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 forced on me more often than I cared to. There was a certain time, when traveling to Damascus by bus (Karnak) was almost the only option for me and everybody else. It was a painful and agonizing three hours and thirty minutes trip, and guess what! Fairuz would be screaming in her thin, piping and irritating voice for the entire duration of the ride. I would arrive to Damascus with the most terrible migraine. I would see dots floating by (more so if I closed my eyes). I would become overly sensitive to light and I would choose a dark and quiet place where I can rest for the remainder of the day to lick my mental wounds away from all. There was also one more excruciating period in my life and that was when I served in the army for 30 consecutive months. As soon as I landed home after returning from the United States, I joined the army. No, no, I didn’t get shot or anything. I never even saw the enemy. But, for the six months boot camp in the cold Syrian desert north of Homs, they would brutally wake us, poor souls, at five thirty in the morning on the most annoying of all noises ever produced by a human-made device: Fairuz blasting on a half a dozen sound horns satanically distributed among the building structures which comprised our military camp.
What is it really with Fairuz? OK, it’s acceptable that the Lebanese, who usually make a big deal out of everything, hail Fairuz and call her their Ambassador to the Stars. But what about us in Syria! Why do we have to revere her? There’s a very appropriate Damascene proverb which certainly applies: (لا وجه حلو ولا طيز ناعمة) La Wajeh Helou Wala Teez Naemeh = No beautiful face, no smooth ass. Do excuse me please; I lose all sense when I speak of the mass infatuation with Fairuz.
Propane gas is used in Syria for cooking. There is no utility service providing an underground network to serve users. Instead, propane gas is distributed by private vendors in what is called locally a bottle of gas (cylinder). Years ago, a mule drawn carriage would be laid full of gas cylinders. The vendor, with a wrench key in hand would use it as a drumstick and knock on the cylinders producing a very disturbing clinking noise. Housewives would hear the commotion, step out on balconies and call the “traveling salesman”. He would then park his carriage and bring up the gas cylinder on his shoulder and make the exchange, replacing one empty and spare cylinder with a full one. Times have changed and gas is distributed today by small trucks using the same annoying advertising method, usually with a kid sitting in the back handling the drumming. Tartous, being a unique poetic city decided to do something about it. Seven years ago, a new mayor and city council, all avid fans of Fairuz, passed the strangest law in Syria. Gas vendors can only advertise their passage in a neighborhood and their product by playing a tape of Fairuz on a loudspeaker. The tape plays endlessly, and when Fairuz is heard out loud in the streets, housewives will step on balconies to summon the gas cylinder vendor. I made a clip for your eyes and ears only. By coincidence, two separate pickup trucks, on two different days, were playing the same song (Ana Mish Sawda Bas Al-Layl Sawadni Bi Jnaho) = I’m Not Black But the Night Blackened Me With Its Wing. Just reading these words is more than a justification to present to all my critics. At least now, you should be able to understand why I hate Fairuz.