mountain and sea, was the omnipresent solar panels for water heating on the roofs of buildings. I inquired then, and was told that solar energy for water heating was required by law and that it was a part of the building code. I had spent 11 days during that first visit, mostly in Larnaca , Limassol and Aya Napa . I also had a chance to spend a nice afternoon in Nicosia . To get there from Larnaca, I followed a picturesque mountain road to the inlands. Everywhere I went, the panels haunted me. These Cypriots knew something long before many others around the sunny Mediterranean knew, the real value of the sun. Twenty years later, here in Tartous , barely 90 km to the east of Cyprus, the satellite dishes on the roofs of our buildings outnumber the solar heating systems by a ratio of 100 to 1. I have been following up on this subject for quiet some time. All o

The Island of Arwad

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“And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.” Genesis (X, 18) Arvad : (Phoenician/Biblical), Arados : (Greek), Aradus : (Latin), Arwad : (Arabic), Ezziré : (Local Arwadi/Tartoussi Dialects) So it was told that St. Paul built the first church honoring the Virgin Mary on a hill facing the magnificent island (in today’s Tartous) and left by sea. He rested for a while (undetermined period) in Arvad, before finally setting sails to Rome. As I approach Tartous from the east, the sense of urgency reaches a higher plateau. The smell of the sea greets me with the westerly breeze. I can lick the salt off my lips but I am still ill at ease. I need to see it with my own eyes. Just as I pass that final obtrusive hill… There it is Arwad the eternal island floating regally in the endless blue. Arwad is the sole inhabited island in Syria . It’s roughly rectangular in shape, measuring 800 m x 300 m. To get there, one

A Műnchner Tag to a Tartoussi

My friend Karin wanted to get back at me after I tagged her last week. She assembled some 10 very straightforward questions and threw them in my face. However, hidden between the lines is her desire to learn more about "moi" and the other poor souls she chose to tag. The questions might look simple but they have ulterior motives. Thank you Karin for tagging me. Here's what you wanted to know (probably a little bit more as well). 1) Was there any incident in your life which you feel, influenced you in particular? Any life is a result of a series of incidences. Stepping on thorns agonized, smelling roses satisfied, eating honey fulfilled, fumbling down scared, climbing up tired, mopping sweat, shaking off dirt, drinking from a spring, floating in a sea, tending a cut to heal, shaken with cold, estranged in emptiness, I’ve been through it all on the different trails that got me to where I am right now. Some of these incidents might be deeply buried in my subconscious (i.e.

Tartous - A Quick Tour

Tartous, Syria is a quiet city on the eastern Mediterranean 248km northwest of Damascus. Combining the beauty of endless sandy beaches and picturesque mountains, Tartous is a must visit for the traveller of Syria.

I Had Head

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In the waning heat of summer, thirteen friends coveted a reunion before time and space disperse them again into the four corners of the world. Real Tartoussis , hard working men of different pursuits, driven by the same ambition that impelled their Phoenician ancestors to go out and see the world, were to meet. A dinner table was chosen in a deep valley buried somewhere between the mountains of Tartous . It was my turn to host. I was asked to make it memorable. Some of them I will not see in years, leaving country and kin and heading out to Martinique , to the China Sea , to the Persian Gulf , to Italy , to unknown wharfs and beyond. What we all had in common, in addition to a life binding friendship, is our eternal love for Tartous. "Something they shall never forget, that’s what they asked for, when I proposed the invitation." The first time I had head was, of all places, in Champaign-Urbana , Illinois at a Greek restaurant called the Partheno n. That was a long time

Why Do I Write in English?

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As a comment to one of my posts, Anonymous asked: “… do you find it normal to blog only in English? Best Syrian blogs are written in English, although this is great for exchanging ideas with other people all over the world, I think this will diminish their importance as a tool for change in our societies...like to know your point of view.” I replied with what I thought at the time to be an appropriate comment of my own. Later that night, in bed, and before I surrounded to slumber creeping in on me, I gave it a second thought. Indeed why am I writing in English, my second language. Is it simply that I can write better in English than my native Arabic or is it my subconscious quest for vanity stirring me after a larger audience? I am as comfortable writing in Arabic as I am in English. I definitely type quicker in English but I’m in no way living in the fast lane. I have ample time on my hand and can afford the luxury of typing with two digits only. I also relish the finesse, the

I am Tagging Everyone

I would like to tag every single reader of my blog. If you feel up to it, post these questions along with your replies on your blog and drop me a comment here so that I go and read what you have to say. Consider it a personal invitation to get to know each other more intimately. If you find one or more of the following questions of no value, it would be my mistake not yours. Thank you. 1. Which is the single best post you’ve read on any blog? Please provide link. 2. Which is the best post you’ve written? Which is your worst? Please provide links. 3. How about a place you’ve never been to but would very much like to see. 4. If you were a member of the opposite sex, what would you have done differently? 5. Do you remember a childhood recurrent dream or nightmare? Good or bad, tell us about it. 6. Make me laugh or make me cry, put your words to use. 7. Do you regret the unfulfilled dreams, the inaccessible roads, the uncharted lands? 8. What is a friend to you? And what are you to

Tagged by a Friend

My dear friend Karin tagged me. I didn't have any idea what it meant at first. I though she's after my body. But then she explained. She posted questions and I had to answer them. So here we go Karin. I will surprise you with my tag... Q- Are you happy/satisfied with your blog with its content and look? A- Sometimes I feel good about a particular post. Sometime I don’t. The look I don’t care much about. I want my blog to be as easy to read as possible. That’s what I care about most. Q- Does your family know about your blog? A- They all know about it. Do they read it? That’s a different question. Sometimes they do though. Q- Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing? A- I’m not easily embarrassed. I’m the kind of person who might, just might, be uncomfortable in front of strangers. But embarrassed in front of my friends! Never. Q- Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts? A- Of course. I enj

The Mavericks of Technology

My office window is literally an opening to the little universe around me. At times of little or no work, I find myself staring aimlessly at the outside world. So it came as a shock to me when I counted over twenty satellite dishes in a range of a stone throw from my desk. Three decades ago, these dishes could only be seen in space observatories or science fiction movies. Now they are so commonplace that the apathetic eye could see hundreds of them without registering any impression. Thousands of viewing choices are accessible to any one individual in the world today. Sadly, many of the more useful channels are encrypted so that a certain amount of hard-earned cash needs to be spent for the privilege of viewing. In days gone by, the high seas were the theater of battles between “ legitimate ” carriers and pirates . Technology revived these terms, although the nomenclature is dictated by the “ haves ” as opposed to the “ have-nots ”. Real pirates, in my opinion, are in it solely for th