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Showing posts from February, 2007

The Real Tartoussi

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Paul Humphreys , the rock synthesizer in OMD-Crush, Stoney Jackson , who played Aaron in “ Tales from the Crypt ” and Abu Fares , a man of obscure talents were all born on the same day today, many years ago. It was an eerie night in that abode by the sea. The winds were howling like a pack of famished wolves. A forgotten open shutter was screaming on its hinges somewhere in a nearby house. Heavy waves were pounding the beaches and a blinding rain was drenching the sleepy town. Power and telephone lines were down. The pitch black of night was incessantly pierced by blinding flashes of lightening, when all of a sudden, I decided to come to this world. Luckily for mother, there was a doctor in the house. She woke him up around 4:00AM and broke the news. “It’s time”, she said. Then and there, in that bygone western bedroom with a veranda overlooking the eternal sea, the youngest of four was born at the hands of his father. Legend has it that I was a difficult child. As soon as I started

A Tale of Three Cities

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I've been tagged by Arima , a woman I've never met, but whose persona is somehow a melange of surreptitious traits found in the three cities I'm describing in this post. Which city do I love the most in the world? To choose one city above the rest and aver that I prefer it over all is most certainly a tenuous avowal. I have had the pleasure of living or passing through many fascinating cities over the years and I have had a transient affair with a few. My feelings are better revealed in French through the words of a forgotten laureate: “ J’ai des mémoires de villes comme on a des mémoires d’amour ”. I have memories of cities as we have memories of love. My cities were selected by the passion of a whimsical heart rather than the intellect of a well-traveled man. The universal magic and appeal of the famous metropolises would not gain any added benefit from my humble appraisal. However, I owe it to the three cities of my choice to tell the rest of the world about them. I

Khshaf for Six

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As I’ve been under the influence of a heavy work load this week and had barely made it all the way to Thursday while keeping my sanity, I am out of any smart thing to write. May be a nightcap can set matters straight for me but meanwhile I need to make yet another small contribution to humanity. A recipe for a light dessert that’s easy to prepare especially for those expatriates who miss their moms cooking. It’s known in Tartous as Khshaf ( خشاف ) . It must go by another dozen names in Syria of which I’m not really aware. However, being on the doorstep of a weekend, you might all want to give Khshaf a try, the preparation of which is very straightforward and relatively clean. Khshaf is the Syrian equivalent of Jell-O although a little more elaborate and certainly tastier. Khshaf for Six -5 cups of water -½ cup of cornstarch -1 cup of sugar -100 g (3.5 oz) of raisins -100 g (3.5 oz) of crushed pistachios, pine nuts, soft almonds (or your choice of unsalted and tender nuts) -2 tabl

Urban Nightmares

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I think of Tartous in the past tense. On the surface, I might sound like a staid man who doesn’t appreciate modernization, or at a more basic level, the change of times. Frankly, as I mentally cover the decades since I was a blithe boy growing up till the present, I fail to see any tangible upgrading to my hometown. We had electricity, water, telephone and excellent roads back then and I daresay that these utilities were more reliable than they are today. The population of Tartous was 10,000 inhabitants in the late 1960’s , give or take a few hundreds, and has skyrocketed to 100,000 presently , give or take a few thousands, mostly due to internal migration from the province and the rest of Syria rather than natural increase. The extremely high fertility rate of the Syrian population worries me considerably but I’m distressed for completely different reasons. Syria ranks among the top countries in the world as far as its population growth rate is concerned. This certainly needs to

Sayadieh bi Samak

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It’s high time I return to the kitchen. All this talk about women made me hungry and in need of some high-octane nutrients: Seafood and a simple way to prepare roasted fish and Sayadieh (Rice). In Tartous and in all coastal cities around the world no doubt, fish is an important part of our diet. There are so many ways to prepare various types of seafood that nobody can truly claim any one particular recipe. In my opinion, when it comes to cooking fish, the simpler the better. The sea provides us with the most delicious source of animal protein. Little manipulation is needed to enhance or to bring out the taste of the already scrumptious white meat. Besides, the purpose of this post is to get anyone to be able to go out to the local supermarket or better yet a nearby fish market, grab some fish, rice and a few ingredients and get down to eat a most delicious plate in a little over an hour. We all know that fresh fish is best. If you can get it don’t even think twice. Buy the finest

The Charms of the Passing Woman

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The charms of the passing woman are generally in direct proportion to the swiftness of her passing. Marcel Proust (1871–1922) With that in mind it becomes a whole lot easier to understand how a married man can be infatuated with an ephemeral woman. Only the passage of time can teach us such an adept craft. The purpose of a seemingly longing gaze is not necessarily the promise of consummation or hollow flirting. It’s something endlessly beyond. Such a man would not be seeking a clandestine affair, nor driven by foolish vanity or the illusion of resurrecting his slipping youth. The capacity to appreciate beauty in its abstract sense separates a gentleman from a womanizer. It’s basically the difference between an art aficionado and a tourist standing in front of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, each looking at the painting from the exact vantage point for dissimilar reasons with consequences world apart. What allure does a passing woman have over the mind of a happily married man to make him stop

Why I Shouldn’t Watch World News

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Very late at night, when my weary eyes are too feeble to plow forward in the pages of a prized book resting on the nightstand and when I run out of football games to watch, out of boredom, out of inner loneliness and the need to be in touch with the hordes of humanity, I regrettably venture and switch the box to World News. The depressing reel overwhelms my decency and fuses with a stagnant but lurking melancholy in taking command of my somnolent mind. I react defensively, projecting an attitude of insouciance. It's as if nothing really matters anymore. I lose sight of my race, but more damaging is the prospect of losing sight of me. Feeling trapped, the purpose of life, if any, becomes a blurred concept. Looking around reinforces the dismay. People are hungry, poor, miserable, and sick. Fellow human beings are, at this very same moment, in the process of suffering and agonizing. A sedated voice echoes in the confines of the skull, preaching but betraying a vague sense of a lo

Lady or Knight in Shining Armor

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In writing this blog, I was at times propitious to get the initiative for my next post while in fact preparing the current one. But every once in a while, I run dry on ideas only to be saved at the last moment by something which may or may not be worth writing about. It’s naturally expected that the value of my posts fluctuates up and down. There are many variables involved, personal and universal, and they influence me as they do each and every one of you. I have repeatedly claimed that I enjoy listening more than I do talking. Of course it’s the same with writing and reading, and here’s my chance to prove it. I've decided on the following scheme as far as this post is concerned. I want to have the pleasure of reading what regular or chance readers of this blog think regarding one specific topic . If it works out as foreseen in my head, my prelude is only a catalyst for the comment section which should be rich and colorful with your own contributions rather than mine. I kindly

Five Random Links in the Chain

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Arima , a blogger I truly like, and a tender, intelligent, outspoken, attractive woman ( I’d better stop, my wife might read this after all ) has tagged me to list five private things the blogosphere doesn’t know about. I drew up a complete blank at first. Later in the evening, while enjoying a hot shower and washing away the quandaries of the day… a myriad of the little facets that make up my life flowed over with the rivulets of water. I picked five of them, not out of distinction, but for being ordinary random links in the chain, and morphed them into words. 1) At the tender age of five, I left home for the first time to attend a boarding school in Lebanon . For the next five years I was mostly alone and this period undoubtedly shaped my blossoming personality. In retrospect, it certainly made me a very independent and disciplined person in a peculiarly twisted way. My discipline involves daily trivial matters and is absurdly ritualistic. The boarding school also turned me into a