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Showing posts from October, 2006

Everything You Wanted to Know about Arak and More

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It was a rainy October afternoon. The wind was gusting and my office window resembled the windshield of a speeding car with broken wipers. I was lost in thought when the phone rang and took me out of my reverie. It was my friend Majed , hailing from “ Saeen ”, his little village in the middle of nowhere. “ It’s time”, he simply said , “come early in the morning and bring a friend ”. Majed had already gathered enough firewood to start a bonfire. The old copper still ( Karkeh ) was in the woods, a couple of hundred yards from his house. And, he had just returned from Damascus where he bought the anise ( Yansoun ) from the spice market ( Bzourieh ). It’s moonshine time! Before I go on, let me give you more information than you ever need about my favorite drink. Arak is the perfect companion for Mezza and the ritual calls for a small glass to be used only once. Each successive drink is poured in a new glass, Arak first, followed by cold water then finally ice is added as per pre

A Storm in Bmalke

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View from my balcony in Bmalke on a clear morning It was a serene evening. The sky was dotted with millions of shiny stars and a soft wind was blowing from the sea. Earlier in the day, it had rained sporadically, but as soon as the sun had set, the whole mood was that of tranquility and peace. I’ve been waiting for this evening for at least a month. I missed Bmalke, where we have a summer home, and was very excited that we’re going to spend the night over. The general consensus among the others who share their lives with me was that of indifference, if I don’t want to be blunt and say reluctance. I steered the car east and stepped on the pedal driving through the early night. They were quiet, all of them. I could sense that they'd rather stay in Tartous tonight. Why ruin it though. Why ask them "again" and hear about their alleged sacrifices and how good they’ve been treating me. I reverted to silence and enjoyed the light breeze from the window. Secretly, I was thinkin

Happy Eid Fitr

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Happy Eid Fitr to Each & Every One of You كل عام وأنتم بخير- فطر مبارك

Ramadan Blues

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A street in the old section of Tartous (Al-Barrieh) an hour or two before Iftar time After all is said and done, I will miss Ramadan . I personally have to admit that I've got really tired in the last week. I look forward my life returning to normal. I've had very little and disrupted sleep over the last month. Before it even started, I was advised to eat dinner at least a couple of hours before going to bed. In Ramadan, that was virtually impossible. I was continuously uncomfortable but not to the point of really complaining about it all the time. I felt underpowered in the mornings and totally drained in the afternoons. After Iftar , I was a useless lump. I went out to spend time with friends very rarely, just three or four times at the most. My efficiency at the office had decreased dramatically, while many of the European associates I work with have absolutely no idea what's going on with me and Ramadan. When something needs to be done, I just had to do it. If it had

Waiting for the Eid

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Less than a week to go before Eid Al-Fitr ushers Ramadan away. This is a 3-day celebration after the one month of fasting. Eid simply means Holiday and the word Fitr is the antonym of Seyam (Fasting). So an approximate translation is the "Holiday of the Breaking of the Fast = Holiday of Eating ". Indeed many people start eating with a vengeance. There will be one feast per day for three consecutive days. Normally, and as far as I'm concerned, we would have lunch at my dad's on the first day. It's always Wara2 3inab (Stuffed Grape Leaves, I will try to post a recipe of this majestic dish in due time). On the second day, we go to my mother-in-law's. There, it would be Kobbeh Meshwieh 3al Fa7em (Barbequed Kobbeh), and a fish feast which includes Samak Meshwi, Samak Me2li and Samke 7arrah (grilled and fried fish and a specialty called Hot Fish: cooked in a hot & spicy sauce along with walnut). On the third day, we would normally go out for lunch in s

Farewell to Ramadan

The moon of Ramadan has reached its fourth and final quarter. Seven or eight more days then it's gone. Another year has passed for me. I feel the passage of time with the departure of Ramadan. Every evening, after the Isha prayer, the loudspeakers on the minarets of Tartous blast with farewell songs to the holy month. Then, one neighborhood at a time during the last ten days or so, a group of young men roam the streets at around 2:00 in the morning, singing in unity with the beating of a drum, the songs we've memorized since we were little kids. So long Ramadan!

Swimming in October

Summer leaves me drained emotionally and physically. I loath the heat, the sweating and the hiding within the confines of an air conditioned room. I part company with both my motorcycle and bicycle during the dead of summer and instead move around in a four-wheeled cage. I suspend my nightly 30-minute walk around the park. My reading slows down, my intellect is put on hold. The only two viable options for me, when work permits, is to go either to the beach or up the mountains to cool down. In the summer, I am more of the mountain type. I’d rather spend the whole three hot months there. But family and job don’t share my disposition and a compromise is often negotiated on a day to day basis. October is my favorite month. I’m most active in the fall. I also get in the mood for some serious thinking. Most importantly, this is the time I truly enjoy being all alone. This year, with the concurrence of October and Ramadan, my regular flow of events has been diverted off its usual

The Mousahher of Ramadan

I have already given a superficial idea to non-Muslims about Ramadan. The underlying and fundamental premise of Ramadan is that of compassion and sharing. When we go hungry and thirsty we should be able to associate more readily with the underprivileged and poor. For many people around the world, hunger and thirst are facts of life. In that sense, Ramadan is intended to catalyze a purging and humbling effect on the psyches and souls of practitioners. So, with the setting sun, the Muezzin chants Allah Akbar and a cannon is fired simultaneously for all to hear. It’s the end of fasting for the day and Muslims celebrate their achievement by sharing a generous table with family, neighbors and the needy. No Muslim should sleep on a full stomach if a neighbor is hungry. In Ramadan this assertion is brought forward and to a higher level. For financially able Muslims this is the perfect time to give their alms to the poor in the form of cash and/or food portions. Absolutely no one s

Fairuz in Tartous

If I prided myself on having made a few friends through this blog, I’m risking it all with this newest and most absurd post. However, I have a lump in my throat. I need to get it out. I’m suffocating. I need to speak up, unabashed. I hate Fairuz! My earliest memory of Fairuz is that of an old 78 rpm vinyl record. If I’m not mistaken, the song was “ Ya 3akida Al-7ajibayni ” ( Yea, Frowning Eyebrows ). For God’s sake, can you imagine such a stupid title for a song. I hated her there and then. Her high pitched voice got on my nerves. Worse, as I grew up, if I were to hear Fairuz in the morning, my whole day would go into shambles. Black cats never bothered me. Passing under a ladder, opening an umbrella inside a room, Friday the 13th, a hooting owl, a screaming raven. Nope. Fairuz in the morning, oh shit! I would be jinxed all day long. Luckily though, I was able to control my environment for most of my adult life and avoided her screeching voice as best as I could. But then, she was

Something About Me

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I started blogging on April 24th, 2006. Since then, I have posted fifty eight diverse entries. First and foremost, I am happy to have had the opportunity to tell you stories about Tartous during these past five months. Some of my posts included glimpses of my personal life, but always in a vague sort of way. I was lacking in conviction that this aspect is of any interest to anyone who reads my words. However, a few, a very few readers, asked me to write something about myself. As Ali the Expat puts it: “… your writing style made me very curious about the education, life, and experiences you’ve had. Hence, I ask you to dedicate an entry to describe those sides.” I need to be brief with this one from fear of boring everyone to death. So fasten your seatbelts, we’re cleared for takeoff… I followed my heart when I made that decision to return home twenty years ago. I was in my prime with opportunities abound. My earliest childhood dream of flying had been fulfilled. I was working as a